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Live Your Ideal Life After Selling Your Business


Most business owners have dedicated the vast majority of their adult lives to building their businesses—committing years, sacrificing little league games, vacations, tee times, and foregoing sleep to follow their passions and achieve their goals. They have succeeded in creating jobs, new products, and a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families, giving back to their communities, and contributing to the local and national economy.

Most businesses start out as a labor of love without any thought of how, when, or even if it will end. Not surprisingly, caught up in the day-to-day management of the business, owners forget to ask-and-answer important personal questions that will have a great impact on how they will eventually transfer ownership of the business to others. But, in many ways, a business transition is a life transition. And it’s important that as you exit your business, you transition into something else that engages you.

Preventing Seller’s Remorse

After selling a business, owners can experience seller’s remorse, and the chances of this increases when you don’t have a good plan for what’s next. Financial considerations are of course important, but you will also need to consider your non-financial goals.

Some common personal disappointments we hear after a business transition include:

  • I thought they would keep me on longer as a consultant; I wanted to stay involved.
  • I am not enjoying retirement as much as I thought I would…I waited so long.
  • I never thought I would miss going to the office…but I do.

Getting used to the idea of letting go or stepping away from your business may be the hardest thing for an owner to do.

When It’s Time to Step Away from Your Business

An article in MarketWatch, “Why retirement can be a dangerous time,” highlights research that shows “calling it quits after decades in the workforce jolts people from their routines, and causes them to lose their sense of self… It can cause depression and sickness, and even death, for some, while others might find pressure placed on their relationships and daily routines.” Let’s take a look at some ways that transitioning business owners can buck these trends in order to make the next stage of life their best stage of life.

Not preparing yourself intellectually for retirement “can be detrimental to a retiree’s physical and mental health,” according to the article. And, it’s likely that this can be even more challenging for business owners who are planning to transition out of their businesses because their identity and that of the business often become one and the same.

Getting Yourself Prepared to Sell Your Business

You’ve gotten used to being in charge for as long as you can remember, answering questions, handling problems as they arise, and celebrating the successes of your business. When it’s finally time to step away, you won’t be doing any of those things anymore. In all honesty, you’ll become less important to the business and your industry, except perhaps in a legacy role. This can be extremely difficult to deal with. So what can you do to help ease into this new role and new life? Devote some serious time to figuring out what you want to do after you transfer out of your business.

While this step is often overlooked, it can help to prevent seller’s remorse and many of other issues that may arise. After all, it takes time to separate your identity from your role in the business. Gradually spending more time away from the business and planning for this transition can provide you with the time and space you need to envision yourself without your business.

Steps you can take to avoid these regrets and disappointments:

  • Be properly prepared for the eventual transition. Identify your goals and objectives.
  • Allow sufficient time to work on your post-transition life plan, usually 3‒5 years.
  • Know your transition options and the pros and cons of each.
  • Be proactive; don’t procrastinate.
  • Think about what you want to do after the transition.
  • Document the goals for each area of your life.
  • Identify your fears, concerns, and other barriers and address them early.
  • Outline your criteria for a successful ownership transition.

While it may be difficult to see right now, you are more than just your business and you should consider each of the multiple facets of your life as you architect your transition plan.

It takes a good amount of time for owners to separate their identity from their businesses, and they need to plan for the best way to extricate themselves and plan for the next phase of life. Leaving your business truly is a process and not a discrete event, and it can affect aspects of your life – personal, financial, and business. Planning for your exit from your business can help provide you with the time and space you may need to envision yourself without your business.

Remember, business transitions are emotional events, even for those who are not usually emotional. Preparation allows you to envision your life beyond the company and improves your chances for a positive outcome.

Crafting the Best Stage of Your Life

Now is the time to seriously prepare yourself for life beyond your business and create your lifetime legacy. This preparation is about crafting the next and hopefully the best stage of your life. It’s about remembering your true passions, determining what is most important to you, and what you want to do when you can spend less or no time with your business.

After all of your hard work, you deserve to achieve your goals for your wealth, your business, and your life. And, if you don’t like the retirement you’ve come up with within the first year, you can change it to something else. With the proper planning, your next stage can be what you want it to be!

Determining Your Non-Financial Goals and Objectives

Our lives are multi-faceted and it’s crucial to give proper attention to every aspect as we plan for the future. While the list will vary for each individual, some non-financial objectives you may want to consider include:

  • Regaining balance in your life
  • Improving your physical health
  • Preserving intellectual stimulation
  • Increasing volunteer/philanthropic work
  • Developing recreational/creative outlets
  • Spending more time with your spouse/partner, other family members and friends
  • Determining where you want to reside
  • Pursuing a long-forgotten or new-found passion

Understanding your focus will re-energize you and provide you with direction as you figure out what your retirement will look like and the best way to transition the ownership of your business.

Rely on the Planning, Not the Plans

Like it or not, there will always be unknown variables that will come into play. "Retirement is a bet on the future, and no one can anticipate all the unknowns. The data is necessarily incomplete," explains Jonathan Look in a Next Avenue article "What I Did to Stop 'Awfulizing' Retirement." He explains: "I have found that many of the excuses, limitations and doubts I had put on myself were merely fictions created out of fear," meaning his fears weren't based in reality, but in his mind. And, the longer you put off planning, the more difficult and paralyzing it becomes.

Look quotes Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous adage, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." It's a bit of a mindbender, but succinctly illustrates that process of planning is what's most important, not the actual plans. We've often said that planning for a business transition is a process, not an event. And, the act of planning helps you to visualize what you want and think through all of the potential variables that could come into play. It will also help make you more nimble when you need to face them.

For business owners, exit planning can help ease your fears by looking at your ideas about the future, examining your financial and emotional readiness, determining the readiness of your business, and help outline the best options for you and your business. 

Developing a Roadmap; Providing Peace of Mind

No planning is ever completely fool proof. However, planning can help to provide some peace of mind in addition to giving you a roadmap and timeline to achieve your personal and financial goals. Look says: "Retirement is an opportunity to unapologetically try new things, reinvent yourself, expand your horizons, help others or even just bask in the glow of what you have accomplished. But it is no more predictable than life before retirement."

Your business exit and eventual retirement may be what you imagined all those years ago, or it may be something completely different. The point is, it's your future to envision and embrace, so why not start planning for it?

Taking the First Step

Don't let the fear of the unknown hold you back from living life beyond your business. It's time to reap the rewards of all your years of hard work!  

Take your first step with our BTA Transition Roadmap and start Getting Yourself Prepared before you exit your business. It just may be the most important step for you, but can often be the most challenging.

Our member content and tools will show you how to:

  • Determine how ready you are to leave your business.
  • Document your vision and personal goals related to the transition.
  • Develop a timeline that meets your needs.
  • Craft your ideal life and perfect calendar.
  • Identify transition-related fears and concerns.
  • Overcome barriers that may be hindering your progress.

You have so worked hard to grow and run your business. You deserve to exit on your own terms and achieve all of your goals. Our members exit their businesses on their own terms and timeline and make their next phase of life the most fulfilling and best yet.

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