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Finding a New Purpose After Exit

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 16:04 PM | EXIT & SUCCESSION PLANNING

After the control and profile that comes with being the founder of the business, it’s a major adjustment to step away.

Many of our members prefer to scale rather than sell because it gives them purpose and a focus for their energy. The shift to your business meaning less to you, and you meaning less to your business requires psychological and emotional preparation.

For those with a clear intention to sell, it’s important to look beyond the financial planning to the life choices and future career you want. Even a great exit can be an anti-climax.

Nothing prepares you for leaving your business and losing that power base. It’s like climbing a mountain, reaching the summit, finding nothing, and having to come back down.

Martyn Dawes, founder & former CEO of Coffee Nation, high growth business mentor

A wealth manager can help business owners calculate how much they need to fund their lifestyle aspirations, but founders need to consider their new purpose. “There is an identity associated with founding and running a business; losing that could lead to a vacuum that needs to be filled”, says Rob Douglas, Relationship Manager at RBC Wealth Management - which has launched a Business Essentials digital hub for entrepreneurs. It includes insights from business founders on everything from growing a business to wealth planning and creating an effective selling strategy.

It's too easy to neglect health and wealth when focusing on growth or hitting a target. Lara Morgan built the global brand licensing business, Pacific Direct, over 17 years before selling a majority shareholding for £20m in 2008. Sharing her experiences immediately after selling, Lara explains: “I had this list of stuff to do, like getting my teeth checked, my eyes checked; stuff everyone does but I’d ignored for so long. And surprisingly, managing my new wealth was a challenge in itself.”

Our exited members have built different portfolio careers. Lara Morgan wrote the Amazon best seller More balls than most and shares her experiences as a public speaker and commentator. Early involvement with Start-Up Britain gave her purpose around supporting British enterprise, which led her to become an investor. “This was a good way of dipping my toe back in business, deciding how far in I wanted to go, and which kind, mostly what stage of companies interested me,” she explains.

Some members have highly varied portfolio careers, which need careful management. “Working on lots of different things can be quite hard work and sometimes less fulfilling than building something,” says Martin Spiller, who built Only 4 U to £15m in five years before selling. 

Being in groups like The Supper Club and sharing experiences, both good and bad, is extremely helpful and I make sure that each year I review what has gone well, what hasn’t, and what I can do more of next year

Martin Spiller, CEO of Jenson Solutions

Some members have taken the give and get ethos of The Supper Club out into the wider enterprise community, helping high potential founders as mentors and NEDs; but the transition from founder to adviser can be challenging.

Zack Feather rapidly scaled Asclepius Global to £62m in seven years before selling to Blackstone. He has since become a non-exec for several businesses to help them learn from his experiences. “When you run your own business, you’re very focused on that one thing but now I have to run in 6 or 7 directions, which is mentally hard to deal with,” says Zack. “Board meetings are really hard now as you need a different skill set and need to be much more diplomatic. You have to be almost like a fatherly figure, nurturing more than driving through the process. Culturally, you’re the most senior person in the business; but it’s not yours so you have to keep some distance.”

Like scaling a business, there a range of factors to consider when selling for the best outcome. The Supper Club has produced a guide for those considering a full or partial sale. The Exit Journey features practical insights from members and technical advice from partners for all stages of the process.