As a proponent for delivering high-quality products and services, the importance of clarity on your vision is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to leading your business with ease. In order to build a business that has longevity, sustainability, and scalability, your vision must be clear, of course. But it also must be nimble in responding to market and client demands in order to sustain growth.
Vision is not a rigid thing and part of learning to lead in business is learning to accept that. The words ‘exit strategy’ might not be what you think of when you think of optimizing your vision, but hear me out. Not all businesses are meant to last forever, so what if you visualized the exit strategy of your business before you even started to pursue launching it? How would that shape the strategic implementation plan you put together?
I have found that when I talk to top C-Suite leaders in the start-up world, many of whom have been through a few exits of their own, the most valuable lesson they learned, something that they leverage across their next venture, is to know how they plan to exit up front. What an innovative advantage when pursuing their next venture!
To think about how to exit before you even start something, or even while you are visualizing what product or business you want to put out into the world, will completely maximize your performance when you’re leading towards your vision. Put the awkwardness aside and try to imagine how empowering it would be to know from the very beginning how you would exit. What would your divine separation look like?
See, when it comes to business management, and leading others against your vision to make it come to fruition, knowing how you plan to exit is something that will help you optimize actions. It will give you the clarity you need on how every decision you face best leads your vision to its final destination.
Planning an exit strategy is not about undoing good work or about reckless abandonment - let’s get that clear right now, so you don’t see it as such. Instead, it’s something new and bold to put in the growth strategies section of your tool belt.
This strategy of visualizing your exit allows you to gain the following:
Certainty regarding why you want this in the first place - is it worth it in the end? If you feel like your work is not receiving fair value, if you don’t find the opportunities to grow, then having visualized the exit strategy will help you find the confidence to assert your value.
Detachment from the outcome - a space to think about what would need to happen for you to move beyond it. An exit strategy should never be a knee-jerk reaction; you should have made the space to deal with any outcome.
Clarity on what happens when the moment arrives so it can be graceful and celebratory since it was part of your original plan, to begin with - do you feel the ease in that? How freeing it is, to be able to move on graciously.
Working with business leaders and putting the question to them of how they plan to exit their business helps me to help them navigate the appropriate strategy for growth, scalability, and sustainability. Most of all, it allows the business leader to go all out through all phases of growth and allows them to steer the business in a direction that meets their vision or even better, know when to pivot if what they originally envisioned is not possible.
Thinking about how you plan to exit enables you to optimize your actions against that vision and lead with grace. Or in other circumstances, realize that the original vision you had is truly not for you because the exit strategy doesn’t align with your values. There are so many possible outcomes when you think about your exit strategy ahead of time.
Let’s use the context of corporate ladder climbing as an example of how to apply this approach to your career. As employees of a firm, you should also be thinking about your exit strategy so that you can create a succession plan that allows you to transition with ease. It also means you know when to say when because you reached the boundaries of the company you are working for, and your next level of growth may be within another firm. I realized this myself at a previous job with an amazing leader, where after five productive years I outgrew some aspects and was able to recognize this and exit gracefully, excited for something new.
If you plan your career with the thought clearly in your mind of visualizing how you would exit each phase and start the next one, then the steps to ensure you are taking advantage of where you are working right now and what that company has to offer you become so much clearer. So too does the ability to push the boundaries to see how far you can take your career there. You are now understanding the system you belong to and how best to leverage it.
How often do you come across people who worry about losing their job, vs. the people who are taking their careers into their own hands and leading it? These latter people have the right idea. Working with several people through their career transitions, the first thing we work on is the resilience required to face their current situation, assess the possibilities within that firm, and see if it aligns with their vision or not. Does the Organizational Value System align with their Personal Value System? If not, can they change it, or is it time to move on? You have to be honest with yourself on what level of discomfort you are willing to endure.
In order to advance your career, you have to step into action towards your vision and map out what it would take to own it, not just operate within it. When you approach your vision as its owner, your decision, delegation, and exit strategy takes on a different angle. This tactic, skill set, and leadership path helps create a more fulfilling action plan. One that is truly aligned with who you are and what you truly want, so you can push through the challenging times when they arrive.
Try attaching an exit strategy to your career and business vision and see how it starts to shape your decision-making process. If this thought process brings with it a lot of fear and anxiety, that just means you have some work to do on your mindset. It’s time to raise your certainty level in the skills you currently have against the ones required to make that vision come to life and allow you to exit or make a career transition with ease.
It may sound abstract, but I challenge you to try it and share your results with me.