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Business Succession: an Act of Love

  |   Baby Boomers, Business and Personal Transition, selling a business

By Paul Cronin, Partner, Successful Transition Planning Institute

image valentines dayThere is an old vaudeville joke:  A man with a gun stops a businessman and his wife on the street and says to the husband, “your wallet or your wife”, the husband pauses for a long time, then his wife says, “just shoot him already – I’ll give you his wallet”.

Valentine’s Day.  We are supposed to talk about how much we love our spouse or partner, but seriously after 20, 30 or 40 years of marriage and owning a business, there can be a breaking point.  Do you ever feel that your spouse might feel that way about your business? (not you, I hope)  That she might think, “let’s dump this thing and get the heck out of here”.  Maybe she is very tired of you working 60, 70 or 80 hours a week.  Maybe your spouse gets that you love your business, but has become tired of the skipped vacations, birthdays, holidays, and yes, even Valentine’s Days.  She might think that she might be better off without one of you – the business or your marriage.  There was a study in 2009 by Bowling Green State University which showed that the fastest growing age group for divorce is the 50+ segment – it’s called Gray Divorce.

Tough to think about sometimes, yes?  Business Succession can be even tougher to think about, but if you will yourself to start, it can get easier.  If you and your spouse split, then your spouse may get half of what you built and saved over 20 or 30 years.  That makes The Platinum Years℠ look a lot less bright.

So, do you love your spouse enough to leave your business?  If the answer is yes (and I hope you say yes), then what will you do next?  Call your CPA, your attorney, a business intermediary, or just take a cold shower until the emotion passes (or you pass out – whichever some first)?  Be careful on that last choice – if you pass out, conk your head on the floor and die – you’ll leave your business AND your spouse.  That is not really funny either – you could leave your spouse with a nightmare to solve:  “would she want me to sell it, keep it or just close it?  She never told me; now what the hell do I do?”.  Not the last wishes you had in mind, I imagine.

What if there were a better way to leave?  A way that allows you to think strategically about your business AND your personal future.  No surprise that I’ll tell you there is, and that there are practitioners who can help you, right now, but only if you ask.  Some are business advisors with formal training in Exit Planning (BEI, EPI or Pinnacle), some also have formal training in Transition Planning from our firm, Successful Transition Planning Institute, and others with education in psychology.  The truth is that you need not do this alone, nor in many cases should you even try it alone.

Where to start?  There are a plethora of books to read, you can even listen to Chapter One of our book, Finding Your New Owner, For Your Business, For Your life, by Jack Beauregard.  (click here to listen). Also try the Resources on our website – lots of free stuff there!

Maybe on this Valentines Day, you present a gift to your spouse or partner by saying, “I need to think differently about my business, but first I need to know – what is it that you want for your life?  I love you and I want us to have an even better life from here on.  What should I be thinking about for my business and our life?”  Now that sounds a lot better than a bunch of flowers, a box of candy and a greeting card, doesn’t it?  (Ok, maybe you should buy some candy too, just to be safe).

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If you are a business owner (or know one) you may wish to start working on this area by downloading our free “What’s Next for your Future?” guide – click below to learn more.

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