The Push and Pull : Drivers of Succession Success

Posted by Laurie Nichols, RLP, CPC & ELI—MP on May 4, 2017 2:02:46 PM

Drivers of Succession Success

For many RIA founders, strategic planning—including succession or exit strategies—is not a fun, “can’t wait to get started” activity. I’ve walked in those shoes.

It felt easier, for awhile, to just go with the flow of how the business was naturally unfolding. After all, our asset levels and revenues were up! Dealing with the more urgent, day-to-day tasks filled my days so it was easy to be the queen of avoidance and procrastination until circumstances were such that I—we—had to act.

We Were Pushed

For the record, I hate being pushed! Most people do.

But we were literally pushed to take succession planning action by both external and internal events in our business. In our situation, there was unexpected staff turnover, a partner’s illness and another’s untimely retirement.

A push could be any number of things that are happening to (and within) your business. A push could also be personal: your health, your marriage, your family. Whatever the circumstance or event, you feel forced to do something when you aren’t ready to take action, or it’s not what you thought you wanted.

Pulled by Vision

In an earlier post, “Mirror-Mirror”, I spoke of the importance of self-reflection and truly knowing what your own personal “win” is relative to your business as well as to the next chapter of your life and career.

For me, clarity around my own vision for our business and my own next chapter (aka my WIN-WIN) was key to experiencing a major shift in perspective.

My excitement about what I wanted next, truly pulled me forward. The feeling of being pulled to the next chapter actually helped to erase the worry and anxiety that had me resisting the process of negotiation and second guessing the sale of our business.

Sidestepping Obstacles

The Number One succession planning obstacle for many founders is that they don’t feel like making the effort or taking the time to get started.

Unfortunately, running a successful independent RIA allow for lots of places to hide. Look at all the urgent and important people and activities on your calendar. You’re so busy!

Yet, here’s the thing, your singular focus on those activities that you’ve mastered to build your business and create the lifestyle you enjoy, will not guarantee you a successful transition to your next chapter.

In addition, if you’re gripping the status quo–or, worse, wishful thinking–you’re at risk of being pushed into a “strategy by default.” This could be a rushed sale, handing over leadership to an ill prepared successor, or even attrition.

Leading Indicators – Your Feelings

Investment professionals get the concept of “leading indicators”. The same concept applies when it comes to planning for their own exit and future.


How we experience life is determined by our thoughts, which create the emotions that drive our actions or lack thereof. And each action–or inaction–has consequences. Essentially our thoughts create our reality. I ask you to consider these questions:

  1. What is your most dominant feeling when you start to think about succession or exit planning?
  2. What is the thought or belief creating that feeling?
  3. Does creating the outcome you really want require changes to your dominant thoughts and beliefs?

So many professional men and women go through life completely unaware of how their work and life is hijacked by limiting thoughts about what’s possible in their lives.

Your feelings can be a leading indicator to your success—a link to your intuition, your gut sense about what WIN-WIN-WIN means to you.

A Primary Driver of Success

You, the seasoned professional, have the power of choice—who and how you want to be in your business and in your life.

You can choose where and how you invest your time and financial resources. You also choose, consciously or unconsciously, your dominant thoughts about succession planning. Those thoughts then create the feelings you experience every day and that ultimately drive your decisions and choices about whether or not you take action toward your succession planning.

The Key of Clarity

When you choose a powerful mindset, you can design what you want 

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  — Seneca 

The key to choosing a powerful mindset is clarity about your “win” for anything you desire. This knowledge, or perhaps you perceive it as your vision, is a huge motivator; fuel for getting into action—even when you don’t feel like it.

You must know where you’re going to program your personal GPS—find your harbor! An exciting vision for the future will pull you forward.

Is Your Vision Pulling You?

Does your excitement make you feel willing to go after your vision? Is it enough to make the achievement of your goals feel effortless and natural. Or, even with clarity and vision, are you still feeling pushed?

Today is a fresh opportunity to understand more about what your personal WIN looks and feels like. When it comes to succession planning and designing your next chapter:

  • What thoughts or beliefs may be holding you back from clearing space your calendar to create the time you need to consider your ideal plan?
  • What would excite you to get up every day?
  • Why do you do the work you do and what is the legacy you want to experience and leave?
  • What would be different if your perspective was “I want to” create a legacy rather than I “have to” do strategic planning?

Imagine what it will feel like when you are fired up and taking steps to create a situation that works for you, your family, your clients, and your team. No matter who or how old you are, how big or small your firm is—it’s only too late if you don’t start now. By starting with yourself, your vision, your plan, you can design the life you want to live.

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LAURIE NICHOLS spent 30 years in the financial services industry, 20 as an owner. She took her exit four years ago and has thrived in her latest chapter as Owner, Life Planner and Coach of Next Chapter Vision which specializes in helping RIA owners and successors identify their exit planning goals and get into action. This post is part of a series written by Laurie for FP Transitions to chronicle her own exit planning journey, the challenges she overcame, and the lessons she learned.

Topics: Succession Planning, Guest