The Business Transition Blog

Early Warning Signals

Imagine you lived and worked in Japan five years ago and knew with certainty that there would be an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Imagine you knew it would devastate the region with ripple effects to the whole country and beyond, what would you do differently?

Move your family? Sell your business? Invest in or start a company that did disaster clean up? Sell your home on the low ground and buy on the high ground? Leave the country?

According to ABC News, “The earthquake in Japan reminded people what they already knew — that disaster can hit an earthquake zone at any time, and a tsunami can spread for thousands of miles.” “Using that information, we can improve building codes. We can do land use planning,” Michael Blanpied of the U.S. Geological Survey in Virginia said. “So we can forecast in the long term where the earthquake hazard is likely to be.”

Here’s something that we know with certainty. There is a tsunami heading for the North American economy. It’s the Business Transition Crisis created by millions of baby boomer entrepreneurs. Most people are avoiding the issue at their peril.

In her book, Willful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan documents at great length that most people, when faced with uncomfortable or unpopular information, will close their eyes to it. And in many cases, they make decisions that have horrendous effects on their health, their families, their reputations, even to the point of dying rather than facing up to the reality that was staring them in the face.

You’re beginning to see the early warning signals. Companies closing every day. Banks, accounting firms, financial planners, and lawyers are all warning of the dangers. But here’s the problem. Right now, the tsunami is just a just a small wave, moving slowly but inexorably towards you. It’s lulled you into thinking you have lots of time. Your company is different. You’re special. It won’t hit you. It might happen to someone else, but not you. And once you realize that it’s building steam, that it will be 3 meters high (and you’re only 2 meters high) it’s too late.

I’m not advocating that you should sell your business now, although some should. I’m not advocating that you should sell your business at all. But here’s what you can do to prepare for the wave that’s coming:

  1. Think about it. Open your eyes fully and look at it. Be objective and logical, not emotional. Get the facts.
  2. Evaluate your business against the reality. Take our free Reality Check assessment to see where you stand so you have some context.
  3. Your business should always be ready to sell because you never know what might happen that would cause you to want to change ownership. It takes a few years to get it ready if you haven’t already started.
  4. Prepare your management team to be capable of running the business without you. Take more time off, more vacations and coach them to make better and better decisions on their own.
  5. Join us for our seminar on June 23rd at the prestigious Langdon Hall in Cambridge – What Every Boomer Business Owner Should Know about Business Transtion (Before It’s Too Late) and get better informed so you can make better business decisions.

Right now, the water’s up your ankles. You still have time to move, but it’s getting higher.