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The decision to exit the business marks a huge change in the life of any entrepreneur. Like many things in life, it’s seldom a clean, quick break; in fact, transitioning roles and obligations can be a long process. Too often, it’s a painful one.

If your intent is to exit your business in a thoughtful, planned way—or even just to slow down a bit—you can’t simply take off one day and expect things to go smoothly. In fact, orchestrating a seamless succession can become a huge job (which may account for why so many entrepreneurs fail to do it). But it doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, there are some crucial things you can do to make the transition considerably less painful.

John Kotter, one of the foremost authorities on change, suggests that there are eight steps to successful negotiation of the change process. I believe they form a great framework for entrepreneurs gearing up to transition or sell a business.

1. Create a sense of urgency

A sense of urgency is required to break the inertia that can come when succession starts to cross your mind. (It’s a very easy topic to “put off until later.”) Start by announcing you’re going to make changes to those who will be most affected, then get started right away. Set short-term deadlines and outline actions that need to take place immediately. You, as leader, must be seen to set the pace and the expectations.

Podcast: How to Avoid a Succession Train Wreck

2. Pull together a guiding team

You’re going to need people who will both support you through the process and execute the actions required to make change happen. You’ll need your internal management or support team, as well as a group of advisors who will help you define the strategy for moving forward. Don’t fall prey to the lone-wolf mentality; this is too big a job to try to do alone. But remember, even with a team to help you, you’ll still have a lot to do. Free up some time and focus on this major project.

3. Develop a vision for the changes you want

Look at your succession plan from two perspectives: your own personal perspective, and that of the company. Start by creating a vision for what you will be doing next; that is, what you want to do and have earned the right to do. This appealing image will help propel you forward. Then think about the company: your vision for it minus you will provide a essential end-point to share with your team. This allows the entire team to work backward to determine the strategies and tactics that will move the process along.

4. Communicate the change in a way that everyone understands

Kotter suggests keeping it simple. Tell a story. Talk about how the change will take place, how it will affect the listeners and their positions and how they can contribute in a positive way to the end goal. Make it memorable so that when the story is repeated, all the salient facts remain.

Read: 5 Ways to Tell Great Stories About Your Business

5. Empower others to act

One of the challenges facing entrepreneurs preparing their business for sale or transition is the pressure of balancing priorities and time. It’s a rare business owner who has time left at the end of the day or week to work on the business versus in the business. But that’s what you have to do. And the only way to free up your time to work on those priorities is to give away more of your current duties. It may feel unnatural, but it’s something you’re going to have to get used to at some point or another if you’re stepping away from the business. Be prepared to allow others to make mistakes if it is a necessary part of learning to carry more of the load. Remove those barriers that prevent people from taking responsibility for getting the job done.

Read: Master the Art of Entrepreneurial Delegation

6. Produce short-term wins

Rather than trying to change the world and then celebrating when the job is done, it’s important to celebrate the initial wins as quickly as possible. If one of your first steps in the succession is to enact a leadership training program to increase the bench strength of the team, find a resource that can help you and then make the announcement that celebrates that initial accomplishment. Congratulate the person who got it done. And only add more tasks as you complete the first ones.

7. Don’t let up

If you’ve decided to move forward and make changes, be single-minded in your pursuit of that change. If obstacles get in the way, get around them, over them or through them. If the energy seems to drain out of the idea, pump it back up. If people lose interest, tell the story of the change again and again until everyone understands that this is a non-negotiable destiny.

8. Create a new culture

Old habits and traditions die hard. No matter how entrenched the culture you’ve built is, it’s unlikely to be the same in your absence. You have to create new traditions, new ways of seeing the world, new approaches and a new culture.

Read: 5 Tools that Build Corporate Culture

These steps are helpful in any business change, and I believe they can dramatically improve what is often a painful and stressful process. Now, if you’re planning to leave your business, take a look at your plan for transitioning it from where it is today to where you want it to be. Are you missing any steps?

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.

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