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Be wildly successful with your succession plan – just like Steve Jobs

Leigh Riley
11 October 2011 2 minute readShare

Leigh Riley looks at how Steve Jobs' seamless exit from the Apple organisation second time around offers an important lesson for every business owner, no matter how young you are, or how small your business.

When a CEO like Apple’s Steve Jobs has proven platform success and presence, the tendency for all of us is to believe it was single-handedly achieved by the top guy himself. But how many examples can you find where a leader has left the way Steve Jobs has, without so much as a ripple in the Apple Company’s performance?

Steve Jobs was very familiar with the pitfalls of succession. Jobs had experienced first-hand the dilemma after a sudden bitter dispute and power struggle in1985 that forced him out of Apple prematurely. With no clear succession strategy in place, Apple went into decline for the decade after his departure.

Setting their differences aside in 1997, Steve returned to Apple and proceeded to build what is now known to be the USA’s most successful company. With Apple, Jobs revolutionised the computer world in a way that will resonate for decades to come, but that’s not all he built.

The wild success of Apple under Jobs’ leadership was built on a robust formula of organisational innovation and culture. Jobs understood he could not simply hand over the reigns to a successor if Apple was to prosper in the future. He knew that only meticulous planning within the organisation would allow Apple to thrive whether Steve was at the helm or not.

Steve Jobs knew that appointing a successor was key to the future of Apple

After his unexpected diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2004, his successor Tim Cook, who’d been groomed for the position since 1998, seamlessly stepped into Jobs role on several occasions. Steve understood that he alone wasn’t Apple, and the people working with him didn’t have to replicate his celebrity or personality. But he knew his people had to learn his duties and vision, so he replicated his methodology via the Apple University established in 2008.

The ultimate succession plan is a deliberate strategic business approach of laser sharp vision integrated with planning and discipline. If you need proof of this as a necessity for your business, there aren’t too many examples in history that demonstrate a phenomenal leader leaving their post the way Steve Jobs has, without so much as a hint of financial hitch in sight.

Steve may be a hard act to follow, but he had his succession plan down pat the second time around. Despite Cook’s proven past achievements, his success in the permanent role at the helm does still remain to be seen. However I cannot find a better example of the benefits of comprehensive succession planning than those demonstrated by Steve Jobs and the Apple Company.

When the statistics reveal that 75 per cent of Australian business owners are not prepared to address their succession, I have to wonder where we are headed as a nation.

If you don’t want to leave your business for some time, you may feel it is a bit premature to implement your exit strategy. However; bear in mind that 51 per cent of proprietors leave their business due to circumstances they could never have imagined. Steve Jobs was forced from Apple twice. When you consider that cancer alone will affect 50 per cent of Australians, it’s not hard to imagine how you could be affected. If you also contemplate that 50 per cent of marriages fail, and that divorce tops the list as a leading business succession trigger.

How prepared are you to exit your business profitably in either planned or unplanned situations?

Ask “The Exit Experts” how you can take control of your business exit terms, no matter what the circumstances. www.YourBusinessSuccession.com 1300 499 225

Be wildly successful with your succession plan – just like Steve Jobs
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Leigh Riley

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