How Can Disruptive Successors Improve My Business?
When we think of disruptions, typically, it comes with a negative connotation. That is, disruptions take the focus off of what we are currently doing and are synonymous with “interruptions.” Over the years, though, as with many words, their meanings change and take on new life, each derivative of the term having unique meaning in its context. For example, what was hot 50 years ago has nothing to do with temperature today, and depending on the context, something hot could also land you in jail. The point is simply this; buzz words must be identified in their context so that you can better understand how or if they are relevant to your business. Unfortunately, so many companies work diligently to identify what they do and how they will get it done that they often fail to keep their fingers on the pulse of business trends and buzz words relevant today.
Regarding family businesses, the term “disruptive” has nothing to do with how many libations Uncle Bob consumes at the family picnic. However, disruptive in the context of our discussion here has a positive outlook and will hopefully pique your interest in how you can use disruption to secure a dynasty lasting many generations, as opposed to a business that vanishes when its founder does.
So what is a disruptive successor?
You see them all around you. Sometimes, these disruptive successors tend to get under your skin, depending on your personality and leadership style. It is because they never seem satisfied with the way things are. If they would leave well enough alone, then perhaps you could go on running your business the way it always has. The problem with this mindset is that it leaves no room for innovation. Companies that fail to innovate and improve their offerings constantly risk becoming stagnant and irrelevant in competitive markets. A disruptive successor will keep your business at the forefront of new technologies, ideologies, and trends that govern today’s business.
Often younger people, in general, are not given much credence as to what they can contribute to important decisions about the direction a company should go. After all, their lack of experience, both in business and in life, may make it seem as if they are impetuous and lack the foresight a seasoned business professional has. To some degree, this may be true; however, their potential contributions to your business should not be dismissed lightly. Frequently their eagerness to contribute may appear as if they are vying for position and promotion; it is more likely that they are genuinely interested in being an integral part of something bigger than themselves. Of course, younger professionals are still very interested in becoming successful and attaining more lofty titles as they gain experience. Yet, their motivations and driving force tend to be more altruistic than their older, more season, and often jaded professional counterparts.
The next-generation leaders have the advantage of being in tune with the latest trends, new technological innovations, and the benefit of more current educations. In addition, next-generation leaders understand that succession is a natural and necessary disruption that leads to innovation and even more tremendous successes. Still, there is much to be said about the experience and history that older, more seasoned professionals have, which the next-gen leaders are only beginning to discover for themselves. Because of this dichotomy between being the younger and more agile professional versus the older and more experienced professionals, we view disruptive succession as a necessary and symbiotic relationship. In this relationship, the younger professionals should be encouraged to lead innovations and have the power and authority to take risks that might move the needle in favor of the business. Still, it is incumbent upon the older professional to provide perspective, experience, and guidance.
Many exiting professionals discover that they are “passing the torch” to a new generation with the same intent they had when they were younger. The goals are the same; to see the business survive and thrive. The fact is that both the seasoned professional and the disruptive successor are aiming at the same target.
Disruptive Successors are Worth Their Weight In Gold
There is a story of a prospector during the days of the Great American Gold Rush, named R.U. Darby who staked a claim and went to work mining gold. They found a vein of gold to their sheer joy and discovered that their mine had the potential of being one of the richest finds in history! But, unfortunately, successive mining proved fruitless; the vein had seemingly stopped until they abandoned the pursuit exasperated and exhausted. Finally, they found a junk dealer willing to take the mining equipment and the mine off their hands for pennies on the dollar to cut their losses. The junk dealer, new assets in hand, and looking to turn a profit, decided to get the professional advice of a mining engineer who discovered where Darby had gone wrong. Apparently, Darby had not considered that the vein they had struck was on a fault line that had shifted. So, after additional calculations, the digging commenced. It was only after a mere 3 feet of digging; they hit the “mother-load!”
Like our story above, businesses are constantly mining their respective markets for new prospects and the potential of growing their businesses exponentially. But, unfortunately, companies fail to see the next generation in many cases because they stop 3 feet short of success. But, like the engineer in our story, a disruptive successor brought a perspective and scientific innovation to the equation that made the tale a happy ending (at least for the junk dealer). So, the moral to this story is “Don’t be a Darby.” Instead, we need to surround ourselves with disruptive successors who have the same goals but bring a new and innovative perspective with them.
Typically, businesses operate on strategies from a decade ago. After all, if it’s not broken, why fix it? But, unfortunately, this kind of thinking limits a business’s growth. For example, I may drive an old pickup truck that still works and will likely get me there, or I can drive a Maserati. Both are good; one is better.
“Since change is occurring faster than ever before, it requires a family business to disrupt its norm more frequently. Strategic plans should be reviewed quarterly and updated annually. A shift in strategy should likely occur every 3 – 5 years, depending on the industry. It is no longer feasible to set a ten-year strategy and without revisiting the plan to make course corrections along the way.”
–Rob Ferguson, Ferguson Interests.
The idea here is that change is inevitable in business, and we must be on the lookout for disruptive successors to groom for leadership in the years to come. However, we must also realize that disruptive successors come in many forms. While frequently they are younger professionals on their way up, we can’t ignore the fact that disruptive successors may not always be wet behind the ears. In fact, a disruptive successor can come from any walk of life and age group. You might find that you may already have the makings of a disruptive successor within your ranks, but because of a fear mindset, their “crazy” ideas get tabled in favor of the status quo.
Pandemic Performance and the Disruptive Successor
If we have learned anything from the recent pandemic, disruption can positively impact business. For industries that could accommodate remote work, studies, although still limited, are starting to show that productivity has actually increased! In fact, similar studies indicate that employees working from home are more productive than their in-office counterparts—that research based on a randomized control trial of a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency shows how disruption can improve performance. In the study, the company’s call center employees were randomly assigned to work either from home or in the office for nine months.
“The experiment results suggest that working from home led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% came from working more time per shift, and 4% came from more calls per unit of time. The experiment’s success gave the company an incentive to offer the whole firm the option of working from home. It allowed the employees who participated in the investigation to reselect between working from home or working from the office. Interestingly, over half of them switched, leading to the initial work from home gains to almost double 22%.”
You can bet that a disruptive successor was a driving force behind implementing the study and employing the strategy in the research cited above.
“Most of us coming up in business in the former generation had it drummed into our heads that we must always ‘think outside of the box.’ I get it. We should always be innovating. The generation before us was in the box; my generation was taught to think outside of the box. A disruptive successor allows businesses to go further and ‘think beyond the box.’ I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that subsequent generations of disruptive successors will get rid of ‘the box” altogether”
-Nick Covanes, Adwebvertising, LLC.
Identifying the Disruptive Successor
Because of the constant state of change, businesses need succession planning if they hope to see the next generation. Therefore, having an experienced consultant in your corner who can serve you with an outside perspective is more critical than ever before. In addition, a good consultant will help you evaluate candidates that fit the definition of disruptive successors and provide you with relevant leadership for the years ahead. In some cases, these innovative, disruptive successors may come from within your current ranks. Still, it may be necessary to bring in someone from the outside if you are drawing from a limited pool of talent within your organization.
Rob Ferguson of Ferguson Interests has the experience and track record of successfully leading businesses into the next generation. Rob understands the value of disruptive successors and has the resources to help identify prospective candidates within your organization for consideration. Contact Rob Ferguson today for more information on disruptive successors and how they can positively impact your business. Rob has vast experience and knowledge of succession planning and can effectively help you pass the torch. Call Ferguson Interests today!