Succession: How to Exit Your Own Business Successfully by Creating Continual Purpose

Without question, one of the biggest challenges that brings family business clients to us is the difficulty that owners- and founders especially- have in exiting the business. Though as an owner, you are not always immediately conscious of this. When your identity has been so deeply tied into the business you may feel purposeless without it. As a result, this subconscious grip you have on the business leads to many of the roadblocks that come up during a succession process.

As a martial artist, I have always had an interest in Japanese culture and way of life. The book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life dives into bringing joy and meaning into your life every single day. The Japanese don’t talk about retirement. They believe in making purposeful contribution for your entire life. Similarly, a trait that all people in the Blue Zones share is this same sense of life purpose.

But we have this very backwards in Western culture. The norm seems to be devoting your life to your business, often at the expense of what is truly important to you (like family, relationships, life experiences etc.). When the golden retirement and succession age finally comes you, A: are too engrained in the business to fully enjoy life post succession or B: have little time left and potentially many regrets about the way you lived your life. Often your business IS your purpose, rather than your business being BASED on your purpose and the succession process removes this.

However, our lives are far too short to live by this model.

A Solution

In the work we do, the solution to this problem is a continuous purpose that is a thread throughout every area of your life. Your purpose should be something that ties into your core values and is carried into any of your future endeavors. Yes, even after you eventually leave the business behind.

As an example, a past client of mine came to me to work through the sale of his business. In our work he was able to identify that his purpose was tied to growth. Once we clarified what this meant, he was able to move on from the business he had grown so successfully. It allowed him to go into his second act and onto other endeavors centered on helping other businesses and leaders grow.

Below are 3 steps to use so that you can identify and live your purpose beyond your business so that your exit or succession leaves you, your business, and your family in an even better place.

Number One: Identify Your Core Values

If someone asked you right now for the top 3 values that you live by, would you know what they are? Would you know how they tie into your day-to-day life or how much time, money, and energy you spend on them? For most people, the answer to this is no. When our lives, businesses, and overall contribution is in alignment with our values our lives are infinity more purposeful and fulfilling.

My personal core values are my relationship with God, family, and personal heath and wellness. With this clarity I am able to ensure that my business always supports these values for myself and for my clients.

We have created a values survey that can help you narrow down your top 3. You can find it included in our Vision Workbook here. More on the workbook in the next step.

Once you are clear on your values, do an audit for 5-7 days on how much of your time, money and energy is spent in alignment with your values. This is an extremely useful exercise.

Number Two: Clarify Your Vision for Your Business and Your Life

I’d like to share a personal story to highlight the importance of this step. In 2018, one of my heroes, Ken Yonker, passed away at the age of 99 years young. Ken was my grandfather, and I was honored to have known him so well. He was a very important fixture in my life all the way up to the end.

In early 2018–several months before Ken passed on–I was able to spend time with him over the course of a couple of days. We talked quite a bit about his life experiences. The highs and lows, moments of gratitude, a few regrets, etc. The precious time we spent chatting reminded me of the work that a hospice nurse did many years ago. She interviewed folks at the end of their lives and documented their regrets. It was a powerful study.

The Book of Your Life

Imagine that you have a blank book and a pen and you get to construct your life’s masterpiece. Now comes the “big” question: How would you like to design it? As for my grandfather, there is a major lesson that still lives with me today from our conversations and his experience in 2018. That is that I do not wish to live without a good quality of life, without a purpose.

The term “quality of life” is most often used in the context of end of life; often when talking about folks who lost some type of physical or mental function or faculty. I would like to present, for your consideration a different idea. That is that quality of life could be a 360-degree definition of how you would like your life to look. Both personally and professionally. And how your purpose ties into that.

I have studied personal development and life mastery for over twenty years now. I have also worked with clients as a Life Coach and Business Consultant. In doing this, I have thoroughly proven that the more clarity we have in what we want from life, the more probability it has to become a reality.

Those who dedicate the effort to spend time on crafting their Vision will experience the rewards from doing so. Because life after succession is about choosing where we put our time and energy. The end of life discussion with my grandfather completely reinforced the truth that life is constructed of the experiences and memories we make.

Number Three: Create Space in Your Schedule for Joy

I have a good friend who chose to follow his passions in the 2nd act of his life. (You can hear his full story in this podcast episode, From Renewable Energy to European Wine Bar- Architecting Your Second Act.) In the episode he talks about the process he went though to figure out what he wanted to do next.

One of the things he did to prepare for the exit from his business was take two months off to cycle across the country. Those 3,800 miles gave him space and time to dedicate to joy. He could clear his headspace and meditate on his big ideas. Additionally, he stayed open to ideas that were interesting to him. To ideas that were fun and brought him joy. Ones that provided value to his community and him with his sense of purpose.

Your space doesn’t have to look like a cross country cycling trip. (Though I do encourage you to take a long stretch if possible). For instance, it could be a few hours throughout your week to step away from the business completely. Make sure this time is dedicated, intentional time to simply enjoy your life with no other agenda.

In conclusion, with a clear sense of purpose, your succession process and second act could even be the greatest years of your life thus far.

If you would like more help or resources on this topic please feel free to reach out below.

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