You aren't as young as you once were!
Updated: Jan 8, 2019
Have you ever had one of those eye opening, reality type moments, that from out of the blue just hit you? I recently had that experience this past week when I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers. What a genuine, good hearted, down to earth individual. Now, that wasn't my reality moment. The reality was when he said that he was going to be turning 30 in the next few weeks. I don't know about you, but I tend to think that I'm still young, and even look at my children who are now 22, 20, and 18, and wonder how it's even possible that I have children that old. The reality in meeting Jordy Nelson was that I am old enough to be his mother, now a young mother, but his mother nonetheless.
When did it happen that I became the old person and that others are now looking to me as a mentor and role model, as opposed to me looking up to my elders in that same capacity? When did the lives of my children become my legacy and my focus for the future? No longer worrying about the day to day school activities, birthday parties, and sporting events, but rather their futures as adults pursuing their education, careers, marriage, family, etc.
Have you had that eye opening, reality hitting you in the face type moment or moments? Have you thought about the impact of that reality on your business? Time continues to move at a rapid rate, and only continues to move faster over the years. When's the last time you stopped, looked at your business and career and said, what's next? We all seem to move across life as if it's forever, and yet don't take the time to reflect on what's important because we're so busy doing.
It's hard to truly do that reality check and plan for what's next. It's much easier to keep moving down that path assuming that we can continue doing what we've always done, forever. As a business owner, this reality check becomes more critical, as you are not only dealing with your life, but the lives of your employees and their families. Lack of planning puts at risk a lot more than just you and your future.
What have you done to start planning for your succession? Have you taken the time to evaluate what's next for you and your business?
My most recent experience has been with a business owner on this exact journey of answering these questions:
How long do I want to continue doing what I'm doing?
Do my children want to be involved in the business and eventually take it over?
Do I have anyone internal to the business that could run it and/or buy it?
What opportunities are there for the business to continue its growth, and do I want to be part of it?
What other aspirations do I have outside of the business?
When is the right time to make a transition, and what do I need to do to prepare personally and financially?
Have I built a team to be able to run the business in my absence?
If I sell, will the next owner maintain the culture I've created?
Can I be involved in the business after a transition, or do I need to walk away?
As you can see, these questions are less about the business and more about emotions. The path for any individual in their career as an executive or business owner requires self-reflection and emotional evaluation of what's next. So, what can you do to keep your emotions in check?
Prepare an exit strategy - Prepare an exit strategy for yourself long before you put your company up for sale or transition it to another party.
Involve family members - Your family has been part of your company's journey. They, like you, may need some time to prepare for the fact that the business will no longer be a part of your daily life.
Create distance - Whether you recognize it or not, you are likely too emotionally invested in your company to subjectively negotiate the sale. From the emotional perspective, the use of a broker or other third parties can be valuable for creating distance and ensuring your personal feelings don't get in the way of good business sense.
Communicate with peers/advisors - At some point in the sale process, you're probably going to need a sounding board-a group of trusted confidantes who will listen to your concerns and feelings.
Move on - Veteran sellers will tell you that the sense of loss following the sale of a business can be overwhelming. While you may feel yourself pulled back to the business, in general, it's not productive to routinely visit or check in on the business post-sale.
In business and in your personal life, planning for what's next prepares you both emotionally and financially for the future. Whether we like it or not, the future is coming, and we aren't as young as we once were. Preparing for that next phase can be both invigorating and rewarding if you plan, prepare, and execute.
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay