How might you view your successful exit from the company you have spent so much effort to build?
You’ve worked hard for years to reach the payoff, and the money sure looks good as you contemplate the wire transfer to come, and then watch your bank account fill to a level you only dreamed of during those rough cash flow years. You might even allow yourself to admit that you almost lost it all several times during this long run, and that only you knew how close you came to the abyss. But you did make it, and that’s what counts.
Your set of complex emotions
Whether the exit was as large as you hoped, or whether your goals of taking care of all the people who helped you get to this point were realized, the exit itself generates a complex set of emotions in all of us.
First there comes a sense of relief and maybe guilt.
You no longer need to worry over daily cash or threats to your net worth. Then you experience a feeling of guilt when you realize that not all your early associates share the same outcome, either financially or perhaps with their continued employment with the buyer.
Then the money…
Then you focus on the money in your bank account, smiling at the accomplishment of accumulating assets that are tangible and can be valued, perhaps for the first time.
[Email readers, continue here…] But what about the pause to celebrate?
What most entrepreneurs fail dramatically at is to celebrate the moment. To celebrate with those who took the journey with you, with those closest to you who sacrificed as you spent those long hours away. To celebrate with your suppliers who helped you, especially during the rough times. To celebrate with your customers, who worry over continuity and look to you for assurances that the transition will not negatively affect them. And to celebrate for yourself, for making it all the way to the finish line.
…and consider those whose exits were not so great.
Not many founders or entrepreneurs do experience the success of a favorable sale of the business they dreamed would make them rich. Many fail multiple times. Some fail in the first year of the attempt. Others are diluted by subsequent investors to the point where there was nothing for them to celebrate at all in a sale.
So, as you prepare to turn over the reins to another; to separate from a business that has become a part of your being, it is time to think of nothing but the good done, the examples set, the positive company culture you leave behind.
Remember the lessons learned, and friendships gained.
As you begin to focus upon the future, remember the emotions, the lessons, the lasting friendships from the past. I often advise managers, CEOs and entrepreneurs always to part on a positive note and never burn the bridges of any past relationship. You’ll never guess whom you’ll meet in your next act, and how they will be able to contribute positively to your next success.
Take time to reach out.
So, celebrate your exit by reaching out to as many of those who’ve helped along the way as you can. Close this chapter of your life on the highest note possible. Take a long breath. Then do as all good entrepreneurs do. Start dreaming of the next big idea. Take with you the best wishes from those in your past and build upon the education you received with this effort.
Here are some thoughts for you.
Write a book. I did. Write a handwritten letter to someone who helped you make it to the finish line. That extra effort will shock and please them. Call an early key employee and take that person to dinner as a thank you for those hard times.
Hit the beach. Pay attention to your family. Think about investments and tax efficiency. Go into a mental dark room and dream about your next act. Take a long breath, or weeks of long breaths. Exhale slowly. This is what a moment of reduced pressure and responsibility feels like. Savor that moment.
Then if it strikes you as right, start the process all over again. May you have only the greatest success in your next act, whatever that is and wherever it takes you.