If you are reading this and have a successful and profitable company I probably do not have reiterate what you have experienced or the many articles and research that describe how hard it is to get to this point in your life.
But what I do have to reiterate is how you got to this point. Like many of us who started a company at some point in the past we had a blurry vision of what could be a possible successful company. Now you may have drawn out a precise picture of the business, such as the picture above, calculating each angle and dimension with a lot of research or you may have just spent hours envisioning the picture in your mind late at night.
Possible next, you scrounged for every dime possible and used the money to buy your first equipment or to lease that first office. Or maybe you were lucky and inherited enough money to fund the first step. Whichever it was, you probably were nervous, anxious and excited all at the same time.
Nobody told you to risk your financial savings, possible bankruptcy embarrassment and putting up with all individuals telling you would never make it. And if you were married that your spouse might ask you multiple times a week “Can you tell me why again?”
Do you remember how agonizing it was to get that first client or customer and how that only continued? But somehow in spite of recessions, angry clients (because your new employee turned out to be a flop), or the laws changing, you found a way to hang on and survive. Or maybe it was that first time you were notified of an audit by the friendly IRS that shot panic through your mind and then remembering someone in the past saying you should buy a false tooth with cyanide to avoid torture. But it turned out that you did mostly right and only had to make some changes and pay up the differences. Of course you quickly fired your accountant and eventually found one that had more talent.
Then came along your first management employee, oh man, did you screw that up royally. Who would have thought that guy, with such a great Harvard like resume, could piss off so many clients that fast. And only after he was fired and gone did you discover that you had three vendors you were paying each month, but for some reason no one can track them down now.
Or how about that time your partner got his first divorce? Thank God you happen to run into that lawyer a few years previous and he straitened up your documents. Because, had you not done that work you’d be staring at the butt ugliest prima donna business partner ever. So you missed that train wreck, but you certainly felt the passing concussion of wind and noise sweeping past your head. But hey, your partner now has that new special someone coming around a lot and you’re way more prepared this time, right?
Your business is now finished, beautiful and you’ve been driving it for years now. Now all of your kids are out of the house, some are in college and one has even tied the knot. You might even be a grandparent in the coming year. “How did I get here so fast?” you’re asking yourself. At the same time you are constantly having business meetings and occasionally travel for a client meeting or conference. Still you are looking to grow the company further with possible acquisitions looming on the horizon.
Following on the heels of those acquisitions you finally have a management team you can trust that allow you to travel the world with your wife for a month at a time. You built that vehicle in the plans and upgraded it into something very different from your first dream. Such as the vehicles below. However there is not much left to do but constantly tweak this and that. Life is still challenging but one day you start to realize that you and your company are not the same entity.
At first this is a confusing thought, “How is this company not me?” “Without me there would be no company?” But just like your car takes you everywhere and cannot go anywhere without your instructions you realize it’s time to find another funner (yes I said funner) vehicle and adventure. But first you must lay your hands on the time tested vehicle and thank God that it allowed you to fund your family’s adventures, kids college education, freedom to make your own way, built you stronger & smarter and has now allowed you the opportunity to use the value you’ve built to fund the next vehicle and adventures. It is then and only then that you realize there is a life beyond your company. What will be your next vehicle and adventure?
John Hamel is the Managing Member of Austec Business Transitions, LLC. helping businesses optimize value relative to exiting their company.