By Scott Bushkie
I just got a call from a past client who wanted to talk. “I’m happy with the number,” he told me, “but I’m having significant seller’s remorse.” He was still in the process of transitioning out of the business, but it wasn’t his anymore and he felt like a significant piece of himself had been lost.
He was looking for a way to get that back, even though he knew there was nothing we could do. He’d sold his business; that bell had rung and there was no way to un-ring it.
I could certainly validate his feelings. Many of my clients have told me that selling a business is like giving a child up for adoption or sending their teenager to an out-of-state college. They know it’s the right thing to do, but they miss the daily involvement, the challenge, and the companionship.
It’s the same thing with a business. At some point, it makes sense for you and the business to part ways. Maybe the company has outgrown you and needs new leadership to thrive. Or maybe your passion has started to wane, and you’re feeling like work has become a grind.
Either way, you have two options. You can run the business until the day you die, or you can sell and make use of the time and financial resources you gain in exchange. My client had already moved past option one, so now it was time to coach him through option two. I started by sharing what other sellers had done:
Buy Another Business. Some people really need to own a business. Start something small that doesn’t compete with your previous company. Hire the best people right away, so you truly can limit your involvement. Or, help a family member start a business and build the same success you had.
Share Your Knowledge. Another common way business owners channel their energy is by sitting on boards. They take the things they learned over the years and help other entrepreneurs grow. In fact, I talked to one serial entrepreneur who sold his last company and was now sitting on 17 different corporate boards! I don’t recommend 17, but I do applaud the guy for following his passion.
Share Your Leadership. By the same token, numerous nonprofits could benefit from your drive, insight and connections.
Reconnect with Family. Grandkids can be one of the more positive triggers that gets a business owner to sell. I’ve seen many times where one spouse starts traveling to visit the grandkids while the business owner stays behind. First they’re gone for a long weekend, then a week, and then it’s three weeks at a time, and suddenly the business owner starts realizing all the memories they’re missing out on.
Tackle that Bucket List. Before they sell, I challenge all my clients to create a bucket list. What are the top 10 things you want to do? Is there something you want to buy? A place you want to go? Something you want to gift?
It doesn’t have to be adventurous. Again, it could be tied to reconnecting or helping family. In fact, that’s one thing this particular client had already done: he’d surprised both of his children by paying off their mortgages.
Another seller I talked to had purchased a second cottage next door to his vacation home, so his grandkids could all visit together at one time. They were having a ball, fishing and tubing and skiing.
As a successful business owner, you have the opportunity to gain the gift of both time and money. That’s a rare, amazing thing, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Yes, you will miss many things about owning your business, but the solution is to put on your executive hat and get busy planning the next stage of your life.