It's not Personal, It's Just Business
  • Jayne McQuillan

It's not Personal, It's Just Business

Updated: Jan 9, 2019



"It's not personal, it's just business."  You've heard the saying before.  Maybe when your boss didn't give you a raise or promotion, or you were part of a layoff, or were fired.  Regardless of the reason, my guess is that it was most definitely personal.


As business leaders and owners, sometimes it's just easier to justify our own behavior by uttering the phrase, "it's not personal, it's just business."  But in reality, it's a complete lie.  Business can't really help but be personal; there are persons involved. Humans with stories and fears and all kinds of feelings. I think this is a way of trying to get around all those messy human feelings. A way to disavow guilt, deny responsibility, discard compassion, and a not-so-subtle way of saying, "If you have any feelings about this, you're unprofessional, stupid, too sensitive, wrong."


In fact, probaably one of the most difficult parts of leading is having to work with the "personal" side of business.  We, as leaders, need to understand the emotions and the real lives that we are impacting each and every day.  Now, that doesn't mean that we don't need to make good business decisions for the benefit of the whole, but we need to understand that the decisions we are making are "personal" and impact one or many individuals. 


When I talk with business owners and leaders, the topic is rarely about just the bottom line performance, but rather about the people who are responsible for delivering that performance.  In fact, probably all of them would say that their job would be a whole lot easier if they didn't have to deal with people.  Yet, people and relationships are what bring value to our lives.  Without them, we as humans are nothing. 


In fact, if you think about those individuals that have had the biggest impact on you in your life and career, my guess is that those individuals took an interest in you as a person, with a history, with strengths and weaknesses, and with feelings and emotions.  Not those who interacted purely to discuss your performance, either positively or negatively. 


So, when it becomes time for your to exit your business, is it personal or just business?  My guess is it's both.  The question is to what extent, to what balance, are you comfortable in achieving the financial outcome you desire and also taking care of the employees that helped you get to this point? 


Exiting your business is one of the most significant decisions of your life.  Taking the time to evaluate the right balance of financial and personal considerations requires a process of evaluating your individual goals, the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for your business, and the legacy you want to leave behind for your employees. 


You've worked hard to get to this point, and you haven't done it alone.  So, in this process, what do you want to do to take care of the employees who helped you get there.  Maybe it's to provide them the opportunity to buy you out.  Maybe it's securing them a position in the acquiring company for a period of time.  Maybe it's providing them the ability to choose and know that they have a period of time to find another opportunity.  Whatever the direction, thinking through what the best fit is for you is critical to achieving a successful exit. 


Engaging a succession planning consultant to walk you through this decision process can not only provide an objective means to evaluate your options, but also provide you with the outcome that best fits your personal needs.  As we are all human, there is a no one size fits all when it comes to succession and transition planning.  However, not doing anything will most likely put you in a position of, "It's not personal, it's just business."  Is that the legacy you want to leave? Or, have the relationships you've built within your company played a part in your success?   


You've grown this business based on direction and purpose.  Make sure that your exit is based on the same!


Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay



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