You’re a family business owner, either first or later generation. Or, you’re a small business owner who has been in business for a decade or more but don’t yet consider yourself a family business owner. In either case, your business has been an important part of your life for a number of years.
So, what does your business mean to you?
Of course, it’s a source of income and perhaps great wealth. It’s allowed your children to go to college, or it’s allowed you and your family to travel, or it’s allowed you to own the home of your dreams, or live the lifestyle you always wanted. It may also have allowed you to feel the gratification of truly serving your customers, or your community through jobs created or donations or sponsorships, for example.
But there’s likely also a much deeper meaning of your business for you. In many ways, your business is an extension of who you are. It’s a reflection of your values and what you stand for. And if you’re a second- or later-generation owner, it will likely also be a reflection of the family values handed down to you by the founder.
When you decide to retire, you are in effect handing off that extension of yourself. The next owner may be your daughter, your son, or another family member, or it may be an outside party. But whoever that new owner is, there’s much meaning and satisfaction in seeing what you’ve created thrive under new leadership. And that’s a reason to celebrate your creation at the time of transition.
Why would I want to celebrate my creation rather than celebrating just the successful sale or transition?
The answer is: Because it’s you!
It’s an extension of you that reflects who you are and what you stand for. In some sense, leaving something that you have poured your heart, your soul, and your energy into is a kind of grieving process. It’s not unlike having a daughter or son graduate from college or get married. You are entering a new phase of your life, just as they are. It can be a time of sadness or a time of celebration, or a bit of both.
Although marriage and college graduation are forms of separation for you and your spouse, they are celebrated as new beginnings for all of you. So, why wouldn’t you celebrate your separation from the business you put so much of yourself into?
As you prepare to retire from your business—your creation—celebrate that creation, as well as celebrating the act of retiring. And use that celebration to reflect on what your business has meant to you and on how it has allowed you to reflect who you are in the many ways you served so well your customers, your employees, your community, and even your suppliers.
So, as you begin your exit and succession planning, be sure to include that celebration of all that you are that is embodied in your business. I’m sure you will find much deep meaning and satisfaction in doing so!