By Rachel Dupont, Marketing Director, Calder Capital, LLC

 

While recently celebrating a successfully closed deal with a client of ours, the client introduced himself to a member of our staff he had not yet met, saying, “I’m Tom. I used to be a business owner.”

At this point, Tom had been a former-business-owner for about 4 days.

What was apparent in his tone was one central emotion: Relief. He seemed happy, and why shouldn’t he? He had just sold not one but three companies that he’d been running for a decade and a half. He sold his companies by choice, when they were in good positions, and when he was ready to step down. The companies were on the market for less than three months before the right buyers offered all cash for the bundle. For an owner and founder deciding to hand over his companies, Tim occupied the ultimate sweet spot.

 

And yet, the sale of a company may not feel like an epic unburdening to every business owner who decides to put their business on the market. Even Tim’s emotions were probably more nuanced and complex than just an awash of relief. So what about the business owner who exits because the company is in distress and there’s no other way to avoid financial ruin? Or the business owner who has been in one industry since they were a teenager, and it is all they’ve known?

It’s pretty common knowledge that major life events can often be triggers for anxiety and depression. These events can include both the good ones and the bad–from graduating college, getting married, having a baby, moving, and changing jobs, all the way to losing a loved one or receiving a difficult diagnosis.

It’s easy for us to forget to allow ourselves space for complex needs when we undergo the less universal major changes that can also fall into this category–like handing over your business. No matter the circumstances of putting your company on the market, whether you’re wanting to transition to a new career, or retire, or even unburden yourself from the responsibility, it’s still a life-changing decision. And while we’re not experts on grief, we have helped a lot of business owners through these steps, and we’ll do our best to guide you through it as well.

If you zoom out, it makes perfect sense why selling your business is stressful. Firstly, there are all the practical issues to sort out, like finding the right buyer, managing all of the logistics (financial and otherwise) of the sales process, and dealing with long-term staff’s feelings of anxiety, and managing your own emotions through a transition.

Rewriting your identity. If you started the business that you’re now choosing to sell, or even if you didn’t start it but you’ve been the main operator for a good chunk of time, letting go of it can mean more than just a career change or a transition into retirement. You’ll probably need to wrestle with some hard questions: Who am I without this thing that’s occupied so much of my headspace for so long? What is my purpose if I’m no longer putting all of my focus and energy into my business? How do I fill my time from day to day?

Caption: “Make a plan for after you’ve sold your business, so that you’re not staring into an abyss of empty time.”

If selling your business also means retiring, then you’ve got a Stressful Life Event Squared. Sure, retirement is awesome–who doesn’t dream of not having to go to work some days? Well, a lot of people. No matter what a relief it is to shed your past responsibilities, it can also feel like you’re jumping off of a high dive and hoping there’s a pool beneath you. Looking ahead at all those empty days can actually be quite daunting, especially if you’re used to working 60+ hours per week and having recurring dreams about your company’s needs as soon as your head hits the pillow.

Redefining your community. Especially if you spend a great deal of time on the site of your business, it’s likely that much of your social life has been forged by your business and its industry. Maybe your employees feel more like family, and you don’t know how not to talk shop. Transitioning out of the company can be a lonely business, and you may feel at times like you’ve lost all your people.

Loss. A lot of business owners have compared selling their company to the grief of a divorce or losing a member of their immediate family. You’ve watched your company evolve and take shape over the years. You’ve cultivated it, you’ve had big dreams for it, and you’ve hopefully watched those dreams come to fruition. Now you’re trying to find a person who will invest as much of themselves into it as you yourself would, and in fact, already did.

Now that you’re thoroughly depressed, let’s talk about how it gets better, and how to make it through the transition as painlessly as possible.

 

How We Can Help

Marketing your business. Those who have engaged with Calder Capital know that there’s a little bit of homework involved, in the form of questionnaires and extensive conversations between key business operators and our advisors. But this work isn’t done in a vacuum. Our advisors and marketing staff will take a few days to learn the ins and outs of your company. Buyers love a story, so we do our best to build it, with all the insight you’re able to provide us with. You’ve had years, maybe even decades with this company? We want to hear all about it. Once we’ve learned as much as we can, we’ll put together a beautiful and professional comprehensive marketing package, which buyers can have access to only after they’ve signed a non-disclosure.

Finding the right buyer. While we can’t clone you to make a manufactured business owner who shares your vision but is thirty years younger with a boatload of capital, and while we don’t always find a buyer who can drop all cash in their offer, we absolutely find the best buyers for both your financial future and the continuity of your company.

We don’t just list your business and then kick back with a cold one and wait for the phone to ring. We will confidentially and aggressively market your company to individual, strategic, and investment firm buyers who are looking for a company just like yours. You’ve heard of dating sites? We use similar concepts to mine information from business-minded folks who are on the lookout for a new opportunity. We’ll match potential buyers with your industry, location, asking price range, experience, and more, to make sure we find you the right fit. And then we crack open that cold one.

Handling logistics. Look, we get it. Selling your company is a lot, even apart from all of the real estate, banking, legality, licensing, transitioning–all of it. That’s why Calder Capital’s business brokers in Grand Rapids, MI will do everything we can to make the process go smoothly, so that you can focus on your personal transition just as much as your business transition.

 

How You Can Help

Give yourself something to look forward to. Whether it’s a mostly happy change or the most difficult one, or even undecided, it helps to have a plan. Maybe there’s a trip you’ve been dreaming up but haven’t taken because your business can’t spare you for more than a day or two. Maybe there’s a hobby or project you’ve been too tired and stressed to take up. Maybe you’ve been wanting to start a dubstep band. Whatever it is, don’t stop dreaming! Make a plan to tackle the next new phase of your life, in the best and most exciting way possible.

Caption: If you’ve never made a “bucket list,” this is a good way to feel grounded during a hard transition like exiting your business.

Cut yourself some slack. It’s easy to forget that everything you’re experiencing is a normal reaction to stress, anxiety, and transition. Don’t forget to take it easy on yourself. Drink water. Get enough sleep.

Make sure you have some support. A lot of folks have gone through the selling of a business, even if it’s not a universal milestone. Reach out to friends and family or former business owners who can support you through the process. We all need some help sometimes.

And of course, our team has seen it all, and we want to help our clients through this transitional time. It’s a big part of why we do what we do.