As an entrepreneur, you start a business with the goal of some day selling it and getting a big payoff. You devote your entire life to making it a success, working your guts out, putting in crazy hours and making many sacrifices to grow your company. Then one day that payoff finally comes, and you suddenly realize that your goal had been to take your business to a successful exit and you have no idea what the heck is supposed to come next.At least this was my experience.
Going Through the Sale of My Company
The process of selling the company became all-consuming. All of my time was spent in due diligence and negotiations, not to mention the endless review of legal documents needed for the closing. Through all of that I was determined not to let my mind think past the closing itself. I didn’t want to allow myself to get emotionally attached to having the deal close as I knew that would weaken my ability to negotiate the best terms. Especially where I had seen other entrepreneurs who became so excited about life after the sale that the closer they came to having their deals close, the less objective they were in the negotiations. In their eagerness they became willing to give away too much.
Signing the closing deal documents with my amazing executive team (after countless days of no sleep, which shows!)
While this strategy helped me tremendously to keep a level head throughout the acquisition, the one area it hurt me was in my emotional preparedness for life after the closing. Instinctively I knew that the day I signed the closing papers it would no longer be my company and I knew that everything I had built for so many years was now going to belong to someone else. I knew all of that in my head, but I don’t know if I was prepared for it in my heart. I suppose most entrepreneurs aren’t prepared for the emotions they will experience as they sell their business, because it’s hard to comprehend exactly how it will feel until you actually go through it for the first time. However, I will try to put into words how it felt for me in the hopes of helping the next person who will walk this same path I have.
Letting Your Baby Grow Up and Move On
What did it feel like to sell the company? There is a sense of excitement and accomplishment for achieving your ultimate goal as an entrepreneur. At the same time there is a sense of sadness and loss. The best comparison I can think of would be that feeling of sending a child off to college for the first time. Similar to raising your children, you put your heart and your soul into preparing the company to go on without you and succeed on its own. You just hope and pray that you have done enough to prepare the team to be okay on their own. There is no question that it is a very unsettling feeling, but deep down you have to trust that you have done everything you can for them and know that they will grow even more once they don’t have you to rely on anymore. Then you pray that you have left a positive legacy of leadership behind.
Dealing With Your Own Identity
I have been the CEO of my own business for so long that once we sold, it was definitely disconcerting to realize that I had to figure out who I was now that it wasn’t my business any longer. In the months following the sale I began to ponder what I wanted my future to be. There was no denying that it feels different to know that you are building a business for someone else, rather than for your own team. And let’s be honest – entrepreneurs by nature are people who have been willing to bank their entire lives on themselves. They are willing to take risks that depend on THEM, because deep down they trust themselves and therefore they don’t see it as risky. But entrepreneurs are not comfortable letting someone else take the reins, which is why they start and run their own companies in the first place. As I came to recognize how I was feeling about things I decided that it was time for me to step out and once again bet on myself. This time I wanted to bet on myself doing something I had always dreamed about. After all, what was the point of working so hard in order to have a payout if I wasn’t going to use that freedom to pursue something that I had always dreamed about doing?
Why Not Retire?
I woke up the day after I had left my company at 6:30am and hit the ground running in order to launch my next venture. I had a website to build, a new office to build-out, contracts to setup, and meetings to attend. The fact was that I didn’t know how to stand still. Let’s face it, I am an entrepreneur. It’s in my blood. My Grandfather Rees was an entrepreneur through and through and his DNA clearly found its way to me. I have come to recognize that I am who I am and there is no point in fighting it, so I may as well embrace it and move forward with accomplishing the next seemingly insurmountable goal in my life, because that is what entrepreneurs do!
Starting My Next Chapter
I have always dreamed of taking everything I have learned as an entrepreneur – my failures, my successes, the leadership principles I learned, and the strategies that ultimately led to my success – and teach those to other entrepreneurs so that perhaps they can get there faster and easier than I did. Consider how much more successful they would be if they didn’t have to learn the same hard lessons I had to learn along the way? What better way to make your trials in life count for something positive than by using them to help others? That is what led me to launch REES Capital (www.reescapital.com ), a mentor capital and angel investing firm. I want everything I have learned to extend well beyond myself so I am not just affecting one company’s employees by being their leader, but affecting employees from numerous companies because I have been able to teach the lessons I learned to each of their leaders.
Yes, there is life after selling your business, and for an entrepreneur it is a life filled with even larger and more meaningful goals yet to be accomplished, because we are simply not satisfied to think small.
"There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” - Nelson Mandela