In previous blogs I’ve suggested you need to figure out what you really want. What do you want to do AFTER you transition your business?
So let’s assume you’ve identified some of the dreams, goals and aspirations you’d like to accomplish in the future. Some of these you can do while still running your company much as you have in the past. They may require some slight adjustments; taking time to go to the gym, taking more holidays, getting home from work earlier, eating fewer restaurant meals and delegating more effectively.
Some will include serious changes in order to get your business in shape; firing a long term but slothful employee, hiring a president, firing a particularly difficult customer, tightening up your reporting systems, training your leadership team, setting up a trust, implementing an employee share ownership plan (ESOP) and the list goes on.
In some cases, you’ll identify that to achieve your personal goals, you have to grow the business significantly because there is a gap between what finances you need and what the business will provide in cash flow now and in equity later on.
On the other hand, you may learn that your goals are modest enough that you already have enough financial resources to deal with the rest of your life without needing to grow or manage the business any more. Your gap may not be financial, but more related to time, relationships, or health.
Whatever you think your situation is, it’s important to now establish in black and white, your ability and readiness to do what you want to do next.
So, you’ve set out some realistic and stretch goals. You’d like to ski the black diamond trails at Whistler, tour the museums of Italy, scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, sail the Caribbean, go back to school and get an MBA, learn to paint, exchange houses with someone from Denmark or South Africa for a month, bike the length of the Trans Canada Highway with your grandchildren… You’re going to have lots to do!
Part of you may be thinking, that sounds like more work than it’s worth. You’ve worked hard all your life. You deserve to relax. You should take it easy. You just want to be a couch potato.
No you don’t! Not really. That’s not who you are or what you do. You may be tired and ready for a break, but shifting from being active and running a business to sitting in a rocking chair would likely kill you. Don’t go there!
In his classic work, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of purpose and a goal in one’s life. As a survivor of Auschwitz, he witnessed the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. He watched his friends being tortured and killed and he saw people die because they lost hope and a purpose for living. His experience in the camps and his subsequent research confirmed that people who lose their sense of purpose will often will themselves to die and having done so, it isn’t long before they produce the outcome they expected. In the concentration camps, everyone was stressed, hungry, and sick. But the ones who just got word that their wife or child was killed in another camp would suddenly give up and die. In a flash, the sense of hope that they would be reunited with their loved ones was dashed. It was like they just flipped a switch and it was over.
We need a purpose. We need something to strive for. We need to be stretching ourselves until the day we die, or that day will come much sooner than our families would like. All your life you’ve been living with gaps that you’ve tried to close. The difference between what is and what you would like it to be. You’ve had mortgages and loans to pay off, properties you wanted to buy, places to go, new product lines, new ways of doing business, new markets to go after, and competitors to beat. That’s been your life and if you suddenly stop, and there is no creative tension in your life, you’re in danger of losing your purpose and losing your life.
So if you thought that when the time came to retire or slow down from your business, it would be just one long golf game, think again. That is, unless you’re striving to get into the Masters. Think about the gaps in your life as challenges you still need to address, puzzles to solve, projects to complete and hills to climb. Not only will you get more done and continue to be true to your entrepreneurial self, you’ll be extending your life and be more fun to live with. As much as your spouse may want to see you more than he/she did in the past, too much of a good thing can wear on anyone’s nerves.
If you are a long-term entrepreneur, the gap is your life. It’s who you are. You can’t just turn it off. Many of the entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed after they sold their business have started another one. It’s not in their nature to stand still. I think it would be fair to say that when you transition yourself and your business, you’ll still have to do something. So what’s it going to be? What new idea, new cause, new purpose will excite and motivate you to get out of bed in the morning?