Cutting the cord—saying goodbye to your business

Many small business owners love what they are doing. It’s the fuel that powers them through long days and adversity. It’s why three out of 10 in Canada opened up shop.

But it’s also the kicker that can make it so hard to leave—a milestone that some seven out of 10 of us will be approaching this decade.

When our personal and professional identities are fused together in our business, it can be hard to know what we want out of life once we leave. That’s what I’ve seen firsthand with some business sellers and what I want to highlight in this post.

Preparation and mindset

Every business owner I know wants to preserve their wealth and minimize their taxes when they go to sell their business. Exit planning helps formalize the how and when. And the sooner you put together your plan, the more control and options you’ll have. I’ll have more to say on that topic another time.

We also need to prepare for the emotional aspects of selling the business that’s been our “baby.” Failing to do so can derail the deal. I’ve seen it happen.

“Very often, when owners say that they ‘love what they are doing’, what they really are saying is that I am emotionally attached to my company since it is my ‘baby,’” says Jack Beauregard, in why you love your business. “I conceived the company, nurtured it and have spent decades of my life growing the business.”

“Also, many owners have a strong attachment to living their lives around ‘checking things off’ their to-do lists,” adds Beauregard, CEO, Successful Planning Transition Institute (STPI).  “They are psychologically attached to what they are doing, since they derive their sense of importance from always being busy and feeling that people, or the business, cannot survive if they leave. They are attached to welding power and being ‘in the know.’”

Adjusting to life without your baby

Keeping busy can also be a form of avoidance. In The Right Way To Say Goodbye To Your Business, executive and management coach Steven Berglas explains that for some of us the great danger in saying goodbye is free time and facing things we may not want to face. But he counters with five ways to a happy goodbye, and a positive message.

“Regardless of whether or not you have a next act in mind you must trust that the spirit in you that drove you to go solo years ago will be revitalized once you are again free to feel it.”

The freeing aspect of letting go is expressed so eloquently in Paulo Coelho’s post, Closing Cycles, on life stages that have come to an end.

Have you cut the cord from your business and found new enjoyment and purpose? What advice would you give to help someone else who is finding it hard to make that break?

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