Running a Shop Leadership Strategy+Planning

Between Two Worlds

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If you’ve been with me through all the columns that have documented this profound moment in my life, you’ve learned a great deal about me and, hopefully, a lot more about the entire process involved in transitioning out of your business.

It’s taken five or six columns and just as many months. And, as I write this, I am currently in my fifth week of training and transitioning. That is significant only because most sales contracts customarily require that the previous owner provide the new management team six weeks of training, advice, consultation and introductions at thirty hours per week. At least, mine did.

I’ve been told that codicil is included because not everyone shopping for a business has experience in the industry they are about to enter. It may also be included because your business is both a direct and accurate reflection of the marketplace in which it exists and the industry in which it is involved, as well as a reflection of you, your values and your personality.

Hence, the opportunity to have the former owner on site is critical to help the new owners familiarize themselves with the people, policies and procedures that make your business what it is.

I had no problem with the idea of post-transition time and training when it first came up in conversation and I still don’t. In fact, I found myself looking forward to the opportunity to share everything I could with the new owner and his wife to ensure the transition would be a successful one and that their future as custodians of what it took our family 37 years to build would be nothing less than triumphant.

In many ways, I am grateful for the time allotted for training and the “brain dump” it involves. I think it probably makes a lot more sense than breaking a 37-year-old pattern of being the first one on the grounds and the last one out by just waking up one morning with no place to go and nothing to do! At least, it did for me.

But, if I’m going to be as honest with you as I’ve always been throughout my career and especially throughout this series, the transition and training that is supposed to accompany it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be.

It sounds easy enough: “The seller shall train the Buyer for a period of six (6) weeks from COP (Change of Possession), for thirty (30) hours per week, at no additional cost to the Buyer.”

I am not complaining, nor am I suggesting that something that was supposed to happen did not. I’m not blaming myself or anyone else, but the last five weeks have been a bit odd. Or, at least, they seem a bit odd to me.

It may seem odd for a number of reasons. First, the new owner is an experienced shop owner with over 25 years experience running his own automotive service business. Second, he is a member of the same coaching/consulting group I’ve been a part of forever and, consequently, doesn’t really need much hands-on training. And, third, for the first time in 52 years, I am not crippled by the crushing weight of responsibility I’ve felt almost from the moment I entered the industry. I’m not really sure how that feels.

I’m not waking up in the middle of the night trying to prioritize what I have to do or how I’m going to get it done. I’m not dealing with a steady stream of crises and unreasonable demands. I certainly don’t miss having to entertain the steady stream of civil servants who seem to relish in the power that accompanies the regulation of every aspect of our industry, the environment and/or our relationship with our clients. Or, at least I haven’t for the past few weeks!

I’m not constantly worrying about where the industry is going and how that will impact all of us at the shop and all of us in this crazy industry! OK, we both know that’s a lie! I still worry deeply about the industry and where it is going. Just as I worry how that will impact each of us and all of our customers. I suppose I always will.

But, it’s different. There is a different emotional content that I’m not quite used to. The place is no longer “my place.” The people are no longer “my people.” And, the clients, who allowed us to become an integral part of their lives and entrusted us with the safety of their families, are no longer mine either.

It’s different when the stream of decisions that begins the moment you wake up and never stops until you close your eyes are no longer your decisions. You go from deciding everything to deciding nothing! It’s different, but not necessarily worse.

There is an upside: the satisfaction of watching just about everything transition smoothly because of the foundation you laid—the framework of policies and procedures you built. There is a certain sense of pride that accompanies watching your people perform perform just as you knew they could and just as you knew they would.

There is a profound sense of humility and gratitude listening to all the people who were and still are close to your heart tell you how much they appreciate what you’ve worked so hard to build; how much your care and concern, energy and effort on their behalf has meant to them. There is a profound sense of joy in looking back on a life well- lived, a career that provided more than I could ever have hoped for or expected, and relationships I will cherish always.

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