There are few things that are as simultaneously thrilling and terrifying as selling a business and moving on to a new stage in your life. As the fateful moment nears, you start looking ahead, thinking about what might come next and possibly second-guessing your decision to sell.
And if you have any affection for the business (maybe you created it to begin with), then you’ll find old memories catching up with you — all the good moments that will make you miss the business, and all the hardships that will leave you glad to be rid of it. It’s a tricky experience.
But though you can’t find any guarantees that everything is going to work out optimally, you can get your head in the right place, helping to make the transition smooth and positive. Here’s how you can mentally prepare for exit success:
Envision the worst-case scenario
This might seem like a strange thing to start with. After all, you’re looking to assuage your fears and anxieties, not add to them. But that’s what this is for. More than anything else, we fear what we don’t know or don’t understand, and working out the worst-case scenario will achieve two important things:
- Giving you an idea of how you might respond. There’s an excellent chance that the realistic worst-case scenario isn’t actually that bad, and that it’s a situation you could redeem if you acted sensibly. If the sale falls through, for instance, it won’t be the end. Pick yourself up and try again.
- Placing minor setbacks in the proper context. If you think only about perfect success, then a slight inconvenience might feel like a failure. Envisioning a disaster will make it easier to shrug off the comparatively-trivial obstacles. Maybe you don’t quite get the valuation method you were hoping for, but it doesn’t ultimately faze you.
You only need to do this once, and you definitely don’t need to linger on it and let it sap your spirit. It’s a simple practical exercise to get you ready to deal with whatever comes your way.
Identify the things you can control
We like to think that we’re the masters of our destinies, but in reality there are so many factors that we simply cannot control. We still worry about them, of course, and that’s a major problem when we’re trying to move ahead productively.
That’s why it’s important to review everything that will factor into your sale and focus entirely on the things that you can do something about. Your tone, for instance, is entirely up to you — you can seem upbeat and optimistic, or sour and petulant. And the work you put into preparation (creating your sales memorandum, researching marketing opportunities, etc.) is yours to determine.
But things like the current state of the business-for-sale marketplace are beyond your influence. You can ready yourself for every eventuality, but that’s really it, so try to find a way to rid yourself of stress about anything you can’t change.
Casually explore new ideas
It’s all too easy to become myopic when you’ve decided where your efforts are going to go in the coming months. With a plan laid out in stages, you can fall into the trap of letting your thoughts stagnate, which won’t prove helpful when your plan comes to fruition and you’re suddenly back in a position of needing to regularly make ad-hoc decisions.
Accordingly, ongoing education will help you enormously. It will help you pick up new ideas that you can apply to your post-exit plan, and swell your confidence by reminding you that you have the adaptability to flourish in any situation. Podcasts are perfect for keeping your mind sharp, and fields such as marketing (5 Minute Marketing, Marketing Speak) or growth-hacking (Hack the Entrepreneur, Hack to Start) are ideal for business sellers with grand aspirations.
You don’t need to take this too seriously, of course — you’re not preparing for a test, and you don’t want to pack your schedule with so much research that you become exhausted. Just find simple ways to keep your thoughts fresh.
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Mindfulness is all about staying in the present, and that might seem contradictory in light of the things we’ve already looked at (thinking in detail about the future), but you don’t have to do all of these things at once! Rather, aim to avoid getting ahead of yourself, regardless of whether it stems from hope or fear. For support and inspiration, try podcasts such as 10% Happier or Untangle.
The present moment is extremely important — really, it’s all we ever have. Focus on breathing well, maintaining good habits, and keeping your mood stable. If you can take it seriously, try meditating, as it works wonders for some people. The more ingrained you make these healthy tendencies, the more easily you’ll be able to continue them when the time comes to move on from the old business.
Successfully selling a business is a huge step, but if you don’t have the right mindset throughout the process, you might miss out on some opportunities and find yourself slightly lost when it’s all done. Try these mental preparation techniques to make the sale as seamless as possible and set you up for continuing success. Good luck!
About the author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest entrepreneurial news and side hustle tips. Follow us on Twitter: @getmicrostarted.