By John Trewolla, MBA

It’s a fact: self-driving cars are already here. Imagine getting to your destination… without fighting traffic as you drive.

Now imagine your business working the same way – on “autopilot,” making money without needing you to “drive things” every day.

It’s not only possible. It’s necessary.

Setting up “autopilots” for your business as part of your exit transition plan maximizes the value of your business in your absence – whether your exit is voluntary (retirement) or not (disability or death).

Autopilots provide you with:
• Operations that continue in your absence.
• Profits that continue in your absence.
• Graceful transitions to new leadership
• The cash you need for your exit transition
• Protection for your family and employees
• Preservation of the reputation and legacy of your company

Here is what to do. It’s simple. But, it may not be easy. Start with these facts:
• A process is just a way of doing something.
• A system is a collection of processes that work together.
• A business is a collection of systems that solve problems at a profit.
• An entrepreneur creates the systems; employees run them.
• Autopilots keep complex systems (businesses) on course to a goal.


1. The first step is to clearly understand exactly what your business really does to be successful and profitable. Owner/entrepreneurs can rarely do this alone. They are usually too involved with their businesses to do this without outside help. (We provide that kind of help as part of our business transition services.)

2. The second step is to decide which parts of the business are essential and which are not. Essential parts of the business create the value of the business and need to be optimized. Non-essential parts of the business do not create value and are candidates for being outsourced.

For many owner/entrepreneurs, deciding what is essential carries lots of emotional baggage. Long-standing relationships with employees (especially if they are family members!) can really complicate these decisions. Outside help is often helpful in making and communicating these decisions. (We provide this kind of help as part of our business transition services.)

3. The third step is to change the way things are done (processes and systems, remember?) so that they run on autopilot. Focus upon the essential parts of the business since they are what build/maintain the value of the company going forward.
Some owner/entrepreneurs may be good at systems analysis, process design and change management. Most are not. In fact, most owner/entrepreneurs have let themselves become employees of their own businesses. They are trapped because the value of our business depends upon their being there to run things. Again, outside help is often needed to build support and collaboration for new ways of doing things. Departmental “silos” may need to be eliminated, personality conflicts resolved and team competition replaced with collaboration. (We provide this kind of help as part of our business transition services.)

4. The fourth step is to let go of things and see if the autopilots are working. Doing this requires the owner/entrepreneur to have courage and discipline to control the natural urge to step back in to old habits. This may be the most stressful part of the process!

Most owner/entrepreneurs find it very hard to step away – even briefly – from their daily involvement and doing what they have always done every day for years. Feelings of loss of control, personal value and even personal identity can arise. Once again, professional coaching can help reframe the perspectives of employees and owners about how to do things. (We provide this kind of help as part of our business transition services.)