One of the biggest barriers we come across in the selling of owner-operated businesses is the internal conflict they often face: the conflict between their head and their heart.
While the head is using its logic to indicate it’s time to go, the heart is using emotion to say “not ready yet”.
The head realizes that there are other things to do in life, and you should cash out while you can still enjoy them. Maybe it’s travel, philanthropy, hobbies, kids and grandkids. One client decided it was time (at 68) to take up golf. The head may also calculate that you are at a place in the business cycle where you can maximize the selling price. Your spouse, accountant, children and friends may be encouraging you to take that big step. Your health is great, your finances are solid. Go when the going is good!
On the other hand, the heart is evaluating this decision very differently. Its argument is that there is a strong emotional attachment between you and your business. You built it with your own hands and sweat. You took big risks, had sleepless nights, and made sacrifices – missed birthday parties, soccer games, vacations, and even foregone income and savings at times – to see your vision come to fruition. That’s going to be hard to walk away from. Besides, if you sell the business, what will you do every day? What will define you?
Both sides are right. When the time is right, you should consider selling and discuss with trusted advisors, but there’s a good chance it will be emotionally difficult. To many, it will be like asking someone else to raise your child for you.
Some sellers have clear vision for the next chapters of their lives. I recently worked with a couple who sold everything – business, house, cars, furniture – to travel the world. They’ve been planning this for years and, other than returning to North America for a few weeks in December every year to spend the holidays with their kids and grandkids, they intend to stay on the road for as long as they both have the health to do so. The options are endless, and in my experience, having a game plan makes the transition easier and smoother.
We spend a lot of time talking to our clients about the head and heart decision, because we believe that to fully commit to the exit process, its best to have strong alignment – or at least peaceful coexistence – between the two.