After Laurie Nichols out of her business four years ago - a transition that took her on a personal goal-setting journey (read about it in her first guest post here)- she was able to look back on the importance of planning ahead for a successful exit and future for herself and her business.
Over the years, as my partners and I grew our business, opportunities to monetize seemed to crop up regularly. We figured we had time though and relaxed into our comfortable position on the fence certain of a “someday score”–we thought there’d always be someone eager to buy and we’d be set.
We had no dates, no planning tasks, no target successor profile. We coasted on autopilot and didn’t really think much about someday–except the occasional fantasy about the cash out sure to come.
Then, about 10 years ago, the wake up calls started and we realized someday was upon us with no “score” in sight. As I look back on my transformation from shareholder to seller, three particular wake up calls stand out as crossroads that could have easily been ignored.
- A failed attempt to sell with what appeared to be a perfect partner.
- A key partner with his own personal wake up calls was ready to retire and move one, but the rest of us were not.
- I was 50, burned out and worried, thinking, “What will we do if we can’t monetize this business?”
Thankfully, these moments had some impact on our urgency to move us towards our eventual sale in early 2012. Though it was successful and we were happy with the transition, it didn’t happen overnight. It followed many difficult conversations and strategic shifts that took time.
Second Half Strategy
In the years since our transition, I’ve spoken to and worked with many investment professionals over 50 regarding their “second half” strategies. I’ve witnessed a range of perspectives on their own plans and circumstances, and often one consistent belief emerges: there is still time to deal with this…someday.
These owners and professionals seem to fall into two groups:
- Those that have been focused on growing their business, and are now waking up, 20 years later, realizing they have been living on autopilot;
- And those who think that since they’ve thought about their exit plan, have established a junior partner, and maybe even have a recent valuation, that they’re in good shape to sell their business on a moment’s notice.
The first group is often worried but frozen in place, overwhelmed by the thought that it may be too late to monetize their business. The second group is suffering from a false sense of action.
A well thought out plan–supported with consistent action–is the difference between good intentions (or worse, wishful thinking) and actually transitioning successfully into an inspiring next chapter.
Focusing on Impact
In my own second half, I have revisited some lessons learned from the Covey Time Management Model.
In the first half of life and career, most of us strive and drive to build our business. It’s natural that we focus that seemingly urgent tasks trump the more important and impactful ones. It seems like everything is urgent as you work IN your business not ON your business, and we spend a lot of time reacting to what is going on in the market and with clients rather than being proactive about future growth.
If you’re over 50, and you’ve been putting off your exit strategy, thinking, “it will all work out,” deep down you may already know someday is now. If you want to feel peace of mind, you need to be committed to spending time on those areas that have the most impact:
- Strategic Planning
- Next Chapter Vision
- Relationship Building
- Personal health
Clarity is Key
Developing clarity about your own transition and retirement goals is the key to a successful exit strategy.
One of my favorite quotes from Seneca illustrates this idea nicely:
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
By starting with yourself, your ideal vision and your plan you have the opportunity to not only envision your legacy, but to live it with renewed energy and purpose.
Imagine the ripple effect in all areas of your life. Does your future happiness and financial stability depend on a successful exit plan? This is where your “second half strategy” is born.
The Number One mistake is failure to take action now–and consistently–to move your plan forward. A vision without consistent action is wishful thinking and likely to result in you falling prey to the “law of diminishing intent.”
What Can You Do?
You can take action right now by asking yourself the following questions:
- What can I do right now to create mental space and time to focus on the most impactful work?
- What am I prioritizing over my strategic and life planning?
- How might my loved ones, clients and team be affected by my transition plan–or lack thereof?
Take a few moments to answer these questions, and identify some simple actions to take now–whether it’s making strategic calls, research, or sketching out what your exit might look like.
Stay clear with yourself about what needs to be done to achieve your goals. Once you see the path ahead you will be able to confidently point your boat in the right direction from the start.
LAURIE NICHOLS spent 30 years in the financial services industry, 20 as an owner. She took her exit four years ago and has thrived in her latest chapter as Owner, Life Planner and Coach of Next Chapter Vision which specializes in helping RIA owners and successors identify their exit planning goals and get into action. This is the second guest post in our series written by Laurie for FP Transitions to chronicle her own exit planning journey, the challenges she overcame, and the lessons she learned –read the first here.