By Scott Bushkie
We’re in the process of an office remodel at Cornerstone. As part of that project, we’re pulling down all the pictures of businesses we’ve sold and helping our clients envision the future instead. To do that, we’re asking past clients to tell us what they’ve done with their time and money after their sale.
As you’re thinking about selling your business, it’s time to plan your own bucket list. Because if you don’t spend time looking ahead, you’ll let fear of the unknown get in the way of a sale.
I’ve seen it happen. After several years or decades of running a business, some owners just can’t let go. Their identity is tied too closely to the company. Ultimately, many of these business owners stay too long and it starts to negatively affect their business and the employees.
I even worked with one older seller (78 years old) who finally had to be strong-armed out by his bank. “Either sell the business or we’re taking it back and shutting it down,” they told him. At that point, 55 employees would have lost their jobs just because he wasn’t ready to move on.
As a business owner, you have to decide what you want your legacy to be. There are so many lives you can touch in a positive way, but you need to spend time thinking about what that’s going to look like for you. The great thing is there are no right or wrong answers.
There is, unfortunately, such a thing as wrong timing. I think business owners tend to be optimistic. The last recession is always the “last” recession. They think nothing like that will happen again for a good long while and time is on their side.
But it’s not. Right now, the M&A market most likely has peaked. Multiples are as high as they’re likely to go before the next economic bubble burst and they come crashing down. If owning a business was like owning stocks and you knew the market was on top and was most likely to go down in the near future, you’d sell. You wouldn’t hold on to Johnson & Johnson because you loved the company or because you weren’t sure who you’d be without those stocks.
Owning a business is different, emotionally, I know. So what I’m suggesting is that you make solid plans to transfer those emotions. If you can invest yourself in new goals, you’ll have a better chance of being objective about timing the sale of your business.
At Cornerstone we’ve had a pretty good run for the last 12 to 18 months, and we’re hoping it will last another 12 to 18, but that’s probably the best we’ll get.
If you’re not sure what you’d like life to look like after a sale, stop by and take a look at all the bucket list items other past business owners are crossing off their lists. Then talk to an advisor and figure out if it’s time to get started on yours.