When you own your own business, it's often your vocation and avocation. In a word — it's your life.
When it comes time to move on from your business and retire, though, this can be a problem. Too many business owners fail to take the necessary planning steps to transition their companies to the next generation of leaders, waiting until the last second to relinquish control. It's not because of ignorance, and it's not because of laziness.
A recent survey found that 80% of business owners believe that a successful transition will come from planning and action items. But only 38% of owners have taken steps to plan their succession. Why? The answer is emotion. Entrepreneurs, understandably, are emotionally connected to their businesses. Many have few outside hobbies, for running a business is more than a full-time job. Not having a passion outside of work, however, is one of the main reasons business owners have such a difficult time letting go. If you don't have a hobby, and you plan to retire from your business soon, it's time to get one.
Give Yourself Permission
For many business owners, having a hobby outside of work isn't just difficult because of lack of time — they experience feelings of guilt if they are not spending every waking hour managing the business. The first step in successfully transitioning out of your business is giving yourself permission to enjoy a personal hobby outside of work.
Don't go cold turkey — start small. Spend a day a week outside of the office, trying out new hobbies, spending time with your family, or connecting with old friends. Planning to transition out of your business takes years, not months, so you'll have plenty of time to discover a new passion. Letting go can be painful, but it's necessary. The more important you are to your business, the less valuable it will be after you're gone. Breaking away slowly will allow you to gradually transfer power while simultaneously becoming more comfortable with your newfound freedom.
Find Something to Get Excited About
Your business is your passion. Now it's time to transfer that passion into something else. Explore a variety of activities that fit your personality. If you are a social person, find something that involves spending time with people — be it joining an active group or volunteering with a local charity. If you're driven by competition in business, find competition for pleasure — golf, racing, poker, etc.
Perhaps you're ready to leave your business, but not business altogether. Try becoming a mentor to a younger businessperson. Whatever you choose, it may take some time to embrace your new life.
Behavior is much easier to change than feelings, but eventually you will embrace and enjoy your new direction. As you begin your transition, remember to always be present in what you are doing. You don't want to be thinking about purchase orders in the middle of your back swing. And when you take time off, really take time off. No phone calls, emails or texts. No popping into the office to see what's going on.
A smooth business transition takes about five to 10 years. Start “leaving” your business in steps — take vacations, work remotely, come in later, exercise, take a class, allow yourself to think differently. You — and your business — will be better off in the end.