Although rotating leadership isn't generally considered a sound business strategy, in some cases it's unavoidable. And it does have its success stories. Consider Eye-To-Eye Communications Inc., the Lafayette, Colorado, public relations firm Cathy Sperrazzo founded four years ago. When she took time off a few months ago to go on maternity leave, her husband, John, left his job with IOMEGA Corp. and stepped in to assume leadership of the company. In addition to preparing their clients for the change, the couple was able to accomplish the rotation in a way that left both them and their clients satisfied.
"We trust each other totally and value each other's opinion," says John. "Just because Cathy isn't here now doesn't mean she's not involved. In our marriage and in our business, we work at keeping each other feeling valued. We each have a solid ego that has room for sharing the credit. And each of us wants to do the right thing to further our clients' objectives."
John acknowledges he and Cathy have different ways of implementing and executing their shared vision. He also admits that he's been careful "to keep things just enough the same as when Cathy was running the business so clients feel comfortable, yet still inject enough of my own style and strengths to ensure the continued growth of the business. It's been a balancing act."
"A rotating presidency can work when there's a group of key family leaders all sharing the same vision, style of management and philosophy, and where decisions are made by a consensus," says Karofsky. This is the extraordinary, not the routine, way of functioning, however. "It would be as if there were an office of the presidency," he says, "and it didn't matter who had the title at the time because the way of conducting business would be the same."