Don't Build Your Transition Plan on Sand

Change is scary, but the effects of inaction can be even more dangerous. Don't let wilful blindness trip you up.

Written by Wayne Vanwyck

According to Harold Wanless, the Chair of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami, the city and much of Florida is doomed.

Speaking to CBC’s Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition recently, Wanless predicted that within the next few decades, melting ice caps will raise sea levels enough to wipe out many low-lying regions around the world including parts of Vancouver, Halifax and much of South Vietnam. This isn’t a guess, but the result of extensive scientific research—Miami will be under water.

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Despite the statistics and the warnings of these prominent scientists, Miami is still building and selling condos on the sandy shoreline. How can that be?

The answer: developers, politicians, banks and prospective buyers all have their heads in the sand. Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, explains this phenomenon well. Despite facts, statistics, and indisputable science, most people will close their eyes to avoid the need for change.

We may feel smug about those foolish people because we probably aren’t financially and emotionally tied to what happens in Miami. But we shouldn’t feel too self-righteous, because we too are to the same malady:

  • We all know we’re going to die, but most Canadians don’t have a will.
  • If we’re over 50, the chance of having a serious disability before we’re 65 is 33%, but most people don’t have adequate disability insurance. (If you had a one in three chance of winning a lottery would you buy a ticket?)
  • Baby boomer business owners know that their business will change hands or close within the next decade, and yet over 85% still do not have a written plan for transitioning their business or preparing themselves for retirement.

You would think that smart people would take the obvious steps necessary to avoid the serious consequences of inaction. But when an external need for change conflicts with our internal needs and motivations, we tend to ignore to the evidence in front of us. And if the consequences are a few years away, we rationalize our actions to ourselves by claiming we have lots of time to change. What’s the big hurry?

Think about how fast time seems to be passing. It’s been six years since the economic meltdown, and four years since Stephen Harper attained a majority government. You’ve probably seen children or grandchildren go through significant changes in the past five years. Your profitability graph probably looks like a roller coaster. You’ve hired new employees, lost others, changed suppliers, gained new markets—a lot has happened!

The next five years will go even faster, but you probably still don’t have a detailed, documented plan for transitioning your business. In my last article, I explained how working on your transition plan is likely the most profitable use of your time, potentially thousands of dollars for each hour invested. There is no down side for preparing yourself and your business for transition, except that you are temporarily deferring gratification—something that successful entrepreneurs are generally good at.

Plan your business transition on a strong foundation so the storms of change don’t wash it away. Start immediately. Do it slow. Get help. Get ready.

Wayne Vanwyck is the founder and CEO of The Achievement Centre International in London, Ont. He is the creator of The Business Transition Coach Forum and the author of the best-selling books,Pure Selling and The Business Transition Crisis. He has been training and coaching business owners for the past 30 years.

More columns by Wayne Vanwyck

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com