It’s not often that the head of a major corporation resigns for reasons that are “entirely personal” and not shrouded in scandal. But that’s exactly what happened with Visa’s Charlie Scharf, who announced he is stepping down after an impressive four-year run as head of the payments behemoth because, frankly, he’s so over the commute.
His daughters and extended family are based on the East Coast and Visa… isn’t. “I love working and running this great global company and I am sad to have reached the conclusion that I should step down,” Scharf said in a statement. “But running a San Francisco based company just doesn’t work for me personally right now and wouldn’t be fair to Visa.”
Wow, what a breath of fresh air—and a real master class in being good at your job and good to yourself. To wit:
It’s tempting to be reactive and let the winds direct you. You need to steer out of that mindset personally and professionally to get where you want to go. Why? Because the other option is retiring at 70 and dying a week later.
1. Go out on top
You’re not going to find a better rally than 130 percent. That’s what Visa’s stock did under Scharf’s leadership. If you had sunk your entire pension fund in there during the biggest rally in the US economy (something no financial advisor would have recommended), you would have beaten every return possible by a margin of 25 percent. Your retirement account would have become your early retirement account. If you think you can do that twice, then by all means stay on while your daughters grow up back east.
2. Don’t get addicted to winning
Business school classrooms are lousy with former CEOs telling war stories. Why? It’s the sport of it. Ask any Wall Street guy over 45. Do they need another beach house with a swimming pool? Nah. As a golf-loving Republican presidential candidate once said: “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score.”
3. Make decisions, not reactions
Sixty percent of business is luck. And ninety percent of that is really just timing. It’s tempting therefore to be reactive and let the winds direct you. You need to steer out of that mindset personally and professionally to get where you want to go. Why? Because the other option is retiring at 70 and dying a week later.
Part of the Visa success story is creating a diverse brand of financial products in a crowded market. Scharf himself will remain a paid member of the Microsoft board in Seattle. This helped him make sound decisions for Visa without worrying about how to pay his daughters’ tuition.
5. But simplify
In 2013, the company joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average, taking it from banking to technology as a business. In mid-2016, it completed the acquisition of its Visa Europe joint venture, simplifying the company’s corporate structure. It’s the difference between doing the same business different ways in every market and doing one thing really well.
6. Don’t be irreplaceable
It’s almost impossible to make a company like Apple more successful after the departure of a firebrand like Steve Jobs. But that is an ego-driven approach. Why not build a company that succeeds because of you, without you willing it to fruition? “Charlie has been a visionary CEO, highly successful by any set of metrics,” says Visa’s independent chairman, Robert W. Matschullat. “He has helped transform Visa, the leading global payments technology company, into a technology-driven digital commerce company and has led a strategy that will benefit this company for years to come.” Now that’s laying a groundwork for success long after you stroll out the door.
After news broke of his Scharf’s impending departure (he officially steps down December 1st), Visa shares fell 1.7 percent. Still comfortably ahead. But Visa will need to shore up recent wins by spending their cash on hand wisely as they go forward. And they would be even wiser to follow the example of their visionary CEO.