Entrepreneurs, by nature, are definitive and driven, yet flexible and adaptive to market conditions. These same characteristics allow them to singlemindedly advance their businesses over difficult terrain and rise above adversity, while simultaneously having the ability to quickly course correct and respond to the marketplace’s favor or challenges.
Mental toughness and acuity to listen and look for forces larger than their desires are learned skills and valuable to develop for the entrepreneur.
"I could sell now."
"I could sell in five years."
"I could sell when I hit 60.”
These (and more) are all thoughts or milestones every business owner plays with or dreams about. Some set definitive goals and make actionable plans. Others visualize and practice their plans. Do you dream about golfing three days a week after you sell your business? Then try it on for size for a week or two.
Others set measurements more qualitative in nature: ”When/if I get tired, I'll quit," "When/if I achieve this change, I'll sell.” When and if are powerful words, but they lack the necessary outcomes to initiate the mental synapses needed for movement.
Sometimes business owners are stirred by an external circumstance, like an unsolicited offer, that gets our exit salivary glands going. Sometimes a health scare motivates us to change gears. Often it's a values realignment as to what's truly important in life that motivates us — more time with the family vs. a few more shekels, for example.
Whatever your motivation, a great deal of mental, emotional and financial planning, as well as trial-ballooning needs to happen to ensure you are truly ready to exit your business on your terms. As we have seen in business, when opportunity and preparedness meet, good things happen. The same is true of having an integrated plan for a business exit. You should never rely upon luck or timing when selling your business.
Knowing yourself and where you stand, both personally and in relation to your role in your business, are key drivers to determining your readiness to exit your business.
Mentally, which entrepreneur are you?
You have all your ducks in a row and your succession/exit planned. You can envision the future without your company.
EnmeshedYou feel trapped and can’t imagine your business surviving without you. Business has become both hobby and lifestyle.
UnimaginativeYou have been too busy working or have made your business so much of who you are that you cannot imagine what you will do if your company sells. Or, you have put off exit planning.
Invested vs. OwnedYou measure business on ROI and see exit or keeping the business as an investment vs. a lifestyle or career decision; business works for you vs. you work for the business.
Ultimately, the degree to which we can be mentally prepared and keep the timetable of our decision making within our control is the degree to which we can realize the fruits of our life’s work. "If and when ... " and “I want ... ” are incomplete as far as our brain’s ability to process outcomes.
More accurately, as business owners we want to move our thinking from the "I wish" or the "if" stage to the “If then, I will” or “If I do this, the outcome will be that,” and align all our mental energy to secure that outcome.
Knowing where you are financially is the second key element to knowing your true readiness to exit despite where you are mentally and emotionally.
Ultimately, the alignment of the mental and financial considerations can make for an integrated and rewarding exit, or a painful reality if one is not balanced with the other.
May you exit well!