“It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business.” The 1972 blockbuster ‘The Godfather’ is rife with variations of this iconic line, along with many others. It’s probably one of my most oft quoted movies… just ask my wife.
But let’s get real! For small business owners it is very personal. We eat, sleep, and breathe our business. It is our passion, and it is consuming. Tucked somewhere in the back recesses of our mind is the notion of what a successful exit from this business may eventually look like and what our ‘next chapter’ may be. But how many of us actually have a formal exit plan, put in place far enough in advance to make it realistic to accomplish? Get real!
But Make no Mistake…. We Will All Eventually Exit Our Business.
One way or another, we will all eventually exit our business. The question to ask yourself – do want to exit on your terms, or on terms that are forced upon you (or your family)? While there are many facets to the exit planning process, the subject of this paper is on your personal readiness to exit, including a vision of what your life will look like after you are no longer involved, fully or materially, in managing the business.
You Must Have a Plan
Why is this important? Studies have shown that 75% of owners who exit their business are profoundly unhappy a year after the exit! And those are the ones that do sell. Many businesses fail to sell at all, a significant number due the owner’s cold feet. The primary driver in both cases is the absence of a plan ‘for their next chapter’.
Are you Emotionally Ready?
First, as a business owner who has dedicated your life to building something of value, you must be emotionally ready to let go. Are you, in fact, ready? Because we entrepreneurs spend our lives managing the highs and lows of everyday business, we are often left with an emotional void stemming from a lack of purpose or just, simply, things to do. Planning – far in advance – the logistics of the exit will by a catalyst to envision what your new life will look like. It will help you to emotionally prepare.
Are You Financially Ready?
Second, you must have a personal financial plan for life after exit. This will be based on your current personal assets, what lump sum you receive for the business when you exit, and any residual income you may earn from the business. Based on these factors, your financial plan must address:
- Will you receive adequate income to enable you to maintain the lifestyle you desire? Will this income be sustainable for your lifetime?
- Will you have funds to do the things you want to do during retirement such as travel, buy a new car, help family members, etc.?
- • Will you have funds for your own long-term care?
- Will you be able to maintain funds that they wish to pass on to their heirs?
The plan will involve determining how to invest your assets, what insurance you may need such as long-term care and life insurance, and how you will receive income distributions from various sources.
What Will You Do with Your Time?
Third, consider how you will spend your time in your next chapter. How will you fill that very natural void and what you will do on a day-to-day basis? Lack of a next chapter plan can take a very real emotional toll. For some, this may not be a problem. You may already have ambitions and plans for your “next chapter”. This is why planning “life after exit” is a critical part of the overall exit planning process.
And you don’t have to plan alone. Seek out trusted advisors to help you. Certified Exit Planning Advisors (CEPA®) are trained to assist you. You can find a CEPA near you by visiting the Exit Planning Institute (epi.org) or contact FocusCFO.
Michael Stier is an Area President for FocusCFO based in Charlotte, NC.