Uncertainty...it's part of the human condition.
It’s June of 2021 – 18 months of uncertainty, fear, upheaval, challenge, opportunity, and change, just to name a few of the emotions we’ve been experiencing on the personal and business fronts. But, as we begin to see glimpses of normalcy starting to appear with people not wearing masks, businesses beginning to bring people back into the office (even if in a hybrid form), social events happening, people enjoying meals out at restaurants, and family members gathering back together, there is a new energy and hope for the future. So, what does all this mean for you and your business?
During those 18 months, many of our clients initially focused internally on the safety, health, and well-being of their employees. As the pandemic lingered, those issues were still high priority, but their focus began to shift to strategy and what they could do to not only survive but thrive in this new environment. Many of our clients shifted business models and priorities, but none of them froze in an effort to just wait out the storm. They were all moving forward even though the future was uncertain!
Uncertainty, now isn’t that an interesting word?
Yes, these past 18 months have held a lot of uncertainty. However, no matter what the circumstances, uncertainty always exists. None of us have the crystal ball that tells us what will happen tomorrow, next week, a year from now, or 10 years from now – but what we can control is how we plan, prepare, and adapt.
We are currently working with several clients who are in some form of exit and transition planning. And, many times I get asked the question, “when is the best time to exit?” Now, a flippant answer would be when the equity markets are at their peak, your business is at maximum value, you are ready to retire, and all your personal and financial goals have been met. However, those stars rarely, if ever, align. So, when is the perfect time?
As business owners, we like to have control of our destiny, or at least feel like we have control. So, the perfect time for most business owners is when it’s on their own terms. The problem is that most business owners don’t clearly define their personal, financial, and business goals, and therefore there is no end date, or perfect time.
No business owner is exactly like another. What drives them, motivates them, and ultimately what defines happiness for them is very different. However, if the business owner doesn’t begin defining that for themselves, there never is a perfect time.
I would venture to guess that many business owners were planning to exit their businesses in 2020…until the uncertainty and impact of the pandemic hit. In almost an instant, that perfect timing changed. The question is, why did it change? Is it because the value of their business declined, and it no longer provided the ability to reach their financial retirement goals? Is it because, after working from home for months on end, they realized retirement, as they envisioned it, wasn’t looking so attractive after all?
As Yogi Barra stated, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Uncertainty is part of the human experience. The philosopher Edgar Morin stated, “Expecting the unexpected is part of my philosophy.” We all want predictability and some certainty in our lives. We look for patterns. We compare our experiences to the past, as we are uncomfortable with uncertainty. However, we don’t control what happens around us, we only control our own actions and reactions. As I tell my children all the time, control what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest. It’s a waste of energy. Easier said than done!
So, what has this pandemic taught us? First, we can’t predict the future, but we can control our response. In addition, we’ve been reminded that planning and preparation is still critical to success because without it, the ability to shift, change, and adapt becomes way more difficult. It’s also emphasized that, as business owners, only we can define success for ourselves and thus the “perfect time” to exit our business. If it’s defined by the world around us, we will never achieve it, as it’s a moving target.
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” -Anne Sweeney, an American businesswoman, co-chair of Disney Media, and President of Disney Channel from 1996-2014.
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) is the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC