Small business ownership can be a very rewarding way to make a living.
The non-material benefits of owning a business are probably part of the reason you became an entrepreneur. But now that your time as a small business owner is coming to an end, saying goodbye to your business is proving to be more difficult than you thought it would be.
A business is about much more than bottom line profitability. If the business is successful, it's also about the relationships you've created with your workers, your customers, and others who have contributed to your success. Even more, your business has played a big role in the formation of your personal identity and you'll need to be prepared to deal with the emotions that you will experience as you begin the process of separating from your company.
Whether you are exiting the business under good circumstances or bad, the emotions are the same. Here is a sampling of the feelings you can expect to experience during and after your exit.
- Negotiation regrets. One of the first things sellers experience is regret over terms or price. Sooner or later, you'll wonder whether holding on to the business for another year could have resulted in a higher price or better sales terms. But as long as you executed a responsible sales process, own your decision and don't dwell on "what ifs".
- Loss of purpose. When you owned your business, your life had purpose and meaning. But after the sale, many business owners feel like their life has lost its purpose. To combat these feelings, find something else to invest yourself in, whether it's charity work, leadership mentoring, or a new business entity.
- Duty to employees. Business owners naturally feel a sense of responsibility for their workers. You sold your business, but that doesn't mean you failed in your duty to your employees. In fact, you may have done your employees a service by handing the company over to someone who is more capable of taking it to the next level.
- Relationships with clients & vendors. For the most part, the relationships you had with customers, clients, and vendors will end when you sell the business. People who were part of your daily life for years will suddenly disappear, but you can minimize the emotional loss by making a conscious effort to get out of the house and invest in your relationships with friends and family members.
- Responsibility for the business. Your responsibility for the business will cease the moment your name is no longer on the letterhead. If the company starts to tank under new ownership, it can be difficult to sit on the sidelines. Resist the urge to hang around the company or make unsolicited suggestions. For better or worse, the business has moved on – and you need to move on, too.