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The Emotions of Selling a Business

Erik Sullivan

Sellers Seller Articles Seller FAQ

When Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins returned to earth after landing on the moon, life was far from perfect. Both Aldrin and Armstrong struggled to adjust to their new lives in the spotlight after their mission, developing severe depression. 

And they weren't the only ones.

In his book Out of the Darkness: From Turmoil to Transformation, psychologist Dr. Steve Taylor interviewed these astronauts and many others about returning from a mission to space. Taylor wanted to uncover why these driven individuals were experiencing so much negative emotion following their successful mission. 

"If you're an astronaut your whole life is geared towards a mission, and once the mission is over, in a sense your purpose could be taken away from you." says Taylor. 

Astronaut on the moon

"You could probably compare it to something like boxing – a lot of boxers who retire suffer from a sense of disorientation. They don't know what to do with themselves and become depressed."

Aldrin and Armstrong dedicated their lives to reaching the moon. After that goal was achieved, the astronauts lost their purpose.

What does all this have to do with you?

As a business owner, chances are you've worked tirelessly toward your goals for many years. You've taken on the risks and challenges, believed in yourself when others didn't, and worked your heart out to succeed.

You feel an incredible sense of pride for building a successful business, a feat not many accomplish. By now, you and your business have become synonymous. Everyone in the community knows you as "the owner of XYZ Company". 

We love to interview our clients about their experience with our company. We ask questions about the process, about our services, and if they have any regrets about selling. 

One of the most common things we hear is: "I wish I had been better prepared for the emotional impact of selling my business."

Running a business and watching it grow has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life. 

Don't wait for the emotions of selling to sneak up on you. Use these helpful tips to help get you through the process. 

1. Find Your Next Mission

As you begin thinking about selling your business, you think about what the next mission is going to be. 

Just like the astronauts, you need a new mission once you sell your business. This is very personal to each and every business owner. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to start another business (or go to space), but you should be planning to do something inspiring and exciting.

Your next mission could be to focus on your health, travel, volunteer, spend time with grandchildren, get a boat, relocate to a warmer climate, or start a dog training service - you name it! Just make sure it is something you're looking forward to. 

2. Hold on For The Ride

Business owners use the phrase "Roller Coaster" all the time when describing their emotions when selling. One minute you can't wait to sell your business, and the next you don't know what you'd do without it. This is completely normal.

roller coaster of emotions

Be aware that the closer you get to closing, the more intense these feelings are going to become. Brace yourself, stay positive, and hold on for the ride. 

3. Employee Relationships

For many business owners, damaging their relationships with employees is a big fear when selling. After all, you've developed close friendships over the years and your employees are a big part of the company's success. One of your priorities should be leaving them in good hands with a great new owner. 

Make sure your broker is aware this is important for you. Different buyers have different needs, and some will value your employees more than others. The good news is that you will ultimately be in control of who buys the business, so choose someone you feel will take care of your people.

Right after the business is sold, you'll be spending time training the new owner. Use the time to help your employees transition smoothly. Most clients say this training time is cathartic for both them and their employees.

4. Plan Your Finances

A huge source of anxiety for sellers is financial. We advise our clients to meet with their financial planner following a sale, or find a fee-only financial planner with a great reputation to help organize their future goals.

Laying out where you are financially and making a plan for the future will help you clear up the uncertainty of life after selling your business. It's a crucial step to a successful sale.

Overall, selling your business is not an easy process. Emotions are just one of the many difficulties you will face along the way.

Prepare ahead of time as much as you can by talking with your business broker a year or more in advance. The more prepared you are, the smoother your deal will go and the less stress you will feel.

If you'd like to discuss selling your business or have any other questions, contact us today.

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