Getting my small business ready for sale. Makes me feel on edge and unsure. After 23 years of running this business I have to stop following my long practiced habits and focus on what’s next – how do I do that?

Thoughts of the Day: Transitioning from small business owner to something else is a process that many people find challenging to get through. Design your future. Make sure you’ve secured the finances you’ll need. Learn about all the ways that business owners sell their businesses when they’re ready to let go. Decide what you want your legacy to be and set yourself on the right path to sell your business.

It’s normal to feel anxious or unsettled when facing the uncertainly that accompanies change.

It’s a big deal to go from the role of business owner to something else. There will likely be feelings of loss. But this can also be an opportunity to explore new possibilities – which is something successful business owners are really good at. Fight the temptation to avoid dealing with the unknowns. It’s normal when feeling stress to retreat to familiar day to day activities. The better solution is to do what successful business owners always do, get on with tackling the unknown.

Create a picture of the next phase of your life after selling the business that is rich and joyful and put yourself center stage. Think about this:
  • What things did you aside as you faced the demands of building and running your business?
  • Who would you like to meet? Or get to know better?
  • What constitutes fun for you?
Do a financial reality check.
  • How much money do you have set aside? How much will you need after your business is sold?
  • What’s the gap between current money that you’ve set aside and your goal for retirement? How can monetizing the business close that gap?
  • What’s the business currently worth? (hint: most business owners don’t actually know the correct answer to this question)
  • What do you know about successfully monetizing a business?

Build a list of things you need to learn about and get to work tackling that list.

Give yourself plenty of time to think about and adjust to the future. Get expert advice along the way. Ideally allow 5 – 10 years to prepare a business for optimum sale. If you’re under the gun and have to do this transition more quickly, surround yourself with advisors who can help you do the things you’re not experienced at doing.

Build a picture of what a successful transition for the business looks like. Ponder these questions.
  • What will happen to your employees when you’re done?
  • What role will family members play in the future? Do they want it? What do they have to do to prepare?
  • You and your business are intertwined right now, based on being together day after day for 23 years. Your identity and the business’ identity are almost one. What do you want for the business when you turn over the reins?
  • What do you care most about inside the business? Who will care for that after you retire from the field?
  • What happens to the great customers? Who will take care of them in the future?
  • What about loyal vendors who’ve been there to help you, and who rely on your company for work? What happens to them?
  • What happens to the positive reputation you’ve worked so hard to build? Does it just disappear, or does it continue on?

Build a picture of a positive transition that takes into account all of the great things you imagine. Then get to work building that reality. Write out your vision. Take action each week to build towards that new future.