Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Family Business Succession 4 Years Later: The Rest of the Story

There I was, minding my own business, watching my twitter flow, contemplating my next blog post, when what should appear in my twitter but … Sabrinawell, you can see it here to the right, in the Tweetdeck version: mommyceo is Sabrina Parsons, my second of five grown-up children, who has been running Palo Alto Software for the last four years. So I clicked the link to see what she wrote. We do talk a lot, of course, and we’re still in the same company, but I’ve been traveling, and I wasn’t aware of this one. She called her post Family Business Succession: four years later.

She writes (and the “he” in this is me):

He talked to me one day, and the next day, without much planning, or transition strategies, or anything, he told me and then he announced the change to the whole company.

That’s true. I did. She also credits me for staying out of her way:

Does he actually let us make the decisions? What happens when he doesn’t agree to the decisions? What does he do now? The simple answer to the question is yes, Tim actually did back off, and stay true to his word.

And that makes me proud. It isn’t easy. You build a company up and you get used to running things, and that’s a hard habit to break.  Me and my ego like to think that my every opinion should be treasured, but they aren’t. The novelty wore off and then it took some real adjustment. Fortunately, I passed  the baton to a strong woman with a lot of confidence in herself and a good team.

Sabrina’s post details some of the accomplishments. The company has done just fine for the past four years, after the big transition. We both have the right to be proud.

My biggest insight for others in similar situations is what I call the safe harbor concept. I didn’t just pass the command on and then sit around back-seat driving. I passed the command on and dove head first into blogging, twitter, speaking, and teaching. I didn’t want retirement. I love business, entrepreneurship, and business planning, so the change meant being able to do more of that. Without my having a lot of stuff to do, stuff that I think is important, I would have gone crazy; and probably I would have driven my daughter crazy, too.

  • Cindy Vargas

    During my research about Steps to successful Public Relations Campaigns, I’ve found your book “3 weeks to startup” and then, in found you and your family and I loved you book and your incredible life… is so inspiring! I wish the best for your company, and also, for your family. My name is Cindy and I’m from Ecuador. Thanks for the valuable information

  • I’m going to keep reading your posts and blogs; NOT ‘canceling’ my subscription. One needs to constantly balance egos, to discern what NOT to do as ‘Tim’ might. “He talked to me one day, and the next day, without much planning, or transition strategies, or anything, he told me and then he announced the change to the whole company.”

    Here dear, xoxooxx– (i hope you don’t screw it up, honey)! Great for your hardworking loyalty program and junior e-suite.

    ‘Minding my own business watching my twitter flow’? Now, THAT must be an egocentrically taxing socially mediating push dynamic in our new-world demand equation. pffft!

    • Ken, thanks for that comment, it’s kind of a whack on the side of the head, but that’s pretty much always good. Sometimes I exaggerate for effect, and that’s not always good. You caught me on this one. You and I are both quoting Sabrina there, but she might have inherited the same trait. She’s a Princeton grad who had successfully launched several web products, one that went public, and started her own company in the UK, and had seven years running our marketing when the right day came. No, I didn’t do the tortuous Byzantine routine of painstakingly preparing every stakeholder for change, and I didn’t do it on purpose. But I knew full well what I was doing. I had been looking at it for a long time.

      And as for me, minding my business and watching my twitter flow, two months ago somebody on Quora accused me of being not me but a team of people, because, he said, nobody could actually do everything I do with all my posts on here, Entrepreneur, Small Business Trends, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and so on.

      But I apologize, these are all serious issues, and I tend to understate sometimes, which is a bad combination with exaggerating for effect at other times. I’m glad you questioned what I was saying here. What you’re implying is right. And I’m sorry, I was too glib about it.

      Thanks, Tim