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May 10, 201811:42 AMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

Channel your inner control freak

(page 1 of 2)

The stereotypical control freak is a hard-charging, Type A personality, white-knuckling on to everything in their midst out of fear that if they don’t their world will spiral out of control and the world itself may implode. It tends to be obvious when we encounter one. As a label, it’s not a flattering one, although there are times when this character flaw can come in handy — like when under extreme stress or chaotic or emotional situations.

Spoiler alert: I believe that we are all control freaks in our own way. You may be card carrying or you may be in the control-freak closet but you crave control. I’m not talking about the need for control in the sense of “I’m the boss” or “Because I said so.” That type of control is borne out of a desire for power. The need for control I am referring to is the desire to have a sense of control — an idea of what the situation is, knowing how things work, or a certainty about what could and should be done. It’s the sense of control that comes with predictability. There are a multitude of research studies on the positive impact of feeling like you have an ability to exert control in your world. Even Dr. Seuss professed it in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes

You can steer yourself
In any direction you choose.
You’re on your own,
And you know what you know
And you are the one who’ll
Decide where you go …”

There are times when this tendency can get in the way and we become our own worst enemy, such as when we believe that old adage of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Entrepreneurs can be particularly susceptible to this and before long find themselves mired so deep down in the details and day-to-day operations that they no longer have the strength to consider the important elements that will allow them to truly maintain control of their business destiny. There’s no time or, more importantly, psychic energy for strategic planning, let alone to think about transition planning.

Planning, particularly transition planning, is often pushed so far to the back burner it is in the neighbor’s kitchen, not ours. Why is that?

In The $10 Trillion Opportunity, Richard Jackim articulates several reasons business owners delay exit planning, including:

  • Don’t want to think about the end — of the business or of life;
  • Fearful of losing one’s identity;
  • Awkwardness of the conversations;
  • Don’t understand how to go about it or what it even means; and
  • Fear of letting go and of letting people down.

That sounds a lot like someone feeling out of control.


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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”



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