Over the last 20 years, Kathy had created a profitable advisory firm that provided its niche clientele with extraordinary service. Though she sometimes felt a little burdened by being the sole owner and executive officer, she had successfully transitioned many of her clients to other relationship managers. She enjoyed her team and valued the family-like culture she had created. The relationships with staff and clients were satisfying to her, and she wanted the company to keep growing and thriving even though she realized her retirement was getting closer. Her dream was to transition ownership to existing employees and be confident that the firm she built would continue to provide the same level of care to clients. She wanted a real legacy.
Her concern was that there didn’t seem to be a leader within the company capable of stepping into her role. She also worried about the financial ability of current employees to buy her out. She came to us for help either finding that leader on the outside or thinking through sale or merger options.
After working with Kathy and assessing her management style, she realized that her tight grip on all the company’s major decisions gave her no real basis from which to judge the capacity of her existing staff. Her recent attempts to give others more authority had back-fired, largely because she didn’t provide them with the scope of their authority, and didn’t coach them in how to come at the issue or let them know what a successful outcome would look like. After dropping the matter in an employee’s lap, she would ignore it for a month or two, then come back in, criticize the results, and take it over again.
The result was that Kathy was growing more dissatisfied with her employees and the employees were feeling confused and disrespected. Trust levels were decreasing. This way of operating was also reinforcing patterns of dependence that didn’t help anybody and certainly didn’t develop new leadership competence. Kathy was losing touch with the future she'd dreamed of.
We worked with Kathy and the team to assess the company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as Kathy’s needs for new leaders. We helped a few key employees talk openly with Kathy about the financials of Kathy's retirement, everyone’s hopes, and what realistic options were available. We then worked with the team to implement new processes for identifying strategic priorities and implementing solutions that were owned by both Kathy and the employee charged with making it happen. Kathy learned how to delegate effectively, rather than bouncing between excessive control and no control.
The company experienced new energy and new success with both asset growth and profitability. A competent leadership team emerged and Kathy is now comfortable with an internal transition, though they all continue to work on specific milestones and are taking the process one step at a time. Trust has grown and they meet regularly to ensure they're on-target and to address new concerns as they come up.