Earn, Learn, and Have Fun – life after selling a business
People sometimes ask me, “Paul, how can you work for other people after owning and later selling a business? Isn’t that hard?” I used to reply, “work is called that for a reason, it’s not playtime, so whether you own the business, or someone else does, it really makes no difference”. For the record, I sold a business in July 2008 (lucky timing). Since then I have also learned about selling a business for others.
As I have gotten older (I am a youthful age 60 now), I have changed that answer to “for me, work is all about three things: Earn, Learn, Have Fun”. I am no longer interested in career advancement, or degrees, or “building my resume” (mine is already 2 pages – who wants to read more than that?). I even shy way from most certifications, unless I see a very clear and quick ROI. I don’t have time for the “10 year pay off”, as I may have had when I was age 30 or 40.
What I mean is that work should pay money, otherwise it is a hobby or a volunteer gig (both valuable, but not the same as working for money). Work can also be owning a lousy business (a bad job you happen to own). In addition, there is a real difference in how you feel when someone says “thanks for doing that” versus “here is your money, thanks for a good job”. Since selling my business, I have been a business partner in exit planning, sales consultant to several organizations, management consultant to small businesses, business broker, and sales director for a start-up. I found a way to earn money. Whether I got a paycheck, a commission check, or simply my monthly fee – it really all became cold, hard cash. While a “boss” could pay me (or fire me), so could customers. All part of earning.
Even nearly 40 years into my business career, there is still a lot I can learn – if I allow myself time to do it. If I keep doing the same type of work in the same industry (or even the same way), there is a risk that it could become boring, leading to burn-out, or worse. So I always try to keep myself open to new methods/ideas in business, especially sales and marketing. Over this time, I have learned a ton, such as business exit planning, coaching small business owners, creating sales processes, doing business valuations and selling businesses, self-publishing books, as well as selling goods and services online. Anytime I find myself saying, “I need to learn more about that” – I start looking for people who do “that” and then where/how they learned to do “that”.
Earlier, I said that work is called that for a reason. Still true, but that does not preclude having fun while we do it. Not every day is going to be fun (retired friends who are being honest, will say the same thing by the way), and certainly many work tasks are not fun, but I find that looking for the funny part of the work always lightens the load. As a natural story-teller, I try to listen to what others are describing as their challenge and then say “that reminds me of a story…” Many of my stories have a funny moment or two (sometimes at my expense), but still get the point across. Other times, if I know the meeting subject might be dry, I try to start out with a funny comment or two, just to loosen people up When I left my last gig, in our “farewell Zoom call”, more than one person said that they would miss my funny stories the most. Part of me felt glad for that, another part felt like saying, “wait, doesn’t everyone think that way?”, but of course I know better. (Another colleague there said “I will miss you being our Work Dad – THAT makes you feel old).
You get to choose
To be fair, some people may feel that they are trapped in their jobs (or worse, in a business they own and can’t stand), but the truth is we all have a choice to change what we do for paid work. Most of us also can change where we live and how we spend money, which impacts how much we “need” to earn. For me, I try to approach each new gig as a way to Earn, Learn, and Have Fun – (maybe I will start a hashtag #earnlearnhavefun)…
The bigger question I have for you is, “What is your choice?”.
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