Fortunately, I was only 36 when my term ended, so that lesson in humility served me well. It can be tough to remember that my success came from my dependence on others, not at the expense of others. In order for Accredited Investors to grow and prosper, Wil and I had to continue to create room for colleagues to grow and prosper, too.

As a founder, I obviously have an ego. Wil and I had to believe that we were going to build something meaningful. Originally, we probably believed that we were the ones to do it. That we knew best. But as we got wiser, we realized that we didn’t know much at all. Our business had twists and turns, good luck and bad. If I wrote a playbook of exactly the steps we took to build a practice and you followed it to the letter, your business would turn out vastly different than ours. It is chaos theory at its finest.

But when it comes to succession planning, the humility can be liberating. As long as the next generation doesn’t suffer from the hubris we learned to mostly avoid, we all can spend more time being curious and less time being right.

Here is a simple thought as you explore your succession plan: Good business + good colleagues + good clients + good sales price = no good riddance!

Good business means a broadly diversified client base so you can avoid the 80/20 rule in which 80% of your fees come from 20% of your clients.

“Good colleagues” means people who generally share a common set of values about the business and the service to clients and one another.

Good clients are those open about their situation and feelings, who value what you do, and who are willing to pay for your services.

A good sales price means setting a price for the sale of your shares so that you may sacrifice some of your own wealth to give those buying shares an opportunity to generate their own.

This all means “No good riddance!” There is more harmony, so the next generation values you for what you bring and you value them for their contributions.

Part of the founder’s dilemma is that many founders could never work for anyone, but in some ways that is the position in which we end up in anyway. It has been said that the best leaders know how to follow, which means most of us founders may not have been as great leading as we thought.

I am still wrestling with the question, “If I am not that, then who am I?” But that exercise helps me explore all the pieces of me—those parts that excite me and those that disturb me. The last piece of my own founder’s dilemma is defining myself by how I see me rather than purely in relationship to how others view me. The irony is that my personal progress may have been delayed by some of my business success. I guess ultimately the founder’s dilemma is life’s dilemma.      

Ross Levin is co-founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina, Minn.

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