As most of you know by now, Talbot Gee has replaced me as executive vice president of HARDI. He is an extremely dedicated and capable individual who will do a superb job of leading HARDI into the future. He became my clear choice several years ago when I began seriously thinking about the question of succession and my responsibilities to the association, our employees and my family.
I know of a few individuals who are leading companies and organizations that apparently refuse to take the time, or perhaps lack the confidence, to study and plan for succession. If you had asked me about the question of succession 10 years ago, I would probably have said I know it's important, but there's plenty of time to deal with that later. Well, fortunately, there was time, but what if there hadn't been? There are plenty of horror stories of companies that floundered and collapsed when the leader was suddenly not there. In most of those situations, the blame fell directly on the leader for not having the vision or judgment to realize it's not all about them.
A number of years ago, a boss advised me the best way to advance was to train a person to replace me. That was great advice and, in reality, the same applies to succession planning. Having one or more capable people in the wings is critical to maintaining not only the continuity of the organization but the continued employment of all the employees who make your business a success day-to-day.
I have to admit, and will throw this out to all those who are doing the succession dance or should be: it is one of the toughest personal challenges I have ever faced. For me, the struggle was not in stepping down but accepting the fact that my value to the organization was being diminished, and rightly so. It would have been very easy to ignore those thoughts and continue on, but who would I be fooling? I concluded that my first responsibility was to the organization and the people that put their trust in me and provided the tremendous opportunity and joy for my employment at HARDI. My time at HARDI was never work because it was always enjoyable and exciting, and it was the staff, members and industry that made it that way.
Succession truly is about the fork in the road that Yogi Berra talks about. Fortunately, the association is letting me work half-time (or more) for the next year and continue to be involved with some things I've wanted to accomplish during the past 13 years but never had the time. In addition, I'll continue to produce these musings and help whenever needed.
Even though I'm 69, I feel 50 and most of the time act like I'm 15. I have no plans to settle down and retire because I have a long list of goals and things I want to do. Lord willing, I'll get the majority of them done before I'm ready to settle down.
If it is of any help to others, I look at this opportunity as moving into Phase 3 of my life. Phase 1 was my years of education; phase 2 the years of working for others, and now it's time to get serious about being my own boss and doing the things I've long thought about: things such as getting in shape to run a marathon or two, using the experiences I've gained for the benefit of others, perhaps building a business, but most of all, continuing to laugh, enjoy life and not give up my search for a bad glass of wine! I'll be around. Ciao Baby!