“Every career has a midnight hour. The smart people exit at five to twelve” Sanjay Khosla ( Executive Coach and Advisor. Former President of Kraft Developing Markets.)
Exits are as important as entrances.
Elegant exits particularly at senior levels are unfortunately too rare, leaving both the Individual and the Company diminished.
The individual loses since a career transition not handled well can stain a reputation and leave a residue of ill will towards an institution where many years of one’s life has been dedicated.
The company loses because instead of having advocates among an influential diaspora of senior talent one may end up with hecklers and detractors. Also, senior colleagues and direct reports of the departed employee can feel less loyal to the company.
It behooves both the individual and the firm to anticipate, plan and manage for the midnight hour whenever possible.
Done correctly it can provide significant advantages to both sides. The company can often retain access to the wisdom and knowledge and good will of the departing employee and the individual benefits from a positive departure, continued access to their friends and network and often Career 2.0 opportunities and support.
Every company should develop a plan to ensure that Exits are done right particularly given both aging demographics and the increasing flexibility that companies need to to connect and leverage a diaspora of talent without carrying heavy fixed costs.
2. Exit Economics.
Every year you should call your cable company and telecommunications provider and ask if they can give you a better deal. You do not need to threaten to leave but just ask politely. Chances are you will get a combination of higher speeds, removal of data caps, free channels, upgraded modems and cable boxes and other goodies usually at the same or lower cost.
You rarely have to use the three magic phrases:
a) “Considering cutting the cord”
b) “Read about a T-Mobile offer…”
c) “Why am I paying so much to rent this old equipment?”
Then call your financial institutions and you will enjoy eradication of some fees, lower rates of interest, higher multiples on loyalty rewards and other garnishments.
And for anybody you do business with if you need to find yourself not needing to find the right support or service person (automated and hidden contact numbers anyone?) just press the option that says you want to exit. And presto you have a Manager on the line!
Why do so many companies that wax poetic about customer lifetime value and the importance of retention rarely reach out to reward their most loyal customers?
Why do so many service businesses not surprise and reward their best clients with ideas, insights and imagination every six months but only do this when clients threaten an exit or in attracting new clients?
As more and more companies are trying to move from a transaction to membership model focusing on recurring revenue it will grow more important to focus on the happy bird in the hand than the one in the bush or the one wishing to fly away.
Take a little time off from cross-selling, up-selling and treating each customer as a cow whose udder you squeeze to maximize your bottom line while whispering rote love and loyalty messages into their ears.
How about feeding them some hay instead once in a while?
Every six months (in some cases more often and in some cases less often but at least once a year) surprise your best customers with gifts, offers, insights and rewards without them asking.
This is the economics that prevent their exit rather than spending millions getting them to change their minds once they have determined to exit!
3. Questionable Exits.
Sometimes it is best that one hesitates and take time to think things through before making exits that may be difficult or possibly impossible to reverse.
To get a little bit more agility in decision making (no need to bring along 27 other countries) and pursue a dream of being a “Singapore of Europe” a divided UK has left the EU.
Hopefully it will work as the backers of this idea have promised. But this dream also could leave a diminished England if Scotland decides to seek independence and Northern Ireland unites with Ireland which is in the EU.
But as importantly what exactly can any country exit from when they say they want to stop the world and get off?
Can a country exit from climate change? Can they exit from Covid-19? Can they exit from the implications of a rising China? Can they exit from the Cloud Economy where the next London and NY will be everywhere as ideas, people and opportunities cross pollinate in the Cloud and not necessarily in a physical space? After all we are living in a connected world entering the Third Connected Age.
There is no quarantine from reality as long as you are alive and not permanently on Twitch.
Cutting your head off to exit a headache is clearly a plan.
But surely a Tylenol might have been better.
4.Exist aware of your Exit.
Franz Kafka wrote “The meaning of life is that it stops”
And most of us can calculate the robust and healthy days left if we are lucky by subtracting our age from 80 (around which much begins to go wrong physically and sometimes also one may see a diminishment in mental faculties leading to a much more constrained life) and multiplying it by 365 days.
If you are 60 you have less than 7500 days. If you are 40 you have 15,000 days.
So, when someone asks you to do things without some form of fair compensation (it does not have to be money but could be learning, experience or the joy of helping) or does not respect your time, do remember you are the one paying for their dis-respect and their cheap valuation of your life!
Once you incorporate the reality of your and everybody else’s finiteness into your thinking, you are much less likely to take crap from those who dole it out and much more likely to appreciate those who are kind and respectful.
And notice the wonder of everyday life around you.
As the Philosophers and Songwriters remind us:
It is essential to know what is important before it is too late.
Photographs by Marc Koegel.
Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is also a speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at https://rishadtobaccowala.com/
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