Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The right time that you must step down as the leader of your business

In January 2021, Ken Njoroge, the co-founder of the Pan-African payment gateway firm Cellulant announced that he would leave his position as chief executive officer. Njoroge then left the company in June 2022 after 18 years at the helm.

Over the 18 years that Njoroge had been leading Cellulant, the company grew its digital payment infrastructure to connect consumers and businesses to more than 120 banks, and 40 mobile network operators in a network allowing for interoperability.

He left Cellulant operating in 33 markets with offices in 18 countries across Africa. In 2019, Njoroge’s firm sold a 44.04 per cent stake to US-based social impact investment firm, The Rise Fund, in a Sh. 4.8 billion deal that valued Cellulant at Sh. 10.8 billion.

With the firm’s high performance and the flying success Njoroge had raked in for nearly two decades, news of departure left many in shock and awe.

This was majorly because not too many people would willingly leave their businesses or careers after attaining so much success.

But in every business or career journey, there comes a time when you have to stop, pass the baton, and move on to other areas in life. To have the perfect transition, you will need to look out for some of these signs:

Someone else can do better than you

In his departure letter, Njoroge had revealed that he was inspired by the desire to focus more on his family, and the conviction that the team in his business was ready to take on the mantle.

“I woke up and read a board document that the team had prepared and I knew that my job was done. They were ready and it was time to let them take over. Having dedicated 85 per cent of my time and energy to the business, I also wanted to focus more on my family,” he had said.

This is echoed by business and career coach Christine Muthoni. She says that the realization that you have nurtured an employee who can do better than you should not scare you.

“It is easy to feel that your authority is being undermined by someone in your team who can do a better job than you. But this is often a sign that you have outlived your stay at the helm and need to pass on the torch for good business continuity,” she says.

Ms. Muthoni cautions that this doesn’t mean you should pack up everything and leave as if you have been fired. “Passing on the torch doesn’t mean that you turn away from your business. You can still have lesser, indirect roles such as a mentor or a seat on the board.”

It is too stressful

The risk of hanging on for too long is that your business or career could end up consuming you. In as much as you want to build a business or career, your health and wellness must be your foremost priority. Initiate your exit plan if your role is inducing too much stress, anxiety or is causing your family suffering.

“Such stressors come hand in hand with stagnation. You will hardly be progressing when you reach these levels of stress and anxiety,” says Ms. Muthoni.


According to Dr. Chris Cancialosi, an entrepreneur investor and author of Knowledge Transfer: The Key to Organizational Resilience and Agility, you should start planning your exit if you realize that your business is scaling up rapidly and you either have no willingness to adapt or you lack the technical skills to align.

“As the business matures, it may require new and highly demanding skills of leadership. If you can’t acquire these or don’t have the drive to adapt to this growth, then you’ll do better to take the back seat,” he says.

The same way that a business might need new employees because it has outgrown its old employees is the same way it might need new leadership because it has outgrown you.

Ms. Muthoni says that business changes should be followed by organizational changes. “If your business has undergone changes in growth, technology, markets or expansion, the organizational structure should be changed to suit the new work environment. These changes can include you if your lead role has been rendered superfluous,” she says.


The risk of fighting on when you have already won is that you may start misfiring. This usually indicates that you are past your peak.

Profitable businesses you can start in Kenya with between Sh.20,000 and Sh.100,000

Dr. Cancialis says that you will find that unlike before, you now have to work twice or thrice as hard as you used to just to keep things going. New business solutions will prove tougher to develop and execute, and deep down, you’ll have a gut feeling that your ship is sinking and you’re helpless about it.

“Whether it is client relationships, budgeting, business development or business turnover, pass on the baton once your old tricks stop working, or when you’re constantly the drag in the business,” says Dr. Cancialis.


Heros to villains

Kenya has had its fair share of business leaders who have ended up as financial villains for simply failing to call a deal done and overstaying their mandate. Uchumi and Kenya Airways which were led by Jonathan Ciano and Titus Naikuni are two prominent examples.

Although the two businesses had been revived from the ashes, they are now in financial mess of which their former celebrated CEOs are blamed of perpetrating.

The perfect example

Safaricom has one of Kenya’s brightest examples on passing on the torch. When Safaricom’s founding CEO Michael Joseph left the company in 2010, many Kenyans including business pundits got very skeptical on Safaricom’s future.

People couldn’t separate Safaricom from Joseph until the late CEO Bob Collymore who took over from Joseph proved to be an even better deal for the company.

Quick takeaway

The following are the signs that you should consider moving on from your current career:

  • Constantly feeling tired and burned out.
  • Genuine and warranted feeling of being undervalued.
  • Lack of opportunities for career progression.
  • A nonexistent work–life balance.
  • Lack of career passion and enthusiasm.
  • Overwhelming toxicity at work.

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