Hank Gelderman says he has been at the helm of Gelderman Landscaping since he took over from his father at the age of 21. Over the next 30-plus years, he built the company into a profitable niche firm with 30 trucks and more than 60 employees. But in 2005, when he began to think about retirement, he faced a dilemma: None of his five children or his most senior employees wanted to buy the business. His son-in-law, Nathan Helder, expressed interest, but had no experience in the business. So Gelderman and Helder drew up a succession plan that gradually saw the boss get kicked out of his own office. "I delegated myself out of a job," Gelderman says -- proving that the plan worked.

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