You wouldn’t believe the number of deals that have failed at the 11th hour – not because all the terms and deal points weren’t finally negotiated, and representations and warranties weren’t disclosed – but because the seller didn’t know what they would do next with their life. After all, permanent retirement is NOT appealing to everyone!
Over the last couple of weeks, it seems like I have had more than a few conversations with prospective buyers about selling where I hear (either directly or in their voice):
They don’t know what they will do after they sell, and it is PARALYZING THEIR NEXT MOVE!
So, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic of selling and moving on.
Some people have a clear plan after they sell. Others just don’t. Those who have a clear plan after the sale of their business tend to exit happier, while those that don’t, struggle. I admit, I also struggled with this greatly while I was going through the sale process. Down to the very last day!!!
Most owners, especially founders, struggle with an identity outside of their work. The longer you’ve owned your business, the more likely your personal identity and self-worth will become defined by your status as the owner. If you feel a deep connection to your business and a large part of your day-to-day satisfaction is derived from your ties to your business, you will find the decision to sell more difficult.
And the longer you have had your company, the harder this may be.
If you are struggling with what you will do in retirement, and all your friends and much of your social life is wrapped around your business in one way or another, you will need to sort this out in advance; otherwise, your life post-sale will be unfulfilling. The sooner you can figure it out, the happier and easier you will approach the sale of your company.
Easy to say….so hard to do, I know!!
Resources to Help You Plan for Life Post-Sale
If you know you may struggle with this, I highly recommend two resources to help:
First, is an assessment called Your PersonalScore™, which will calculate your readiness to exit your company on a personal level. It is a couple-minute online questionnaire and, like the Value Maximizer™ assessment, it is confidential and arrives in your inbox after you take it. You can take the assessment here: https://rosebiz.com/personalscore/
Second, I recommend you read the book: Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top, by Bo Burlingham. The author interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs across a range of industries and identified eight key factors that determine whether owners are happy after leaving their businesses. He explores in detail the emotional challenges that owners face in selling their businesses. I have mentioned this book before in earlier posts, so if you want a recap, go here.
What I Did to Find My Next Passion
I thought it might be helpful to also briefly share my journey of moving on. I wasn’t staying with the company I sold (you may be, so your life for a few years post-sale may be exactly what it is today, giving you more time to work this out). Because I was exiting immediately, I needed to figure out my plans fast, or I would go insane just flapping in the wind with no direction. My husband was okay with retirement, but I knew deep down inside I probably wasn’t ready…just yet.
First, I spent some time (both through hiking and other quiet introspective times) examining where my head was at. What was I reading that brought me joy? What defined me as a person: was it being a wife, mother, or truly a business person? Did making money still bring me joy – even if I had enough to retire on? I realized that I liked build something and helping people, and I wanted to continue that, but doing what exactly? On the flip side, I also needed to think about what I DIDN’T want to do. Did I want to start a new company with new employees and new offices…ahh…no!
Then I realized that I was talking a lot to colleagues about how I sold my business, what I did right and WRONG, and what I had learned by going through this experience. I noticed I lit up a little and got passionate in my conversations about the topic – and then I examined the ways I might be able to share that out in the world. So, I started writing blog posts. And – surprise – people responded and wanted to learn more, so I wrote even more.
And then, as you know, I eventually wrote an entire book about my experiences, which consumed almost two years of my life. I then realized I was ALL IN on helping people sell their company.
Owning a business is about more than selling goods and services. It’s about making choices that shape your entire life, both professional and personal. But in the end, your business is a thing, not a person. While it may have been heavily influenced by you, it is not you! Which means you can move on to something else, even if it doesn’t bring in one more dollar to you, but brings JOY and PASSION to your life.
Heck, it could be woodworking or growing grapes, who knows!
Here is my advice: Get ahead of those thoughts of future doubt in your head now!
If you are contemplating a sale anytime in the next 1 – 3 years, take the PersonalScore Assessment and see where you land! If ten questions that take less than a couple of minutes can give you a little clarity: why not?! And read the book Finish Big. You will be glad you did.