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Succession Planning & The Super Bowl

Updated: May 28

Football teams never end up in the Super Bowl by accident.

And businesses don’t succeed past the first generation of leadership by accident.


The majority of businesses (80%) never make it beyond their first generation of leadership. Without intentional planning, they almost never succeed. It is sad when a leader gives their whole life to an enterprise and it shrivels and fades after their exit.

Successful football coaching has a lot in common with entrepreneurs who value succession planning.

Think about it.

Football recruits show up expecting to be coached

When recruits join a football team, they show up expecting to get better through coaching. These players fully expect to be coached boldly. Continual improvement at an ever higher level is the group mindset. Any player who bucks that process hits the road.

Savvy entrepreneurs hire people expecting to coach them

Entrepreneurs who build businesses that continue to make a profit, bless their community and advance their purpose coach their people. Their employees show up expecting to be coached to continual improvement. Growth is a part of their employment.

So many entrepreneurs are merely “players” in the game of business. They haven’t accepted the mantle to be a “coach.” In the business world, entrepreneurs are often afraid to help employees develop their skills and provide the knowledge to help them be more effective.

Teams that are coached get better

Coaching involves assessing employees honestly. Sometimes, entrepreneurs avoid this for fear of offending and losing key players. Coaching your team intentionally for continual improvement is a large part of succession planning.

Great entrepreneurs are open and honest in evaluating their people.

Succession planning is about passing on your business in the future at its highest value. You are raising up the team that will buy you out and continue your legacy. If you have a business that is worth continuing, you want the best players in the game performing at their peak when you exit.

This can only happen with continual improvement. Continual improvement can only happen with great coaching. Great coaching doesn’t happen by accident, it must be intentional.

Jim Turner says that we should train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.

Winning at the end of the season requires planning

After fifteen years of doing business together, Henry and Mike are stuck. They are getting on each other’s nerves. Their advisor asks them to bring him three things. These three things change their business trajectory and set them up for success upon their eventual exit.

1. A plan for profitably doubling the business

Putting together a plan to double their business changes their focus. It forces them to stop looking at each other and identify the key players they have and the ones they need to double the business. Then it forces them to determine which key players are interested in growth. Do they own the company’s core values? Do they recognize their need for coaching?

2. A plan for developing key people

My friend Ken DeWitt is an expert in developing people. He uses a system called entrepreneurial operating system (EOS). Key components involve determining:

  • if key employees own the core values of the business

  • employees’ giftedness

  • how to develop employees to be of greatest value to the business

  • milestones/goals for each employee

Using the EOS framework, Henry and Mike begin to expect their employees to improve continually over time and provide the framework and coaching for that improvement.

3. An incentive/reward system for achieving company goals

The power of incentives is immense. Henry and Mike tie Incentives to what individual employees are responsible for and can control. The results are amazing.

The real payoff for all their coaching comes years afterward when Henry leaves the business. His buyout is much larger and gives him options he didn’t previously have. Coaching their employees for continual improvement was great planning for succession.

There is no success without a successor. Henry and Mike enjoyed success.

Succession planning is about coaching and developing your people to Super Bowl status by the time you leave them.

See you in the playoffs!

Harry T. Jones

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