As a business owner you pour your heart into your work and it has become part of you. But at times, the business you have carefully nurtured for years can become a burden - there's a part of you that yearns to do something else - travel, spend more time with family, enjoy more leisure, or even start another new business. You are confused.
So when it comes to considering the future of your business, where is your heart?
Along with sound financial preparation, a major objective in a healthy exit planning process is helping you, the owner, identify your personal objectives after your transition from the business. Determining your life’s course after you leave your business takes careful thought. The process may involve serious family conversations as well as consultations with trusted advisors.
Unlike planning your finances, planning what will make us fulfilled and happy is far more subjective. Clear thinking can often be clouded by emotions, hopes, dreams, fears and uncertainty. The resulting lack of clarity can be paralyzing – so we do nothing. But, there are some steps you can take right now to be sure you are on the right track.
Grab a pen and do the following:
1. Make a list of the things you want to do yet haven't had time to do. Consider, family, travel, hobbies, volunteering. Be specific. Prioritize them and set some specific goals.
2. Considering your business, make a list of things that you...
a. Do for your business that you want to stop doing...
b. Under the right circumstances, would like to continue doing...
c. How much time per week would you like to spend on those things you want to continue with?
3. What are the skills you possess that would be valuable to others? How could these be re-deployed?
4. Who else can provide you with input and ideas to plan for the next season of life?
5. What are your fears and concerns when you consider the post-business future?
6. Use the list you have developed as a basis for thoughtful discussion with your spouse, advisors, and trusted counsel.
Then, begin to develop a draft plan for near-term (12 months), midterm (3 years), and long-term (10+ years) goals. Like any “strategic plan”, assumptions will change, and plans will change. Take small steps to begin what you want to change, and don’t be afraid to refine the plan.
Planning ahead, before circumstances force you to act under pressure, enables you to strike a peaceful balance between reality and future heart’s desires. You will be able to minimize regrets. The hardest part in effective long-term planning is taking the first step. Start now!