About the Host

Ryan is an entrepreneur, podcast host of the show Life After Business and the co-owner of Solidity Financial. Having personally experienced the hazards of selling a business, he joined up with his friend Brandon Wood to educate others on the process. Through their business (Solidity Financial), they provide a platform for entrepreneurs called Growth and Exit Planning that helps in exit planning, value building and financial management.

About the Guest

Laura Rich is a former journalist who wrote for Condé Nast, Adweek, Fast Company, The Industry Standard, and others. After moving to Colorado, she founded Street Fight. She sold the company in February of 2017 and found a need for entrepreneurs during the process. Today, she hosts The Exit Club podcast, a show that helps entrepreneurs who have exited their companies cope with the emotional aspect of an exit.

If you listen, you will learn:

  • Laura’s background in journalism.
  • The pressures Laura dealt with after her business sold.
  • Laura’s new focus on post-exit transition.
  • Why Laura found her exit from the company isolating.
  • The trouble entrepreneurs have discussing their emotional reactions to their sales.
  • Experiences Laura has heard while doing The Exit Club podcast.
  • How to find your new passion.
  • Why Laura sold Street Fight.
  • The 4 stages of the post-exit transition.
  • Why entrepreneurial post-exit is similar to how athletes, veterans, and retirees experiences.
  • How to avoid getting stuck in your business.
  • The difference of post-exiting with millennials and gen-xers versus baby boomers.
  • The early days of Street Fighter.
  • The questions to ask yourself before you sell your business.
  • How planning can ease post-exiting stress.
  • The due diligence process and the surprises that come up.
  • Why you need to avoid “rebound” businesses.
  • Laura’s main points from today’s conversation.

Full Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to Life After Business, the podcast where your host, Ryan Tansom, brings you all the information you need to exit your company and explore what life can be like on the other side.

Ryan Tansom: Welcome back to the Life After Business podcast. This is episode 104. Today's guest's name is Laura Rich. I couldn't believe when I saw the article that she wrote. I immediately sent it to my podcast producer and I said, "Maylon, I have to have Laura on the show!" Well, the article that Laura wrote was about Kate Spade and the tragedy that happened and it was a lot about this whole subject of life after business, which is why I originally started the show. And she writes about how business owners have so much identity tied into their business and the purpose in their community that actually selling the business in the life after there's actual trauma that's there and there's a bunch of FMRI studies that show the chemical reactions in the entrepreneur's brain as they've gone through this, but the reason that Laura wrote the article is because she herself sold a business and really struggled with: What is a life after? What am I supposed to do? What am I going to be doing next? And Laura and I had this great conversation about what she's doing now from starting her own podcast called the Exit Club. She's starting a community around what are we gonna do next as entrepreneurs, helping them with transition. And so Laura and I just had a very open, honest and total free flowing dialogue about the entire challenges with understanding who you are. If you're not tied into with your company, so I really hope you enjoy your conversation and she'd give you a peer into some of the real challenges of what it's like to no longer be a business owner and having to recreate yourself. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this interview with Laura.

Announcer: This episode of Life After Business is sponsored by GEXP Collaborative. Their proven process gives you clarity on all of your exit options and how those options impact your financial success, timing and future happiness. Sell your company on your time frame to the buyer of your choice at the price you want.

Ryan Tansom: Laura, how are you doing?

New Speaker: I'm doing great. How are you doing?

Ryan Tansom: Good. I'm super excited to have you on the show because I saw your article on LinkedIn and then that my podcasting publisher was also helping me and we like -- you, your article in the things that you were talking about just hit home so much that I think you and I, it's going to be a fun conversation, but for the listeners that are not aware of you, your story, the article that you wrote and the things that you're doing, maybe let's go back and we'll kind of start in the sequence. That makes sense. How did you become an entrepreneur and what are you doing today?

Laura Rich: Sure, yeah. First of all, I'm so happy you came across that article. It, it's the one Kate Spade and depression, business after business exit and you know, there really was such an outpouring of people and I guess we can get into this a bunch more that had such a tremendous response, so I'm glad you saw it as well. So I became an entrepreneur about, I don't know, I think one is always an entrepreneur; but I was a journalist, a business journalist, for about 18 years, working at places like Ink magazine and Fast Company running their websites and ad week and I had a column in the Sunday Business Section of the New York Times. I helped Conde Nast launch the website for their business magazine portfolio and maybe just being around, you know, writing about business, being around startups and tech. I just sort of got it in my, in my blood I guess, and so I tried a couple little concepts that were centered around content because you know, with my background in journalism and then my main biggest, I guess entrepreneurial experience was a startup that I launched in 2011 and sold it in February of last year and that was a media company focused on a segment of the tech industry and we had a daily publication and a couple events every year in New York and San Francisco and it was super fun. Super Fun.

Ryan Tansom: I think it's so interesting because you now had just launched a podcast called the Exit Club and that Kate Spade article you wrote was just so amazing because it's the title of my podcast, Life After Business. There's this whole thing afterwards that no one really talks about finding who you are and all these things. I'm just curious, you know, what was it afterwards, because I know I'm kind of going in the reverse order that I normally do with a, as we kind go through these interviews, but curious of what sparked the, the podcast in your experience in, in maybe, I don't know if you want to start, if there's a certain part of the story that you start from the go through, but I'm just so curious in how you got to this conclusion that this is where you want to spend your time.

Laura Rich: Right. So you're talking about Exit Club, which is my most recent venture. After I sold my business... So I signed the papers on February ninth of last year and it was super exciting and I had this almost visceral sensation of weight being lifted off my shoulders. Like all of a sudden I didn't have that grind that you have when you are still in startup phase, which you still are when you're only, you know, five and a half years in, you know, now somebody else had to make sure that we made payroll and kept the lights on and of course knew that they could. And now I, I just had like a nice job and I was still running my business and I was, I was really at this point where I was ready to let other people make decisions about the business and kind of just help it along and, and go through a little transition towards moving onto my next thing. But I discovered that despite that it was a very challenging experience transitioning out of running your business into this new stage. And um, you and I just had that little conversation before this started about your experience and someone who was know taking over your baby. Someone took over my baby. I didn't care as much about that as I probably should have, but that's why I found it very surprising that it was sort of a challenging experience. And I thought that I was isolated in my experience. I didn't realize this was, this was a common shared experience that people go through after they sell their business. And I called up a couple of friends who had had enormous exits and they said that they also struggled through that time. And that was when I started thinking about -- so with my sort of journalism DNA, I'm just inclined towards stories. I hear a story, I hear trends, you know, and so, you know, and like you, you also with your experience saw that there was something more like you didn't see any resources out there.

Laura Rich: Me neither. I mean, you know, I, I googled, you know, 'I sold my business, now what?' and as you know, what you get are lots of answers, but they're from financial advisors who don't really care about your mental well-being and figuring out your life plan going forward outside of the financial aspect of it. So I took some time off in the fall and when I came back earlier this year thinking about what I was going to do next, I was just continually focused on the experience, that I was having and knowing that other people go through this as well, like how you roll off of your success into whatever comes next. So I decided to put a focus on it. And I had written a book before of biography of Paul Allen. So I thought about doing a book on this experience and started talking to lots of entrepreneurs at all different types of companies, different sizes of companies, different sizes of exits, women, men, different ages and, and found a lot of shared experiences and also found a lot of people who had felt very isolated and, you know, like me hadn't realized this was a shared experience. And so because of that I started thinking about, you know, how can I help support this transition? So I really focus on the post-exit transition phase. So I feel like your scope, and you can clarify this to me, but I feel like your scope is maybe a little broader, like you're really thinking about like what can, how can, how can entrepreneurs think about getting their business ready for sale as well as what comes after. But I don't really focus so much on like getting your business ready for sale and what you can do there. You know, I'm really focused on the entrepreneur, not as much on their company.

Ryan Tansom: Well, right, and I think that what you're finding, too, and a lot of people that I've interviewed. It's ridiculous stories about their mental part. And that's where it's interesting because that's where I started with my podcast was just thinking about the emotional stuff and then I realized that I, you know, for me it was more like I needed to technically figure out what happened, too, so I kind of left it broader. And, and I'm curious like, so what was this experience like? Maybe explain a little bit more color or detail, like what was isolating about it? What were the things that you went through and how did you, how did you sort of went through this visceral, liberating feeling you said, but like what, what was the actual after effect, the calm after the storm, that and what, what were, what were the triggering things that we're setting that off that allowed you to realize that there was something missing?

Laura Rich: A little bit of it was burnout factor and feeling really stuck in the job that I was in and wanting to move on and do something new. And I think also I've heard from a lot of people that you go through a kind of identity crisis, like who was I at that point? That was really destabilizing for me. Before that I was CEO of Street Fight and that meant something and I, I knew, I knew who and what I was every day and you know, and I think as an entrepreneur your, you know, your identity really gets merged with this thing that you, that you build. And you know, like I said, I was very much ready to move on except that I didn't know what that next thing was. And so also, you know, I started saying, you know, was that just a fluke, that success, I started developing a little bit of fear of failure that sent me into this paralysis. I mean this, these are not like horrible things, you know, a little bit of is like "cry me a river", you know, other people. I've talked to other people who have gone through just much bigger kinds of depression and I didn't, I didn't really go through depression. I mean if you, you saw in my article, I talked to some people who couldn't, couldn't leave the house and then obviously Kate Spade. But. So that was, that was kind of it for me. Those are the main things.

Laura Rich: Right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean our problems. Entrepreneurs who have a successful exit are not really relatable to a lot of people and for people who have life changing exits. I did not, so I didn't have to deal with like, you know, money be becoming this like weird factor for my life and, and the dynamics around me. But I have talked to plenty of people who had life changing exits who had big, you know, like social things changed for them. Um, one guy said his friends became jealous. He lost all of his friends. I've definitely talked to other people who said their friends just start hitting them up for money. So there's that and that, you know, that leads to the identity that that's part of that identity crisis, too. I think the age thing is interesting, but in most of the people that I've talked to at this point have, I don't think I've talked to anybody in their twenties, maybe one person, but you know, the people in their early thirties and you know, lucky them because that's quite an accomplishment I think. I think they have it a little more challenging because they haven't had a chance to have failure or have. I'm just sort of ordinary life and not such big. Yeah. So, but, uh, but it, it, it's been interesting. I talk to people individually who are like, I didn't realize I wasn't alone. I feel so good being able to like bring that awareness to them so they don't feel like they can, they have to suffer in silence. But I've also convened people, uh, who, who had exits and they are so relieved to be able to talk to other people who've been through the same experience. So one of the things that I'm doing with exit club is I'm creating a community for people who have, who have sold their businesses and need others to connect with. Yeah. Yeah.

Laura Rich: Yeah. And I'd be curious to hear what, what you, what your answers to that question too. But um, in the, in the fall when I was taking time off, I said I was on sabbatical. So that was fun. That was fun. And now, I mean, I have a hard time saying I'm an entrepreneur because it's just this wide open thing and you know, I may still be stuck in that identity crisis thing where I had one success I had, I had two other things before that and one of them was like a PR success, like we launched with a big store like coverage of us in the New York Times and we were on morning shows but it wasn't a financial success mean to kind of just fizzled out, but you know, so uh, I have to get out there and prove myself again. So I feel like I'm living that part of the experience that people go through as well. What about you? What did you say after you left your business?

Ryan Tansom: It's been a challenge. I've personally gone through a couple of different roles as far as what I'm doing. And it is tough because I want you, you know if we should switch roles, but it is um, you know, I went from having a decent name for myself and our company and in the industry to all of a sudden you're irrelevant. So trying to figure out something that I'm just as passionate about that's not in our industry was tough as heck and I mean that's why I'm doing what I'm doing now. And I figured that the podcast was the first thing that I started to figure, honestly, it's been my method to figure out what I wanted to do, which is where the GEXP, the consulting company came from and stuff. But it was like, yeah, I mean like my dad is still struggling for years later. Like what to do, how to do it. And like a gentleman I had a happy hour with last week. I mean, it's just something, it's tough to reinvent yourself to be as passionate because different vendors, different clients, different people that you no longer are forced to engage with on a daily basis. Figure out who do I actually want to talk to him, why am I talking to them.

Laura Rich: Yeah, right, instead of like your autopilot, like, you know, what the structure is, you have this whole structure around you which is, you know, your, your focus of your meaning and purpose and your daily social structure. Um, I, I think about like how the email goes quiet and that can be a positive and a negative and it is all at once, you know, like you were saying like you are no longer interacting with these people, you no longer matter to the whole industry because they've got to get on with their lives and get done what they needed to get done and you're not helpful to that anymore and you don't need them anymore so that it goes quiet. But the same time it's also great that it goes quiet. Right? It's like a nice break.

Ryan Tansom: So interesting. I just,

Laura Rich: I actually called a phantom anxiety because we went through like this... I mean it was like pulling the rip cord and all of a sudden there was 250 emails to zero and you're just like, what is going on? And you hit on a couple of things. I'm curious on how you've gone through on your community because I think that's one of the things that a lot of people struggle with where- So for us it was like our, our employees were our friends and family. Same thing with our vendors and our, our, our clients and our partners and that's just the people you talk to all day long that are fun and great, but then all of a sudden if they're not there you realize like, who was actually a friend and in your social community or not?

New Speaker: Yeah, you find that out pretty fast.

Ryan Tansom: Can you... I'm curious really fast and whether you matter or not. And so I'm curious. So it's a little bit of background on your, on your company Street Fight and understanding like what was your, what was your social structure like and how did you go about it? What was kind of the infrastructure and then how have you started recreating that now?

New Speaker: Yeah, that's a good question. So Street Fight, since it was like a media company and kind of... So it was a, you know, like a trade publication and so our audience like coalesced around us and you know, as the CEO of this entity and the host of all our conferences and just like the public face of this. I had this whole social world, right? That, that, you know, we all did business together and there was, it was really great and then that, that's just gone and it's okay, you know, I guess I, I miss, I miss some of those people, but it's fine and we all you know we just move on. Um, and you know, I figured that with Exit Club that will emerge again and I'm really excited to be exploring this with people who have had success in business. I mean, it's just an amazing group of people and you know that because you're talking to the same people all the time. So, you know, through the various things like the podcast and the book I'm working on and the membership and workshops that we're developing. Um, it's, it's, it's great to be able to interact with people in this way and because the focus of Exit Club really is on like the emotional experience, these are much deeper connections that I'm having with people. Much deeper interactions.

Ryan Tansom: I'm curious in what was leading up to the sale. So now, now that you've realized that it is such an emotional journey, you know, what was leading you up to the sale? Was there a triggering event and why did you go through that process? And then the follow-up question is knowing how now, how the challenges after the fact would you have done anything differently?

Laura Rich: Um, I don't know that I would have done anything differently. Um, we were, we were kind of at a point where we just needed to, if we were going to grow more, we needed a, either a capital infusion or an acquisition. So we opted for acquisition because raising money is just such a pain. Not that it's easy to find a buyer. Yeah. So we just went looking for a buyer and we found this amazing buyer in a long, a long time client of ours who got wind of our shopping the business and became interested in working together in that way. So it- they were pretty great. I mean, we knew them, we'd worked with them and I really liked the CEO, Maneesh Patel and so I don't, I don't know what I would do differently. I mean, I think you can always say I would, I would get a bigger deal next time. I think you can always say that, but you know, it was pretty good.

Ryan Tansom: I'm curious because when you think about the checking the boxes and making sure that you get what you want emotionally and financially, it's a totally integrated thing. I think now that you're kind of going down this road of exploring all this, what are the, some of the things you would have done to prepare yourself emotionally and socially or on the intangible stuff ahead of time? Is there other things that you realize now that there could have been other things you could have benefited from that ahead of time?

Laura Rich: I do think that people can, can make this a better experience and I think um, you know, some of the stuff you're doing working with people to start their exit planning earlier and think of it in a more global sense, not just, you know, what, what's the number I want. I think that's, that's really smart. I think people need to start exit planning when they launch their business, you know, it should be-- an exit plan should be as much a part of their launched as anything else. And then I think that as they get closer really thinking about their plan in even more detail. And I think that what I think there's four states stages to the transition that we've been seeing in the data. So in all my conversations we've been. I'm working with a researcher who has written a lot in academic journals on entrepreneurship. And so what we're seeing is that when entrepreneurs first take the time to recover and sort of like I, I was saying in the fall that I was de-Street Fighting, I was getting the Street Fight out of me so that I could move on to whatever was next. And I think that recovery period is really important. And I think if people don't do that, it's hard to move forward. Or they just stay on this hamster wheel of like, you know, start the next business exit, start the next business, exit. And they don't really get a chance to figure out who they are and what they want and how to have like a really grounded, rewarding life. And then I think the next stage is really looking at who you are at that point and redefining your values and goals based on your experience having run the business and having exited a business and then from there I think that's a good foundation to start thinking about what's next and how you're going to reinvent yourself in that context. And then final stage of reconnecting with the world and going down. I think people just tend to go out too soon when they haven't done that work. So I mean you could probably hear from the way I'm saying it that like this is a program that we're developing,

Ryan Tansom: I think it's hugely important. You know, I don't want to unleash something you're not ready for the world, but as you're kind of going through these woods, I think the things that I've asked other people because they don't know how to go through this process. Reinventing themselves is a ton of work. Especially as some of the people that I interact with or have interviewed are later on in life. So they don't necessarily have enough time to reinvent themselves, they think. Right? So I'm curious like is there, is there exercises or what are ways that people can actually start implementing this stuff other than just kind of looking into the abyss?

Laura Rich: That is something that we're still honing and I don't want to. I don't want to go out with anything just yet. So I'm just gonna leave it at the top line.

Ryan Tansom: So is there. I think that it's valid, it's valid. And is there, I guess resources out there that you've seen that you've benefited from along the journey, whether it's books or people or things as people are trying to figure out what's available out there.

Laura Rich: Well I mean, Ryan, if, if there was stuff out there, you and I wouldn't be doing what we are doing. I'd be curious to hear what you have to say. I mean there are books out there that you know, try to, to figure out who you are and what you want out of life.

Ryan Tansom: But it's not specific for entrepreneurs.

Laura Rich: There's nothing specific to entrepreneurs. I think there's this whole culture of like get to exit to exit. Nobody thinks about what comes after that. And if you look at the books, like I feel like a book that comes closest is Finish Big by Bo, who I worked with at, at Ink magazine. It's a great book and he does touch on the after of the exit, but it is still largely focused on that exit point and not as much about how you, how you move on from after your, after your business. Because, you know, frankly, people, people like operators, you know, they like them when they're on the job, uh, athletes get celebrated when they are playing the game, not after they retire. You know, and athletes I think go through this same transition and veterans go through this transition and retirees go through this transition and nobody talks about this particular transition, you know, in part because it's that whole cry me a river thing, but you know, between the two of us we can help mainstream the idea.

Ryan Tansom: Actually Bo's book is what launched me on my journey. I was like, Oh shit, I wish you would have read that before we sold it is. There's two things is I kind of boil it all down to, you know, once money is out of the equation and you're starting to figure out, like I kind of have it boiled down to two things, two questions that people need to ask, which is what problems do you want to solve when you wake up, what is your problems that are interesting to you that you want to solve, and then who do you want to solve those with? [Laura interjects: Yeah.] I don't know if it boils down to anything else, but other than that, and I think what I've seen is that people get eradicated from their situation too soon before they've figured that out where they still want to keep solving their industry problems and then they no longer can or they want to stay with those people and then they no longer they're forced out of that situation. So it's really knowing those two things before you figure out, well, it's time to pull the rip cord or not.

Laura Rich: Right, they should not pull the rip cord until they know that I suppose. But have you also noticed that people get stuck running their companies because they are. They don't know what, what could possibly come next. They don't know how to do anything other than run their business, despite actually kind of wanting to get out that they had a better sense of what that looked like after they might be able to get there.

Ryan Tansom: I think so and I think if people had a way out or figuring out like, or had time to explore. There's-- are you familiar with the Halftime Institute? So that's a very interesting one and I can introduce you to some people out there that they, they've kind of got this, you know like those s curves where it goes up and then all of a sudden you have to like reinvent and then there's this overlapping part like a Venn diagram and then it continues going up again. And I think if people can reinvent themselves while they've got some time and they're in their business, then it'll be more of a non event when they transition out instead of trying to do it after the fact.

Laura Rich: I think that that makes a lot of sense after the fact though I think you can still, you can still recover and you know, talking to other entrepreneurs who have been through the experience I think is huge and I'm excited about the connections that we're making between people there. I'm also curious, you said that you, you speak to more of the entrepreneurs that you speak to are older generation?

Ryan Tansom: Yep, a lot of the baby boomers that are trying to figure out whether it's a CEO round table groups and I think because that's where people are vulnerable and I don't know if what you've experienced, but I know a lot of our listeners it's where they go to explain their problems and has other people that are willing to listen to them. Did you have any of that part when you had Street Fight? Was there... Who did you go to for resources when you were running the business? I mean it was a other round table, groups like that or where did you go for it?

Laura Rich: Yeah, that's, that's a really interesting question. I mean, I think I just used my network of other entrepreneurs I knew and people in the media industry who, you know, had had run media companies and that's kind of, that's kind of what I did. I didn't, I didn't belong to any organizations. But it's interesting that I have seen some differences in... I haven't talked to as many boomers. I'm really a little more focused on gen x and millennials and I think you're right, that something you just said triggered this thought so I don't remember exactly what you said, but, but millennials sort of have a little bit more of, um, like a... it's not flexibility but a willingness to change and recover and move on and reinvent. Whereas older generations, I mean, for the boomers, they never, they never expected that they weren't going to work in the same job for the rest of their lives. Like the world changed a lot since they entered the workforce. So I. So I, I have heard that it's, the challenges for boomers are, they're harder in a way.

Ryan Tansom: I agree with that because the younger generation has the ability to... we're going to stay in, I think the model for them is we're going to stay in jobs for two years. It's not this we're retiring here. This is our family or friends. It's magnified like you said. What was the reason you started street fight? So yeah, you said You were an entrepreneur and it was in your DNA, but like was it financial reasons? Was it you wanted it to disrupt an industry? Like what was the specific reason you started it?

Laura Rich: I started Street Fight for a couple of reasons. One, I had been a journalist and I saw, I saw this trend emerging and it seemed like a good story, but it seemed much bigger than a story. It seemed like there was this whole industry emerging and I just thought, you know, somebody should serve this industry with content and community and that was me. I was the one to do that and the other, the other part of it is that I had moved out to Boulder, Colorado, from New York and I'd been here like a year and you know, there are no big media companies in boulder. Surprise, surprise. There wasn't like a job for me. So I started my own. So it was a little bit of a combination of both, but I think you, you start a business mostly when you have the passion for it, not just because like there's no traditional job for you. So I love starting at, I love starting businesses.

Ryan Tansom: I'm curious on the passion that you had when you started it and those kind of, those reasons that came together and kind of the stars aligned. Do you feel like where was that importance of that original vision in when you were selecting your buyer and you know, what was the importance of handing off the baton? Was there some sort of vision you had of it lasting without you kind of like the vision of Finish Big or was it more were you burnt out? How did you factor in why you started it and whether you are judging your success and the situation of that potential buyer and what you wanted with that afterwards?

Laura Rich: Like so squaring the beginning with the end?

Ryan Tansom: Yeah, did it, did it, did it meet with what you were... thinking backwards, it was the right period on my, you know, you said it wasn't, the baby wasn't as important to you, but you know, with the passion that you started with was there. How did you factor that into the transition or the exit?

Laura Rich: Yeah, so I didn't have any formal exit planning in the beginning of the business, but the goal was to grow the business to the point where somebody else saw value in it and acquired the business. And I raised a little friends and family in the beginning and so, you know, we had some investors that I wanted to make sure to do right by. So I always knew we would get to that point. And funny enough we actually got to that point 12 months after we launched where we had a very nice offer and that was very flattering. We, we weren't ready to not be running the business at that point. And so it was...

Ryan Tansom: How did they stumble across you and how did they value that and why did they reach out?

Laura Rich: Um, my business partner and I had years working in New York media. So when we launched, there was a lot of coverage of our launch. And we just got on a lot of people's radars and this was a very big trade publication company. They had dozens of titles, so they acquire lots of companies. I mean they actually don't require that many, but that's how we came onto their radar just just from just having kind of a buzzy high profile in our first year. And um, so, so when, you know, when it was I guess early 2016 and it just looked like, you know, we need to do this capital infusion or acquisition to be able to grow the business. It was also aligning with, you know, the plan was always to grow this to the point where someone saw value and acquired it with the assumption that it would go on and it would grow from there, you know? So it kind of, it kind of did what the intention was starting out. But I have to say, I do. I do wish that I had known what I know now, which is start at the beginning with an exit plan because I really think that is such a good guidepost for how you grow your business. And use the central, it's a, it's an like an organizing function, you know,

Ryan Tansom: I'm curious, I'm curious in your definition of what an exoplanet is and what would have been missing because I mean, I think the fact that you started, the reason I'm asking is that in the fact that you started with the fact that you wanted to build value for someone to sell it for you to sell and someone to buy it, I'd say that's a good fundamental that a lot of people put into the equation. So what was missing in your definition of what good criteria?

Laura Rich: Yeah. Well I think what, what I mean by that is an exit plan that thinks about like who, who might the acquirers be, how would we fit into their plan, how would they fit into ours? Who would we want to work with? Like is the idea that we want to stay or go, um, you know, also you know, what's the, what's the number we want to get to, what is the valuation? So those are some of the things that I think could have been useful. Also, you know, thinking about what the timing of the exit might be instead of like this knowing that that's what we want to grow it to and it's sort of this arbitrary thing, but like, you know, sort of having a, a five year plan to exit or seven years or 10 years or having all three of those and you know, sort of revising as you go.

Ryan Tansom: Do you think having something like that set up would have impacted the post exit journey that you've gone through?

Laura Rich: Um, I do because I think I would have had, I would have had exit more top-of-mind. I would have known where the company was going. I would, you know, I would've had the company's exit more top-of-mind and so possibly I would have had, I believe I probably would have had my post-exit more top-of-mind because you know, there would have been a focus on what is the trajectory here, where's all this going? The company. But then hopefully I would think of myself as well.

Ryan Tansom: I interviewed a lady named Vicky and she said that she went through like a year and a half process because there's a couple of different scenarios and she wasn't mentally ready, but she kind of said that over that process of like the couple, a couple of different mock runs or whatever she and the whole process like kind of get mentally ready because it was like, okay, well I know it's almost like you have to grieve. I know that this is going to happen, so you get more mentally ready for when it actually happens.

Laura Rich: Yeah. And then you can make the right decision. I mean, you know, negotiations and due diligence are very wearying and anxiety-provoking. And I think if you have a plan going into them that allows you to also see what follows. You can get more clarity and have better conversations during those phases.

Ryan Tansom: What were some of the most grueling parts about those two things? It can be quite the ringer.

Laura Rich: Oh, I mean, you know, like trading pro formas back and forth. That's super fun. Um, but you know, we had one thing I think I've heard a lot of people don't have, unless, well maybe it's not a lot, but not everybody has all of their papers all together. We were very organized and kept good records of everything. So that made it kind of easy when the due diligence list came over and we just sent things, sent things back to them, but I've heard that it can be a very painful gathering everything together. So that's one, that's another part of that exit planning. If you know that you're going to get there, then you're going to organize and execute your business in, in a way that's got all your ducks in a row and you're 't's your 'i's all crossed and dotted and ready to go. When your ideal buyer comes along.

Ryan Tansom: What was some of the stuff in the due diligence list, that might've shocked you as far as the extent of how much stuff that they actually needed.

Laura Rich: I'm trying to remember if there was something sort of crazy. I mean, they, they, they wanted more details on some of the customer stuff than I than I thought they were actually going to look at. Um, uh, like maybe, you know, I honestly can't remember,

Ryan Tansom: The context of my question was like seriously, it's so extensive that most people do freak. They don't realize that it's every piece of paper, essentially, you've ever accumulated history of your company.

Laura Rich: Yeah. And it's fair because they are planning to take on your business, but you know, until the deal is done, it is a little nerve wracking because this company has now looked inside your company, your business, completely. And if the deal falls apart then they have seen everything and I know there's NDAs, but that doesn't really cover anything.

Ryan Tansom: Yeah, but they're signed by humans.

Laura Rich: Exactly. Yeah. Did you go through some crazy due diligence hell?

Ryan Tansom: That's a long story for a different time, but we sold a couple of branches before we sold our main corporation. Kind of got a, we got to stub our toe in a less impactful way, but you realize that it, it's everything. I mean, and I'm curious when you're going through that stuff then because it's such an immediate task, you know, you're, the endorphins as you're checking things off, I believe that also impacts the lack of the ability to look at yourself and what you're going because it's just immediate stuff that you're...

Laura Rich: Right, you're so consumed with just getting the deal done and you forget to pick your head up and think about what's my life gonna be like after? What do I want it to be like? I mean I think people think about it a little bit in terms of how much money do I want and they envision they envision their bank accounts, you know, or they envision a house they want to buy our car or something like that, but that's not really a full look at your life and what your day-to-day will be like after your no longer the owner of your business.

Ryan Tansom: As we're kind of getting towards the end here, what would be your recommendation of how someone should look at that? Because that's stuff that they do need to look at it, but like what would be your advice on like how should they look at them? What are some of the questions that people should ask themselves?

Laura Rich: Yeah. Think they have to look comprehensively at their lives, like think about how they feel about not running their business anymore and um, uh, you know, or be in their business, but not being the one, I mean that's still the same thing as not not running their business but having their business in their life on a daily basis and thinking about and really becoming aware of the fact that that is a really anchoring component of their lives when they are running the business and that we're thinking about what is, what is going to be the, the anchoring thing after, if that's not there. So, you know, I think a lot of people just like pop out into the world after that and they're, it's very destabilizing. They don't know how to move forward. I talked to this one guy who sailed around the world with his wife for a couple of years and you know, in some ways that's a little bit of a cliche, right? But we talked about it and, and he had a really good point that you need, you use a lot of executive function when you are selling, so you still have a focus for what you're doing and there's a structure to your day so you aren't just popped out into the world. And then like now what, how am I going to structure my day? Whereas my focus, um, how about how about this? I haven't really seen my family on a daily basis and now I am and they don't know what to do with me. I mean just things like that. Um, so there, there, I think people need to think about like, what is going to be the grounding? I'm an organizing factor in my life after I'm running the business, what do I want that to be? And then maybe have that, but like still have to go through that process of recover, redesign, reinvent and then reconnect.

Laura Rich: So even if even if you think, well, I know I want to go back out there and start a new business, I don't think that should be the thing that grounds you right after you're done with your previous business. I mean think about, think about it like a relationship ending. You don't want to go right into your next one. You're going to. I thought I thought about going right into the next business and I realized that despite my enthusiasm that I would burn out and that is totally the equivalent of going into a rebound relationship. So it's so important to take a break. Even people who have modest exits, finding a way to take a break if you have to make some money, make some money some other way before starting something new so that you can get your head like reordered in place where it's not all about your past business.

Ryan Tansom: I think it's extremely valuable because I actually had a podcast I called it the Rebound Business or something because people would go and like literally just spend a bunch of money to buy another company to go recreate their life, not Thinking that that would be the best idea.

Laura Rich: Right? Right. Exactly. Exactly. Got to take a break, can't just jump right in. I love that. I'll have to find that. Or you'll send that link to me.

Ryan Tansom: Yeah, I'll send it to you. As we're wrapping up. Is there kind of just did it, but is there one thing that you. You mentioned that you want to highlight or add that we haven't touched on that you want to make sure that you leave with the listeners?

Laura Rich: Yes, so the main, the main point I'm trying to get out into the world is this idea that the entrepreneur journey isn't just start a business, grow a business, sell a business, but it's also this fourth, fourth stage which is recover and then and then move onto the next thing and I think the world is too focused on start a business, grow a business, sell business, and Hooray, you got to the finish line. So I know that everybody who listens to your podcast is already aware that there's this other stage, but I really want people to think about it sort of more comprehensively and cohesively like this where it's just as much a part of the entrepreneur journey. So that's, that's kind of the main thing.

Ryan Tansom: And that needs to be hammered home. We get stuck in the technical stuff. This is why people like you on the show are so important because it is the most important part. I mean, because if you're not happy, what, what the heck is it all for?

Laura Rich: Yeah, exactly.

Ryan Tansom: What's the best way, Laura, for our listeners to get in touch with you?

Laura Rich: Yeah. Um, so we, so Exit Club right now is a podcast and you can find that at exitclub.co and you can reach me at Laura at exit club dot CO and follow me on Linkedin and it's like IN backslash Laura rich and um, so we're, we're really early stage but come fall, we're going to start rolling out a lot of stuff and hopefully you'll share that with your listeners when that time comes.

Ryan Tansom: Oh for sure, and the book launch and all that stuff comes. We'll circle back and have another rally back and forth.

Laura Rich: Yeah, totally. That'd be fun.

Ryan Tansom: Thanks so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Laura Rich: It's been fun. Thanks Ryan.

Takeaways

Ryan Tansom: Well, I hope you enjoyed the conversations that I had and the free flowing nature of the conversation because I think it's just so complicated what you go through after you sell a business emotionally that it's just tough to articulate sometimes and I think it's really reassuring for me and for hopefully a lot of other entrepreneurs that have gone through this that you're not alone and here she is and here I am having to create this marketplace because there is no resources about what you're going to do afterwards. So I'm really encouraged with what Laura's doing and I hope that anybody else that's out there and willing to fight the fight and help create a community and resources for people that are looking for the next purpose and helping to recreate themselves that they jump on board. So go check out her article that she wrote. It was in the show notes and I will see you next week and go on to itunes and give me a rating if you've got the time.