You have no doubt heard this message often - in our blog, from your networking group, from your accountant, your lawyer, from your friends, and family. You have probably told yourself, over and over, that you can’t keep pushing it off. So, why haven’t you started? Why do you procrastinate about exit planning, when you get right to other projects?
One way to get going on a task is to unearth why you are procrastinating. You might say I’m busy running my business. Or, that's the time you have to spend caring for family members or fixing up a house. But these are really excuses, because you do manage to fit in other activities, even things less important than exit planning.
Six reasons stand as the culprits, responsible for most delaying tactics. And, particularly apt for a business owner considering an exit plan, they are all about fear.
1. Fear of Failure
Procrastinating to develop a plan and prepare to sell or transfer your business pretty much guarantees that you will get less money from a sale and more confusion during a transfer. If you have perfectionist tendencies, you could be avoiding making a plan to avoid making mistakes. If results of your business sale are less than stellar, you will then have an excuse. You can say, “I could have retired with plenty of money and allowed my business to thrive with a new owner, if I had bothered to make decisions and take actions early."
2. Fear of Success
You’re busy with your routine now and even when it’s stressful, it’s stress you know and can complain about. What would you complain about if you had a perfect, retirement lifestyle?
You might fear that the new owner, whether a family member, employee, competitor, or a stranger - would make the business more successful than it is now, and that you would be missing out on that success!
3. Fear of Being Alone
If you have been involved with your family or community groups for years, perhaps you are putting off retiring to a different location away from those you care about.
In a weird way, if you have been obsessing over your exit, that process of thinking it over and over in your head without seeking help and taking action, might actually have become a surrogate companion, using up your emotional energy. Putting your exit decisions to rest and moving on with your life, would free you up to other connections and passions - but for now you're stuck.
4. Fear of Attachment
If there are relatives and friends you haven't visited in years, you will lose your excuse not to see them when your business responsibilities are gone. Maybe your business has been protecting you from issues from your past. Or, from the boredom of hanging out with siblings and old pals who are no longer like you, and maybe never were.
5. Fear of Losing Autonomy
But if you are retiring, you might feel that you will be surrendering to a lifestyle and schedule directed by your spouse -- or your daughter or son. You might worry that you will wake up every morning to a long list of household chores. You might fear that you won’t get enough money from your business and you will have to take a menial job and report to a condescending boss.
6. Fear of Criticism
Self-reflection can be painful. That’s why, so far, you've managed to keep busy with business to avoid it. Plus with family, community activities, and TV to distract you, you can actually reward yourself for not taking a hard look at your business and getting it ready to appeal to a new owner.
Is your fear conscious or unconscious?
Talk back to your fears!
Talk back to your fears. Then write write your responses and next steps down. For instance if you are afraid of being criticized for the state of your files, you might tell your fear that paperwork doesn't define you or your business, it just needs to be sorted out. Then, schedule time to face some of the files and start to work on them.
Sometimes, all it takes is visualizing a more positive future and imagining it in detail. For instance, if you are afraid that you won’t enjoy a recreation-based retirement lifestyle, start imagining and talking with family and friends about what you would really like to do for the next stage of your life. If you are afraid of leaving your employees or other business owners on your street, plan to stay involved with the business in some capacity or join a local community organization so you can stay close and provide a useful service.
Now, here are two quick tips for helping you get unblocked from procrastination from whatever the fear source.
Two tips to get unblocked
Second, get a supportive team together, including your accountant, financial advisor, lawyer, and business broker. Together they can help allay fears with options that you may not have realized existed.