Hire an M&A Professional to Sell Your Business

What are the best things an owner can do to prepare for life after a sale?

Barbara Taylor
Profile Picture of Barbara Taylor Barbara is the co-founder of Allan Taylor, a boutique M&A firm located in Northwest Arkansas. She began her entrepreneurial journey after moving from Seattle to Northwest Arkansas with her family in 2003. Seeing a need for a decent cup of coffee, she and her husband started the first drive-thru espresso business in the state of Arkansas. They successfully built the business into a popular micro-chain, and eventually sold it to an outside buyer. In her role as a business broker, Barbara combines her first-hand experience as a selling owner with her extensive knowledge of the selling process to help business owners cash out and move on.  Full Bio
Q:I can't really picture my life without being involved in my business. What are the best things I can do to prepare for life after an eventual sale?

A: I just finished Bo Burlingham’s new book, Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top. I highly recommend it, by the way. Bo spends a lot of time talking about this whole issue of life after the sale, and how business owners (and their advisors) often gloss over it, which is a mistake. If you’re not prepared for life after post-sale, the experience of selling your business can be extremely disappointing. People oftentimes end up being miserable afterwards because they haven’t given enough thought to what life will be like when they no longer own their business.

I’ve seen sellers back out of deals because they haven’t thought through what they are going to do with their lives post-sale. If you don’t have a plan then you’re just staring into an abyss of uncertainty, and it’s pretty tough to make clear decisions from that vantage point. The owner ultimately decides they’ll just stick with the status quo. You need to be moving towards something when you sell your business, preferably something you’re excited about doing.

It’s kind of a cliché to think of someone selling a business so that they can retire and lay on a beach. It could be that the seller is heading towards retirement or semi-retirement, or it could be that they’re finally going to do the things they haven’t had time to do, like volunteering or travel. A lot of owners sell so that they can start new ventures; often ones that revolve around a passion or interest that they’ve ignored for too long.

It’s also important to consider that you may still be tied to the business for some period of time after you sell it. For some people it’s a month, for others it could be years. But after that transition is complete you have another transition, which is you being completely out of your business and immersed in the next chapter of your life.

Bo’s book covers some of the things that your business tends to fulfill in your life, and stresses that you’re going to need to replace them with something else. Your business gives you a sense of identity. It also gives you a sense of purpose, a tribe, structure to your days, and a sense of achievement. You’re going to have to figure out what will fill those voids once your business no longer fills them for you.

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