Well, my friend, you are not alone. It doesn’t matter if you are 45 or 75 years old, it is a question that about 80% of the owners I speak to share with me while we discuss potentially selling their company.
Like most life-time entrepreneurs, you might have some immediate plans after you sell: long cruise, work on the golf swing, or take up a new hobby. But for many, it is not fulfilling enough to leave the current 9 – 5 routine where you can continue to flex your entrepreneurial muscle.
So, if you are worried about this, let me share with you what I tell every owner that I have this conversation with.
While we may all hope for a 100% cash offer that allows us to walk out the door, that usually won’t happen. Instead, you will want to or be required to hang around for two years while you work through an earnout. If you have a partner that will take over after the sale, allowing you to exit immediately upon the close of the transaction, then this won’t be your issue. Even so, you may still be asked to remain in a limited advisory role capacity while the new owners learn the ropes.
You may actually want to stay. Yes, you heard that right! Even though you may no longer be at the helm, you also won’t have to deal with the headaches of being an owner anymore either. Now all those employee, customer, and vendor headaches can be dealt with by someone else, allowing you to spend more time on things you like to do instead: sales, custom development, marketing, etc.
The new owners may have a completely different role in mind for you. Maybe instead of running the company, they want you out looking for other companies to purchase. This is very common with companies acquired by or backed by Private Equity firms. They are always looking to add to their portfolio companies. After all, you have started and ran a successful business, and understand the industries and customers you serve. Who better to find similar companies that could be acquired to increase or add to the products and services you provide.
My point here is that there are other options besides selling and leaving that can continue to call on your expertise, but maybe not in the same capacity as before.
But let’s say that the three options above are not really appealing to you, or there isn’t an opportunity to stay with the new buyers. Then what?
This was exactly my dilemma. I fully anticipated sticking around for a period of time for an earnout, but when I was offered a 100% cash offer and the door after 45 days, I took it. Sure, I had some immediate plans, but nothing after planning and executing my 500 mile backpacking trip though the northern cascades. This becomes the tough part and is probably why you are continuing to read this article: you now need to search for a new passion!
Here is what you need to do:
- Take our Personal Readiness Quiz to determine how ready you are to sell. By answering 10 short questions, you will get a readiness score that will give you some idea of how prepared you are to exit your company. Most people score less than a 58, so don’t be concerned if your score is not 80 or higher.
- Read the book Finish Big by Bo Burlingham. Here is a link to last summer’s post where I talk more about his book and how important it is to read BEFORE you sell. This is a fascinating read and will open your eyes to what you need to plan in advance to truly enjoy the sale of your company.
Finding a NEW passion is no small task. I enlisted the help of a personal coach for a few months and got absolutely nowhere with it. I mean, how do you really find a new passion? If you don’t have a clue what you will do with all your newly found free time, start by sharing the knowledge you have learned that has gotten you to this point in your life. That means not only what you did right, but the mistakes you made along the way.
Somewhere in that knowledge-sharing, a new passion may emerge, and you will find yourself moving in a direction you might not have ever thought of. Just give it a little time.
Also, after taking the quiz and reading the book, you may uncover a perfect go-forward plan that won’t hold you back from successfully selling your company. Good Luck.