There is a term we use in our transition planning process we call “emotional readiness.” It refers to the level of mental preparedness an owner has to step away from their business. The key element of this readiness involves the owner knowing what they are going to do once they no longer have the level of control and influence they once did with the company they have dedicated and given so much of their life to over the years. A prepared owner will have some level of clarity about what that next season of life will look like – both in terms of their role within the company (if any) and their role outside of it.
One of the most underestimated consequences of exiting a business is the psychological toll that it takes on an owner who is not emotionally prepared. It’s incredibly difficult to go from having control and authority one day, to having no to little influence the next. In just a little more than a decade, business owners have experienced an economic boom, followed by a global financial crash, followed by another economic boom, only to then have to navigate a global pandemic.
The emotional and psychological roller coaster that so many business owners have been on during this time have had some very dramatic highs and lows. These events have left some owners with smaller emotional gas tanks, and we have seen quick decisions to exit without really having thought through what the next chapter will bring.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate this incredibly important aspect of a transition plan:
- Ask yourself introspective questions. Why does now feel like the right time to transition? What kind of timetable can I realistically live with? What kind of timetable will the business need to get ready for my departure? How do I envision spending my time after my exit? What would a new typical day look like for me? What would a new typical day look like for my spouse?
- Educate yourself. Consider reading or listening to articles or books on this topic. A favorite of mine is “Finish Big” by Bo Burlingham.
- Make connections. Seek connections with other business owners who have recently exited and find out what their experience was like. Don’t be afraid to ask them about the things they wish they had done differently or the challenges they have faced since winding down, rather than only focusing on the things that went well.
Like much in life, there is no guarantee for a perfect transition. However, taking purposeful steps and allocating time to one of the most underrated aspects of a transition – emotional readiness – will only help to improve your chances of feeling content.
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