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Stepping down, stepping up

Every brand spanking new year seems to scream “change!” Every December and January it seems normal to begin new things, to consider healthier habits, to deep-six the things that haven’t worked in the past.

It’s kind of a cliché really.

However, for those of us in business, it’s often the time of year when we intentionally sit down with a pad and paper (old school, I know) and seriously think about our goals, visions and dreams for the upcoming year.

I’ve been doing this now for several years, but this year is a bit different. Oh, I sat down with the aforementioned pad of paper and my favorite pen (I’m a stationary geek, what can I say?) to make up some goals, but the really big ones on my list I’ve been wrestling with for a long time.

I’m definitely retirement age.

How ever do I manage that?

Those of us who have built small businesses – well, it’s hard, isn’t it, to figure out a future for your “baby” – one in which your role is less, stepped down, not central.

And so I have been considering my role with Sanctuary Christian Counseling. This is my baby. I’ve spent the past nearly 20 years growing it up to the outstanding counseling center it is – choosing just the right therapists to nurture it, making sure our clients were getting exceptional care, leaning in to marketing, finances, and a lot of other business knowledge and practices I was not naturally adept at.

It’s been a wild ride, as any business is. There have been downs, but mostly ups. The community has been amazing. My seven therapists ARE amazing. We are still growing, learning, exploring new ways to serve our community. That will not change.

And no, I’m not fully retiring. Not yet, anyway. But I am stepping back a bit, and letting some others have more pivotal roles. It’s one of the biggest challenges of my life.

I dare to make some suggestions to those of you who are not – quite! – where I am on this journey, those of you for whom the idea of stepping down is not quite on the radar, or it’s there and you’re purposely avoiding it (as I did for many years). Here are a few things to consider:

  • Plan. Plan as much ahead of time as you can manage. I am not a terrifically talented planner, and this has been a challenge for me. However, I can see the advantage that planning earlier and more fully would have made in my life right now. In particular, fixing the systems that don’t work quite right, neatening things up, and making the unclear clear are all things that will help in the long run.

  • Be courageous. Yes, it’s your baby. And yes, stepping back a bit will mean that you give up some control, but if you want your business to survive your tenure there, you must find a way to step down and let others take control, at least somewhat. It’s tough, but it has rewards, too – more on these in a bit.

  • Try to find the sweet spot between what’s best for you and what’s best for the business. In my case, because Sanctuary is a service-based business, I also had to consider the clients I would be leaving, and plan for that. Although there are seven other therapists as Sanctuary who can step in, that’s a process and merits a good deal of thought and consideration. You need an exit strategy good for you and good for the business, and, in my case, good for my clients, too.

  • No one else will do it for you. I am occasionally envious of my friends who are retiring from much bigger businesses or organizations that they do not own – often it’s just the case of setting a date, dealing with closing up their job, maybe training a replacement, and then going off into retirementland, pension in hand. Not so those of us who own and love our small business. It’s much more complicated, but the one thing that unites nearly all of us is that, if we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done – this is also true of retirement planning.

  • Prepare your business to run without you and your immediate input. This can be as simple as getting a virtual assistant to handle some of the things you normally do, as having an outstanding Clinical Director (as I do at Sanctuary in Andrea Geesaman), as thinking about how the business will someday – potentially – be sold. Even though I have no plans for this for Sanctuary, still, it’s something that I have to consider (at my age, LOL).

  • Take advantage of the business relationships you’ve built so far – especially your accountant, lawyer and insurance people. They are some of your best resources when you look at helping your business move forward without you. In the same vein, you might gather a great deal of information and help from others in your field who have successfully navigated this transition before you.

And NO, I’M NOT FULLY RETIRING. I say that in capital letters because, while I have written about this several times (because it’s the business topic most forward in my mind) I have had numerous people congratulate me, or even say “I know you’re retired, but ...”

I am however, considering roles for others, how to navigate the minefield of stepping back from my habitual heavy therapy client load, and how to ensure the health and wellbeing of Sanctuary Christian Counseling for many years to come.

And there’s a LOT to look forward to! I’ll be stepping up into podcasting with my husband, Dr. Peter Gigliotti. We are working on a Boomer relationship/lifestyle/travel podcast – Two to Talk: Steps and Missteps on Life’s Journey to be launched February 14. I am hoping to have more time to blog on Sanctuary’s webpage (, and on our travel blog – and obviously do the travel to support that. And there are those closets in our home I’ve simply not had time to attack yet ...

If you are struggling, the seven excellent remaining therapists at Sanctuary Christian Counseling can help. We help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection.

Give us a call.

Sanctuary Christian Counseling

9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4

Shippensburg, PA 17257



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