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Steve Jobs' Death Reflects Every Company's Challenge


With the death of Steve Jobs at age 56, CEOs of smaller companies may be left pondering their own futures and wondering when they, have a plan in place for their company to continue after they are gone.

Jobs, who was replaced by COO Tim Cook in August, clearly had a plan in place for the technology giant. But, small business owners don't always have such a clear path to succession.

Mary Cosgrove, owner of the business strategy coaching firm, What's Working Well?, told BusinessNewsDaily that she sees CEOs leave their companies for lots of reasons, including, as was the case when Jobs took medical leave in Janurary, failing health.

Just as often, though, she sees business owners who leave their companies because they no longer have the wherewithal to keep growing the company.

"Often, it's someone who starts the company and then can't move it beyond a certain point," Cosgrove said. "I spend a lot of time coaching them to get ready to step aside and go find somebody who can grow the company larger."

She said that's often hard for an entrepreneur to do. She's seen many do it successfully, but, in some cases, it's a very difficult transition. For the sake of the business and its employees, however, it's often essential.

"Businesses are just like people," she said. "If we don't continue to grow, we die."

Choosing who will be the best replacement can be the biggest challenge, Cosgrove said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Cook is an industrial engineer by training, and also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Duke University. Before joining Apple, Cook worked at IBM and at Compaq.

Cosgrove said it's important for a CEO or business leader to look for someone with a different skill set than their own when succession planning .

"It's important to look for someone that's had different experience than you who can build the company to a bigger place," she said. "Many times the things you need to start a business – the ideas and the passion – are not the same things you need to take it to the next level."

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.