Reno’s Stephanie Kruse: For female business owners, creating a succession plan is crucial before retirement
- Realize one day you will need to retire; take time to talk with trusted friends and advisors as you create the framework for your future retirement and how it will create change in your company and life.
- Set an age or time frame, otherwise it will never happen. Set a firm date and back up from there to implement the changes that will be needed to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
- Decide the degree to which you will be involved after the fact.
- Figure out which skills (yours) that will need to be backfilled, find those qualified people and hire and train them early. Gather up front, when assembling your team, if they’re even interested in taking on the work of continuing your company as though it is their own, realizing at some point if you design it to be so, they will fully take over.
- Engage in clear communication among the team. Declare your date and make sure your succession team is on board with the future vision and goals of the company and be clear with them about your expectations of them, the role you will play and vice-versa.
- Realize this is not an easy process — not for you or your team; exercise consciousness and compassion in all things, and foster those qualities in your team.
- Go forward and embrace this next part of your life. Adventure awaits!
RENO, Nev. — In 1991, Stephanie Kruse founded KPS3 Marketing in Reno as a one-person shop, an endeavor that has grown into a nationally-known company with clients across the United States.
“I spoke with a friend I had known in business many years, who advised me,” Kruse said. “I had been director of marketing at St. Mary’s Hospital, I saw a need for a different way to approach marketing, and I took a calculated risk.”
That risk has paid off, and now, as she prepares to retire, Kruse is working to ensure KPS3 will continue even as she steps away.
“This is not an easy process, and I imagine this feeling is what men who have owned companies have felt, but never talked about,” she said. “I think men for decades have felt the anxiety of losing their identity and redefining themselves as they’ve moved to and through retirement, and it will be no different for women who have been in business a long time and have enjoyed high-powered leadership positions.”
Kruse adds: “… How we approach this transition I think will be a topic we talk about and try to deal with more openly. We will figure out what to do about this, acknowledge our businesses are a huge part of our identity, that it is a grieving process and think about things longer and harder, in order to ensure the things we’ve built are left in good hands.”
As Kruse makes these changes in her life and business, she is as careful and calculated as she was when she was just beginning.
She has defined what will work for her in retirement, and encourages everyone to put a succession plan in place long before they plan to actually leave, adding it is also important to decide whether your career will come to a hard stop, as might be seen when working for someone, or phasing out, which women have more control over when they own the company.
“I want to travel, and so I have to look at how I will be less involved in the day-to-day-operations and take on a more advisory role and do limited work with clients, because I enjoy that,” she said. “Even though this process at this time is my choice, it is difficult because KPS3 is my baby, it’s like a child leaving home, and I know that as I become less involved, the company will take on a different fabric as others take over.”
Kruse cautions that an abundance of consciousness in decision-making and communication among the team is critical to success and is a two-way street.
“As the next generation comes up, the care and consideration needs to be reciprocal — I need to acknowledge this is also hard for them, that they are left to move ahead forging the internal and external brand with the owner sitting around,” Kruse said. “And as an owner, of course I will have a say, but I have to trust I have the right people in place and be honest that there are many other thing and a big life waiting for me outside of KPS3.”
Knowing this, and with an eye toward what lies ahead, Kruse has worked to ensure the best, right people are in place, a goal she feels has been accomplished.
“I am very blessed in that my partners and other senior managers are very strong and able to lead, and are the right people to take KPS3 to the next level,” said. “I had to assess the gaps that would be there when my skills were removed and had to look at how to backfill those areas, and if you are a key player in your company you must do this.”
And even in the face of all her thoughts, feelings and steps she has taken to ensure KPS3 lives on long after she is present, Kruse is excited for what comes next.
“There is a lot I would like to do,” she said. “I want to consult with KPS3 clients and staff in a way that teaches and gives back as the next generation grows up in the marketing field,” she said. “ I think it will be lovely to pursue more international travel.”
KPS3 has allowed Kruse the opportunity to engage in nonprofit work and help her community in bigger ways than she ever imagined, work she plans to continue.
“Part of who I am is a community service nerd, and I have been able to give back through KPS3 by providing pro bono work for nonprofit agencies, which I would have done any way, but if not for who I have been at KPS3 would have taken longer and I’d have done less,” she said. “Doing work that is good for people really scratched my itch, has made my life richer, and I will have more time to pursue these interests.”
Karel C. Ancona is a freelance writer who served as a contributing editor to the inaugural Sierra Nevada Powerful Woman magazine. Click here to read a digital copy of the magazine.
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