Philie Group Blog

Look Through the Mirror to Groom Your Successor
By Mike Philie

Transitioning your business is an arduous task. Even if you feel you have someone who is uniquely qualified already in place, the process is daunting. Most business owners, especially if they started the business, don’t see anyone as qualified as they are to run their business. The concept of letting go of control sometimes just doesn’t resonate. Looking through the mirror though, seeing beyond your own reflection, just might be the key to your successful transition.

Successful business leaders don’t all look alike. Typical backgrounds include those coming out of operations, finance, or sales. They may have worked their way up from the ground floor or transferred over from an adjacent, or even completely different industry. As you assess your skills, your background, and the things that made you successful, know that there are other ways to also be successful. And while your successor needs to be competent, don’t limit yourself to those whose background and skillset looks just like yours. This is an opportunity to leverage the power of those who have complimentary skills.

Your short list might include both family members and those with the wrong last name. Find out how they learn. Involve them in your network, and encourage them to grow and build their own network as well. Go beyond your final decisions, and share the thought process that went behind them. What influenced how, and why you either acted on something, or didn’t. Coach them on the business intangibles that won’t be found on a KPI dashboard or financial report. And while you’re not trying to make your successor mirror your behavior, you do want to supply them with the institutional knowledge that you’ve gathered over the years.

Reviewing some of these steps will help facilitate a successful transition. And while the new person may want to make some changes, don’t leave your post with problems that you’re aware of, and could have done something about.

  1. Prepare your business for the transition. Where do you see the business going in the next 3 to 5 years? What impediments will be in the way of your replacement? Your strategic plan should be available as a roadmap, or guide, as your successor gets their initial footing.
  2. Challenge your senior leadership team to play to their potential. Make sure that you leave the new person with strong team members who are committed to the growth and sustainability of the business.
  3. Fill the gaps on your team. If you’re trying to win a major championship and know that you have a few single-A players on your team, don’t leave those issues for the new person. There will be unknown impediments in the future so go into this with a capable team.
  4. Don’t stop here. There are a million resources available to help you through this process. Ranging from books and articles, through to your trusted professionals, advisers, and leadership development programs — leverage your resources to help you get this right.

Choosing your successor and transitioning the business should not be taken lightly. The future success of your business is dependent on a smooth leadership transition with the right leader at the helm. Good luck and get to work on this.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at


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