Exiting On Your Terms

baseball_2The baseball season has finished. As a Dodger fan, I’ll do my best to keep this post free of personal bias, but I offer no guarantees.  This was once again an amazing baseball season which offered many memorable moments; seeing the Royals (who sort of look like the Dodgers) in the World Series not the least among them. Derek Jeter exited the game after nearly 19 seasons amid much celebration as one of the most admired players of all time.  Paul Konerko, whose career started (with the Dodgers) shortly after Jeter’s and was equally admired among his peers, slipped silently out of the game on the same day.

In the recently completed World Series, we saw Jake Peavy, a former Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion, pulled unceremoniously from game 6 as the Royals piled up the runs en route to a 10-0 drubbing of the Giants. The commentators posited on whether he was left in the game too long and what his future career might hold. Ask any business owner how he or she would want to exit the business, and many would offer with respect and varying levels of celebration, but most importantly when they decided it was time to go. Yet, many owners often have to be pulled from the rotation an inning or so too late, like Peavy.

When does an owner realize it might be time to step aside? Certainly having ample leadership in place, whether family or not, is critical. This takes years to develop and one may never know whether the successors are ready until they are given the opportunity. Don Mattingly, manager of the Dodgers, seemed to struggle with pulling Clayton Kershaw (coming off one of the best pitching seasons in MLB history) in two successive games against the Cardinals in the National League Division series, because there was not a strong relief pitcher, a successor, ready to capably take over.

David Mount, founder and former CEO of Mount Family Group which operates 13 temporary staffing agencies under the Select Family of Staffing Companies in New England and New York State, found himself in the position of turning over the reins to his son and daughter-in-law in 2007. Even with a strong plan and family members in place, external factors caused the plan to be modified and reassessed, leading to a full retirement in 2010.

The emotional impact on the retiree however, is often overlooked.  Dave reflected on how he coped with exiting his family business: “I did several things to reduce the emotional impact. In 2009, I cut back to four days a week and in 2010, I cut back to two. That began to show me how retirement would be. I also took several extended trips which gave me a chance to clear my mind.” Many owners fear exiting when the leadership capacity of the next generation is uncertain or if they simply have not envisioned what life outside the business might look like.

For Konerko, retirement offered a chance to spend more time with his family and to expand his charitable efforts. After an injury filled year in 2013, his final season allowed him to exit more on his own terms. “Right or wrong, I always felt that success would [come] by focusing on what mattered. If something doesn’t help me play well tonight, I don’t have time for it,” said Konerko. (SI, 9/24/2014)

Stepping away from the game you have played all your life, stepping away from your career and the business you have created, cannot be an easy decision. In baseball, the stats will often dictate when it’s time to remove yourself from the lineup. The fortunate players get to decide that date for themselves. Derek Jeter enjoyed a yearlong farewell tour, countless video tributes and one tear jerking commercial. Jake Peavy walked off the field after his manager took the ball from his hands. Dave Mount cut back his time gradually and eventually filled his day with other rewarding pursuits. Even still, he misses the excitement of making those decisions that affect the company, for better or worse. Based on where the Mount Family Group is today, most of his decisions were good ones. Including when to exit, on his terms.

One thought on “Exiting On Your Terms

  1. Good stuff, my friend. This is spot on. So many family businesses with whom I meet, are struggling with strengthening their bullpen, finding a relief pitcher who even WANTS the ball, or deciding when to walk off the field, typically with little to no fanfare, and then watching from the dugout as their successor either blows the lead, or performs masterfully. Love the anaolgy – it is so perfect.

    Go Dodgers!

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