The Person Who Comes After You

In day two of my daughter’s school’s science trip to Jekyll Island, I learned how to seine, which is another way to say fish off the shore with a long net. The weather was perfect, the water freezing, and the waders very appropriate. As part of the equipment team (aka E-Team), it was my responsibility to clean and roll up the nets for use again tomorrow and then tomorrow we will clean and roll them up for storage for next year’s 7th graders to use.

While I was rolling up my 75′ seining net, I realized that I was preparing the net for someone else to use, and I thought of one of the most often overlooked aspects of changing jobs or selling a company. When you leave a job or sell a company, what does it look like to the person taking over? Here are a few suggestions for how to leave a job or a company for the person who comes after you.

  • Do it well. This one should go without saying, but how often have you seen someone just do enough to get by, or never really dig in a own their job?
  • Document it. At CWNP, in 2005, there were 4 of us, and I left for 2 months to go to Kazakhstan to adopt our two kids. Imagine leaving your startup for 60 days! I was forced to thoroughly document every single thing I did every single day so that one of the other three members of our team could do that piece of the job. We grew by nearly 20% while I was gone.
  • Train the next person. Don’t just pass off the job, take the time to thoroughly train the person who takes over so that they know the job as well as, or better than you.
  • Note the abnormalities. In a startup, we’re trying to create repeatable processes, but even in big corps, there are one-offs, custom processes, or what I call abnormalities in the daily grind. These are the things that you do for that very special customer because you go the extra mile. Make special note of them.
  • Make the next person more successful. Whoever takes over your job should have such an easy transition in that it makes them able to own the job faster than you did, and hence, makes them more successful at the job than you ever were.

When you leave a job or sell a company, you’re leaving behind a legacy of sorts. What do you want that person who takes over for you to say about how you did the job after they’ve been doing it for a year? Think about that when you get ready to hand over the reigns, or the seining net, to the person who comes after you.

What do you think about that?