Getting Ready for the Big Day

When selling your business, it’s important to prepare emotionally for the closing. This life-changing period may produce feelings of anxiety beyond the expected stress you anticipate from the sales process. 

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse – that feeling of regret after making a purchase – and have maybe even experienced it. It only stands to reason that seller’s remorse is a thing, too.

Some business owners become stressed before the closing as the personal implications of the sale of their business start to sink in. They often delay the sale or even back out entirely. This may be due to anxiety at the thought of having to make major life changes after devoting so much time to their business.

After being business owners for years, many entrepreneurs are initially relieved to retire. They may have dreams of traveling, spending time with grandchildren, fishing, reading, taking up a new hobby, and every other kind of cliché retirement activity you can imagine. And, in theory, this is a great plan. You’ve worked hard all your life – now it’s time to slow down and relax.

However, a year or less into retirement, most entrepreneurs end up looking for something else to do with their time. Many sellers even return with a desire to play a role in their former business, which can present an ideal opportunity for the buyer, who can tap into your previous expertise in the business. 

As the seller, your emotional needs are often just as important as your financial needs. Keep this in mind during the transaction. You may experience periods of last-minute anxiety. Addressing these needs helps ensure a smoother sale and often garners more cooperation from the buyer, both during the transition and after.

I can’t write prescriptions for Valium, but I can offer sound and drug-free advice on how to deal with the anxieties associated with selling your business.

A year or less into retirement, most entrepreneurs end up looking for something else to do with their time. 

Find a New Passion

As we discuss the details of finalizing the sale, I’ve had many clients ask, “Now, what?” When the sale is complete, and they’re officially “retired,” they set off to do all the glorious things they imagined. The hitch is that most won’t spend the rest of their lives traveling or playing with the grandkids.

Most entrepreneurs are go-getters. They need something to do with their time, be it a hobby, a new job, a role in a charitable organization, or something that will give them a sense of purpose. Once they sell their business, some entrepreneurs find that what they once thought would be their dream of retirement turns out to be the very thing they resent. 

Luckily, there are ways to calm your nerves when selling your business. You must realize that what happens after you sell your business needs to be planned just as much as the sale itself. You wouldn’t sell your house without knowing where you’d be moving next. The same principle applies here – why would you sell your business without having a detailed plan about what you’ll do next? Answering “I will be retired” isn’t enough. As a driven entrepreneur, you will likely find that you need to direct your energy toward a new passion.

If you’re preparing to sell your business and aren’t sure what you’ll do next, or if you plan to just retire, I challenge you to spend some time answering this question: “What do I want to accomplish over the next 5, 10, or 15 years?”

The more detailed your plan, the better. Writing down your short-term goals, such as traveling or visiting family, as well as your long-term goals, like learning a new language or starting a not-for-profit undertaking, will help you feel less overwhelmed by the potential loss in meaning a sale may represent for you as you get closer to closing day. You can even gather information now about the different things you’d like to accomplish once you do sell your business. You’ll find that a little preparation now will save you stress and anxiety about your future as you navigate the complex process of selling your business.

Aligning the Seller’s and Buyer’s Interests

The sale or purchase of a business never goes as smoothly as expected. Problems often remain, even after the closing. It’s best that you and the buyer maintain an excellent working relationship, so you can easily cooperate to solve such issues.

After the sale, your interests and skills may also provide enormous ongoing value to the business, such as in recruiting, sales, marketing, or establishing key alliances. These are often difficult roles to play or positions to fill. As the previous owner, you may be talented at one or more of these functions and may be willing to perform them at a salary below market value if your other needs are met. 

Maybe you’ll consider working in these positions if the role is structured to align with the flexibility you desire in your new lifestyle. The buyer can develop a win-win situation in which they retain valuable talent while you meet your lifestyle needs. Structuring an arrangement like this can also assist in retaining key customers or employees. Key partners will feel more valued if they observe your ongoing participation in the business.

Carefully considering your next move and emotionally preparing yourself will help set you up for the final steps – the closing.