By Dave Driscoll
Owning a business can be all-consuming. Your blood, sweat, tears…and hopes, thoughts, and dreams may seem to all be wrapped up in the success of your business. Maintaining a rich, fulfilling life with family, friends, and interests outside of your business can be a challenge – but certainly a worthwhile objective.
Frankly, building and growing a business often takes priority over family time or “me time.” Whether you plan to continue working, pursue a different career path, or retire in a few years, it’s important not to neglect your life beyond business.™
Your life beyond business™ is unique to you. What’s personally meaningful to you…Travel? Community service? A specific cause? Hobbies? What would you do for the next week if you didn’t need to go to the office? Who would you spend more time with? These are not just superficial questions. Don’t wait until you have the time to begin thinking about your priorities and desires. Seriously take stock of what makes you happy, gives you energy, relaxes you, and feels rewarding. Think outside of your neat little box; consider learning or doing something completely new or beyond your comfort zone.
Why is it important to envision your life beyond business™ now?
Your business should not be your only passion – you have much more to share with the world. People who wait until they retire to enjoy life often realize they have no idea how to spend their new-found time. Don’t set yourself up to be bored and miserable.
As you know from building a business, having a vision is useless without a plan. How will you begin carving out more time for the non-business pursuits you enjoy? Which employees can you groom to take on more leadership responsibility? Which tasks should you delegate to others? The most successful businesses are not owner-dependent; instead, the best owners capitalize on their employees’ strengths, empowering and motivating the entire team to work toward the company’s goals.
Don’t avoid the harder questions… Is there a logical successor among your employees or will the next owner need to be found outside the company? Ideally, when would you like to retire or move on to your next pursuit? How much value do you need from your company to fund the lifestyle you want in your next phase of life? (PLEASE consult your financial planner to make sure your expectations vs. resources are realistic!)
Why plan your life beyond business?
Quite simply, it’s far too easy to believe that you are the only one who cares about and/or can ensure the success of your company. Day-to-day, you can become so entangled in putting out fires that strategy and practical planning are ignored – much to the detriment of your business’ long-term health (and yours).
Planning must be put into action! Set measurable benchmarks toward your personal and business goals. Build your business’ value through pragmatic investments in strong leadership, solid cash flow, and sustainable growth. Make sure your historical financials accurately reflect the true value of your company, keeping track of your discretionary spending through the business. Here’s the fun part – take more vacations and be unreachable unless there’s a true emergency; this is the true test of your progress toward eliminating owner-dependence. On the personal side, create and nurture your non-business interests and network of supporters and friends.
Learn from your mentors’ successes and mistakes as they’ve navigated through their careers transitions. Even more importantly, discuss your timeline and needs with your advisors. A team including your attorney, accountant, and financial advisor will help you avoid costly missteps regarding taxes and corporate structure. Start talking to an experienced business broker long before you feel burnt out and your business begins to suffer. Early advice from a broker/advisor with real-life business experience will help maximize the value of your business in the eyes of prospective buyers.
Sometimes, we all need a reminder that there really is more to life than business. Don’t get so caught up on the hamster wheel of business that you forget to enjoy life.
Dave Driscoll is president of Metro Business Advisors, a business brokerage, valuation and exit planning firm helping owners of companies with revenue up to $20 million sell their most valuable asset. Reach Dave at DDriscoll@MetroBusinessAdvisors.com or (314) 303-5600. www.MetroBusinessAdvisors.com