When entrepreneur Corrine Sandler chose to leave her company, Fresh Intelligence, to build another, she hired and groomed her successor—and learned to butt out:
“I hired Joshua Cormie in 2012 on the premise that he would one day run Fresh Intelligence, the company I founded and built. I thought that as CEO I’d done everything I could do; it was time for new leadership. And I wanted a new, exciting challenge, to build a new company, which I have done with ValidateIt Technologies—the business I now run.
“When I made the decision to leave, I created an 18-month timeline. I put together a document that highlighted all my roles and responsibilities, and explained how we would transition those over time. Josh and I worked on that document together.
“It was a gradual process, and that was a good thing. We didn’t tell anyone outside the senior executive team about the change, but people saw me stepping away and Josh taking more responsibility; he would lead our planning sessions, which I used to lead, for instance. So when the time came to announce that Josh would replace me as CEO, our employees were already used to him in a leadership role. As a result, they totally embraced the change. That was critical to a smooth transition.
“I am still the majority shareholder, and I still look at the numbers every month. But I no longer have anything to do with the actual running of the company, and it has sometimes been hard to relinquish control. Right after the transition, I found myself jumping in a lot at meetings. But Josh challenged me, and that was great. I had to learn to step back and acknowledge that, ultimately, these were his decisions. Once I did that, it conveyed that I had confidence in him. He was able to take ownership.
“I think our transition has been successful for two reasons. First, I had another project to move on to in ValidateIt. If I didn’t have the passion of developing something new, I would have been constantly putting my fingers in the pie. Second, I was 100% confident in the person I’d chosen to take over, on both a personal and a professional level. You have to really like and have implicit trust in the person, because the whole experience is like saying, ‘Here is my child. Look after him.’”