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Where Will Life Take You After Exiting Your Business?

By Ryan Binkley

Where Will Life Take You

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article reviewing why supporting a business owner through the emotions of selling a business can be the most challenging part of the entire exit process.

That’s because a business is more than just a building. It’s more than just a job. It is something that you have devoted years to, nurturing it into what it is today. It is something you have invested heavily into, both financially and emotionally. For many owners, the business is a big part of their identity.

So, finding ways to guide entrepreneurs through the process of selling a business is one of our dealmaker’s top priorities at Generational Group, and we accomplish this by:

  • Having honest, open discussions with you and your support network about your reasons for departing in order to ensure that all parties are part of the exit process
  • Sharing our experiences through the years of having helped over 1,000 business owners exit successfully (and deal with the emotions of doing so)
  • Taking time to review and rationalize your own feelings
  • Having a clear idea about what you will do with your life after your exit
  • Ensuring that you have a wealth management plan in place to optimize your post-exit plans

Of these areas we focus on, perhaps the one that generates the most questions for us is this:

What will I do for the rest of my life if I sell my business?

This is a question we have been asked countless times by entrepreneurs on the fence about exiting their companies. And our answer is always the same:

Whatever you want to do!

That might sound a little simplistic, but that doesn’t make it any less true. By achieving an optimal exit from your business, you secure the time and resources to pursue any dream you have now that you’re no longer tied to your company.

Try imagining what you would do if someone handed you $5 million and said you can do what you like with it. The possibilities are endless!

Now, what you would do will vary wildly from every other business owner, depending on your passions, priorities and place in life. For example, if you’re not ready to step away from the challenges of running a business, your exit could be the creation of another venture.

For others looking to get away from these pressures for good, there’s a whole world of opportunity available. You could use this to fall back in love with a pastime you’ve neglected due to your company commitments, or start a new hobby that you’ve always been interested in, but never had the time or energy to devote to it due to your old schedule.

You could spend time learning a new skill, like a musical instrument or surfing. Pursue charity and volunteering in your community. Travel the globe to embrace new cultures and diverse experiences. Or simply enjoy a well-earned break by spending more time at home with your family, friends and other loved ones.

As I said, the possibilities are endless. And the best thing about this? There is no wrong answer – it all depends on your personal preferences.

If you’re looking for inspiration to spark your motivations to exit, I would highly recommend checking out this article from the Spring Edition of Vistage’s Perspectives magazine. In it, they tell the stories of three former company owners and what they have done since departing their company – there’s plenty to help you get the gears turning there (and be sure to check out our page in the magazine as well – Growth Strategies That Deliver Results).

The inspiring stories of Generational clients can also highlight identifiable reasons why they decided to leave their businesses, and offer an insight into how they’re now making the most of life after their exit. Check some of them out below:

How having a plan helps optimize your exit

It is unquestionable that having a solid idea of what you intend to do after exiting your business can help you better come to terms with your exit, and make the process a lot less emotionally draining.

But, beyond that, this can also improve your prospects of achieving an optimal exit. How so? First, your post-business ambition will give you an indication of what an ideal transaction looks like to you. If your goal is to travel to every corner of the world, your financial requirements will likely look a lot different to someone planning to spend time at home and maybe take up painting. Or, you may want a financial partner to help you grow the business to the next level and then exit.

It doesn’t need to be a fully-fleshed out 10-year plan from the outset. For many clients we’ve worked with at Generational Group, their journey started with our initial evaluation, followed by our roadmap for enhancing value, then a meeting with our Consulting Team to develop a growth plan and finally, long before closing any deal, examining post-close wealth management ideas with our Wealth Management Advisors. You see this is why our services are unique (and very successful): We provide guidance at every step of the way through the exit journey of a client.

Secondly, by having a level of excitement for your post-sale life in mind, it makes it significantly less likely that you will get cold feet at the eleventh hour and pull out of the transaction. In my decades working in M&A, this is a scenario I’ve encountered numerous times, and it is very problematic, we work hard to help our clients avoid this.

Conceptualizing what you can do and what you want to do after exiting your business makes this indecision less likely, and helps prevent buyer’s remorse once the deal is closed. This allows you to focus on securing an optimal exit, rather than spend time conflicted over whether or not you are making the right decision.

4 tips to help determine your post-business destination

Our Professionals with Generational understand better than anyone that it can take a while to figure out what you want to do post-exit, particularly if your identity has become entwined with your business. It is easier said than done, which is why as M&A advisors, we will work closely with clients to help guide them through the entire process.

With that in mind, here are some tips I can offer for figuring out how to spend your post-business life.

1. Start by looking internally and considering the things in life that you are passionate about beyond your business. If you find you’re dreading the idea of being bored when you’re no longer at the helm of your company, ask yourself things like:

  • How can I use my skills and experience to benefit others?
  • What’s a skill that I’ve always wanted to learn, but never had the time?
  • Where’s a place I’ve longed to travel to?
  • What’s something I enjoyed earlier in life that I’d love to return to?
  • Do I want to devote more time to my spouse, kids, grandkids and pets?
  • What charities am I passionate about and could devote time/resources to?

2. When you have considered what you may want to do post-exit, start setting goals and objectives to reach each of these. What exactly do you want to get out of these pursuits? This can help determine a clear schedule for your life after business, which can consequently reduce the risk of boredom.

3. To both test the waters of your newfound passion, and also loosen the ties between yourself and your business, start taking short breaks away from your company to try a few things out. By leaving control of your business to trusted executives, you will have greater faith that it will survive and thrive beyond your tenure, helping you feel more comfortable about your departure.

4. Work with a professional M&A advisor to talk through any concerns or doubts you have about your future post-exit. Having someone who's willing to listen and offer you reassurance about your decision can significantly strengthen your resolve, alongside the guidance they can provide that will optimize the value of your sale. And again, our team is unique in that we have Generational Wealth Advisors to help our clients determine how much capital they will need post-exit to achieve their financial goals, no matter what they may be.

Winning the mental battle behind a successful exit

One way or another, every business owner departs their company one day. In fact, in my experience there are two types of business owner:

  1. Those that PLAN to exit
  2. Those that HAVE to exit

It is always preferable to be in the first of these groups – this means that you have dedicated time to making your company buyer-ready, are likely receiving professional guidance to locate an appropriate buyer, and are on the journey to securing an optimal exit.

Having a strong idea about what you will do once you leave your business is a big help in overcoming the emotional battle that happens with practically every exit. When you have spent years growing your company into what it is today, and formed tight bonds with your employees, customers and suppliers, it can be hard to even think about life without it.

By considering what opportunities you could explore in the future, be it a hobby, travel, or more time with the family, it can allow you to approach the exit not with regret or fear, but with excitement about your next chapter.

And, of course, working closely with an M&A advisory firm like Generational Group will not only help you navigate this challenging transition, but also greatly enhance the likelihood that you will receive an offer that enables you to enjoy life after business in the way you want to.

If you’d like more insight into optimally exiting a business and to learn techniques to maximize your company’s value and find an ideal buyer, I’d recommend checking out Generational’s regularly updated Insights, or attending a Generational Growth and Exit Planning Conference.