A conversation this week with a husband & wife, who have been in business together for 40 plus years, confirmed my belief that the hardest decision any business owner faces is deciding when to exit the business and how to make that a reality.
Over that 40 plus years, the couple built a strong & profitable business with opportunities to grow the business further. Whilst the business has grown substantially over that period the duo are fully “hands-on” when it comes to managing the business on a day to day basis.
The reason they reached out was that due to recent health scares, they were wanting to step away from the business and enjoy quality time together pursuing other interests. Whilst they both agreed they wanted to exit the business, they were struggling to develop and implement a strategy to make their exit a reality!
As a result of our conversation, the couple agreed their desired succession plan was to transfer control of the business to their three children, two of whom worked in the business. In implementing this plan, the following was agreed:
- The date for their exit was 31 December 2023;
- There would be a family meeting in the next week;
- At that meeting, the exit date will be formally announced, and the children will be asked to develop a plan for them to take over the business from the beginning of 2024; and
- A month after that meeting the children will present that plan and agree on the strategies for implementing that plan.
Whilst the husband and wife were comfortable with this strategy, they were fearful about what them exiting would mean for them personally and for the business.
I assured them that in circumstances where they had been working for seven days a week for 40 plus years feeling this fear about what the future may hold was understandable. Accordingly, the issue was not that they were feeling the fear, it was how they deal with the fear.
Were they going to give into the fear and be “sucked back” into the business such that it continues as it has always done? OR
Were they going use the fear to drive them to exit the business to create the future to which they truly aspired?