Lessons I Have Learnt Handing Over a Company I Founded
Updated: Mar 31
By Joram Mwinamo, CEO SNDBX and Former WYLDE International CEO
1. Set your successor for success. Before I left WYLDE, we fixed all pending gaps in our structure, developed a full 3-year strategy, and hired competencies to fill all positions that were pending. I’m actually a bit jealous at all the firepower Chris Odongo (Current WYLDE International CEO) has and sometimes wonder why I didn’t do this during my term.
2. Prepare the ground for your successor to take over. As soon as the decision was made, we began to let the staff, clients, and partners know about this decision. Chris began to take over conversations with our key clients and chair meetings. By the time we announced to them that I was leaving most would say “but we have been dealing with Chris anyway” They were confident in his leadership having experienced it. I have even heard a few (painful) comments that some people prefer my successor to me! We also began to get more speaking and media slots for him to build his profile as the WYLDE representative instead of myself going for them.
3. Build confidence in the market about your successor. Every, potential client conversation I had in the last 6 months I have finished by mentioning that they will be handled by someone better suited than myself going forward.
4. Allow your successor to fail and feel the entire burden of leadership. There are times I have foreseen some trouble coming up and kept completely quiet about it and waited for it to happen and then watch to see how my successor and his team will respond. Even when they have tried to rope me into decisions that I feel are now his, I decline to give a comment and send them back to the new leader. It has been hard holding back but it was entirely necessary for them to realize I am no longer calling the shots. And one of the best hallmarks of leadership is dealing with crises and mistakes. From how I saw them handle the issues, they will be just fine without me.
5. Allow your successor to break away from your direction and set a new one. In one of the weekly transition meetings, I told Chris that he is free to set a new direction once this strategy we developed together begins to run out. He will be the one on the ground interacting with the changes in the internal and external environment. My input will only come at the board level. I suspect they will blow our minds with their ideas and investments.
6. Don’t interfere in your successor’s decisions. The hardest part has been watching my successor come up with decisions that are very different from what I would make, and they work brilliantly. I largely grew WYLDE through making grave mistakes but the current teams have a lot of wisdom and resources to draw from.
7. Decide on your potential successors early. I was lucky that Chris had walked the journey with me for a long time but I always advise leaders to identify 2 or 3 potential successors from their team as soon as they begin their tenure. Why 2 or 3? It’s good for an organization to have a pipeline of leaders who are being prepared for the job.