The Importance of Onboarding in Your Business Exit Plan: Part 1

By Maria Forbes
January 22, 2024

As a business owner, it’s important to start planning for your eventual exit from the company as early as you can. Whether you plan to sell the business, pass it down to family, or find new leadership, how well you onboard new managers and prepare your successors plays a key role in a smooth transition. Below are the four important things you should know about.

Ensuring Business Continuity

Proper onboarding ensures business continuity, that you have the people and processes to keep the business performing optimally when you step away.  New leaders need time to learn systems, processes, culture, and relationships that have been built over the years. Rushing the transition or failing to pass along institutional knowledge can disrupt operations and customer relationships. Existing leaders need to be on the same page, they must be able to communicate your standards for performance and cultural code of conduct to their teams and your new leaders.

Early Involvement Builds Successor Confidence

Onboarding successors early allows them to contribute meaningfully while you are still involved. Providing opportunities to demonstrate leadership and where applicable increase client-facing responsibilities helps validate individual skills and abilities and establishes their credibility with internal teams and clients. It also gives you a chance to provide coaching and address skill gaps before being fully reliant on a new leader.

Gradually Shifting Responsibility

Starting the onboarding process two to three years before your planned exit date provides an ideal transition period. New leaders have time to gain experience and engage their strengths without feeling overwhelmed. You can gradually shift more responsibility over time to reduce workload stress.  As you transition your own role in the business, a gradual shift of responsibilities to new leadership will maintain the productivity of your workforce as a new leader takes the business into the future.

Onboarding to Vision and Values

A thoughtful onboarding process that includes structured training, mentoring relationships, documented playbooks, and a phased transition plan will ensure the continuity of your business vision and values.  Protecting your business values gives clients, partners, and employees confidence that their experience with your company will be consistent, they are informed and know what to expect if there are changes.  Vision and values as experienced over time while building your company should remain strong through transition, allowing new leadership to carry the company forward without disruption.


Taking the time for a thoughtful onboarding process as part of your exit strategy benefits current and future leadership. It demonstrates respect for your workforce and prioritizes strong client relationships throughout a leadership transition.  A gradual, well-supported shift of responsibilities instills confidence that the business is in capable hands for continued growth long after the founder moves on.


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