By Alex Dodgshon

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The emotional rollercoaster of owning and selling a business

TAGS:  Business Exit Strategies, Exit Planning, Freedom Point, Risk Management, Sellability, Selling a Business, Timing a Business Sale

Do you remember that overwhelming feeling of pride and exhilaration the day you started your business? Were you signing a lease, registering your company name, or shaking hands on that all-important bank loan? Whatever your first memory of starting your business, that day you boarded the emotional entrepreneurial rollercoaster.

I’m sure you’re nodding in agreement when I talk about the ups and downs of building a business. That slow climb towards the first peak can feel like forever, but when you reach the top and launch your business you feel free and on top of the world.

There are thrills and spills, challenges and rewards, and a few unexpected detours along the way. Just like riding a theme park rollercoaster, sometimes you think you’re heading in a clear direction then the ride takes you off in another – the global pandemic being a classic example of an emotional low. Other downs such as losing a key member of staff or a long-term client can really knock you for six. Owning and running a business is an intense emotional journey.


What happens when it’s time to get off the rollercoaster?

Exiting your business is also fraught with emotion – like an unexpected series of humps just as you think you’re about to pull into the station. Most business owners experience some sense of loss on exit. It can be difficult to let go of a project you’ve put so much of yourself into. That’s why having someone objective working alongside you to keep you focused and on track can be beneficial. We work with business owners like you who are ready to plan and prepare to exit their business.

So, here are our eight tips to prepare yourself for the emotional rollercoaster of business exit.


1 Acknowledge that exiting your business will be tough

When you anticipate the emotional rollercoaster that awaits you, it won’t come as a surprise. Research what to expect when selling your business and read other business owners’ stories and experiences. A business exit planning consultant can put you in touch with other people in similar sectors and sizes of business, and with owners who had similar goals and ambitions to yours. There are plenty of people out there willing to offer valuable support.


2 Separate your business from your emotions

Psychologists research suggests entrepreneurs have a profound emotional attachment to their business, similar to a parent/child relationship. It’s all to do with the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and the sense of pleasure and reward business success can bring. It’s important to remember, your business can never love you back, so over-investing emotionally is not particularly healthy.


3 Learn to accept criticism

A strong emotional attachment to your business makes it difficult to accept criticism. When potential buyers pick holes in your business model or their valuation doesn’t match yours this may lead to upset and frustration. A business exit strategist will give you a realistic market valuation and honest feedback to help prepare you for such conversations.


4 Look for people like you

Events, networking and training programmes are an excellent source of support and advice. Connecting with people on similar journeys or who have already sold a business can be a welcome reality check.


5 Accept that your business is not your identity

Creating distance between you and your business is a healthy step towards getting to where you want to be. While your business might be a huge part of who you are and what you do, it’s not the only trait that makes you unique.

Reconnect with the hobbies and activities you enjoyed before you started your business. Spending time with loved ones is also important as they will help to mitigate the sense of loss most business owners feel after exit.

Read Are you a business owner or a business manager?


6 Get clear on your pull factors

If resilience keeps you on the emotional rollercoaster, what makes you want to get off? Every business owner has their individual reasons to exit their business. These are usually a combination of push and pull factors. Push factors are the things you will be glad to leave behind. Pull factors are the exciting things you want to do next, such as go on that dream holiday, take up a new pastime or start a new venture. What will your life look like after your exit?

It’s worth spending time defining your personal pull factors with family and friends and discussing these with a business exit consultant to create your personal exit strategy.


7 Take time to relax and recharge

Your entrepreneurial mind is bursting with ideas. After you’ve decided to exit one  business it can be tempting to start or invest in another. Delay the urge to act immediately.

When you get off the business owner rollercoaster, you will need time to re-energise and reflect on what you’ve achieved. Find something to occupy your mind and body to give them a deserved rest. Then, if you decide another business opportunity is right for you to take, your decision is a considered one.


8 Forget the What ifs

You’ve descended the big dipper and might be feeling a little low. Could you have negotiated harder? Did you get the best sale price? What if you’d waited a little while longer for the markets to improve?

No reliving of events or pondering what might have happened is going to change the outcome. Regrets are a waste of valuable time you could be spending with family and friends and doing the things you love. I refer you back to point 7!


Ask us about PREscore™

If you’re considering exiting your business, a PREscore™ assessment can give you clarity around your personal pull factors and overall readiness to exit. Book a free discovery call to learn more and start planning your business exit strategy.

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