Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.†
In my daily work, I am routinely working with owners of businesses. By and large, business owners have the ‘entrepreneurial gene,’ resulting in personality types that often lean heavily in the Type A direction (although there are exceptions to this broad generalization).
Not surprisingly, many of my clients have worked extremely hard throughout their lives, often making personal sacrifices, as required, to move their business in a continued upward trajectory.
If you’re a Type A entrepreneur considering a near-term exit strategy, it’s imperative to take some time to consider the more subtle implications of selling your business. And by this, I’m referring to the introspective reflection work to answer these 3 simple questions from the depth of your soul.
Question 1: Why am I selling?
Entrepreneurs make the decision to sell for many reasons. Make sure you clearly understand the reason you’re selling and also the “question behind the question.” For example, we find many Sellers answering the primary question as simply, “I want to sell so that I can retire.” And while retirement is an excellent reason to sell, the question behind the question is, “Why do I want to retire?” The answer to this secondary question is the more introspective one. I’ve worked with Sellers who are retiring because their spouse is strongly encouraging their retirement, and where the decision to retire is not coming from the Seller themselves. Such a situation can lead a potential Seller to a point of hesitation down the road, which can ultimately derail a deal. Make sure you understand why you want to sell, and ask yourself the question behind the question to clarify your own internal understanding, which could be hiding emotionally behind your decision.
What will I do with my time after I sell?
Perhaps you’re selling because you’re jumping into another venture, in which case the “post-sale time on your hands” will be well accounted for, and you can skip this question. However, maybe you’re selling to retire. And in this case, it’s helpful to consider what you will do with your time, once the transaction is completed. Perhaps you’ve been working 50+ hours per week for the past 10 years or longer. Your time is structured and productive from morning until night. And then suddenly, you have all the time in the world. Maybe you’ll take some trips, and catch up on house projects. But soon enough, you can go stir crazy without structure. And for this reason, now is a great time to do some dreaming. What hobbies have you been neglecting? What charitable organizations would you like to join, in order to make an impact? Since the day you started your business, your primary passion was likely derived from the business. Now is the time to consider what activities, hobbies, and interests will contribute to your passion in the near future.
Where is my tribe?
If you’ve been working head down, fast and furious for years, it’s quite possible that your social circle exists primarily through your work. Maybe you’re having drinks with co-workers where the conversation revolves around work projects. While you’ll keep many of these friends after you sell the business, the reality is that these friends will have far less time available, and the conversations with work friends over time may become disjointed, as you become one step removed from the work environment and related conversation topics. For this reason, it’s healthy to consider how and where you will continue to meet new people and have meaningful friendships and relationships for the next phase of your life journey. The good news is that you will often find your new tribe simply by answering Question #2 above. When you find your next passion project which incorporates your interests and hobbies, you’ll likely make new friends with similar interests along the way.
Preparing to sell your business is a journey in itself. While most Sellers are rightfully concerned with maximizing the value of the ultimate transaction when they sell, it’s healthy for your emotional well-being to plan ahead for the inner journey that will result from your ultimate exit strategy.
†Mayer and Salovey Model of Emotional Intelligence