There I was, minding my own business, watching my twitter flow, contemplating my next blog post, when what should appear in my twitter but … well, you can see it here to the right, in the Tweetdeck version: mommyceo is Sabrina Parsons, my second of five grown-up children, who has been running Palo Alto Software for the last four years. So I clicked the link to see what she wrote. We do talk a lot, of course, and we’re still in the same company, but I’ve been traveling, and I wasn’t aware of this one. She called her post Family Business Succession: four years later.
She writes (and the “he” in this is me):
He talked to me one day, and the next day, without much planning, or transition strategies, or anything, he told me and then he announced the change to the whole company.
That’s true. I did. She also credits me for staying out of her way:
Does he actually let us make the decisions? What happens when he doesn’t agree to the decisions? What does he do now? The simple answer to the question is yes, Tim actually did back off, and stay true to his word.
And that makes me proud. It isn’t easy. You build a company up and you get used to running things, and that’s a hard habit to break. Me and my ego like to think that my every opinion should be treasured, but they aren’t. The novelty wore off and then it took some real adjustment. Fortunately, I passed the baton to a strong woman with a lot of confidence in herself and a good team.
Sabrina’s post details some of the accomplishments. The company has done just fine for the past four years, after the big transition. We both have the right to be proud.
My biggest insight for others in similar situations is what I call the safe harbor concept. I didn’t just pass the command on and then sit around back-seat driving. I passed the command on and dove head first into blogging, twitter, speaking, and teaching. I didn’t want retirement. I love business, entrepreneurship, and business planning, so the change meant being able to do more of that. Without my having a lot of stuff to do, stuff that I think is important, I would have gone crazy; and probably I would have driven my daughter crazy, too.