It has been over 5 years since the sale of my money management business. I have been loving life on “the other side,” but in truth, I didn’t always feel this way.
For me, it was a long journey to get here.
It all started in 2010. Up until that point, I had spent 30 years in the financial services world, including 20 as a managing partner in my former firm. I knew that I was miserable in the business, but I had a lot invested in my career.
We had the usual successes and challenges faced by firms our size—market volatility, employee “stuff,” compliance rules, pressure on fees— but fortunately, the former consistently outweighed the latter.
Then, as the years ticked by (faster and faster), our commitment to making decisions that would benefit us when it came time for succession paid off. All the usual stuff that goes into selling a firm was relatively uneventful—due diligence review, operational preparation, and transition and deal structure. It really seemed like we’d done it right.
The problem? Me
The surprise that blindsided me
Right at the critical moment, I started to go through an emotional upheaval. My fear of change kicked in. Big time. I began to get cold feet.
I remember trying to put the emergency brake on, pulling all the tricks in the book to hang onto the firm’s status quo.
- I resisted the financial proposal
- I fretted about what my role and title would be
- I started envisioning scenarios that justified passing on opportunities
Despite how unhappy I was, I even began to imagine how great things could be going forward—without changing a thing! My tension was sky high.
I couldn’t tell what worried me more: that the deal wouldn’t happen…or that it would!
The internal, in-my-head game of emotional tug of war took me entirely by surprise. It was —mental and emotional in-fighting! My self-doubts and fears kicked into overdrive. I was confused that I was suddenly resisting something we had all agreed we wanted, I began to worry that our clients would be upset, and I started to panic that I wouldn’t like the change.
Five years later, I can see clearly what had gone awry: we had only paid conscious attention to the practical aspects of growing and managing a business with the intention of eventually selling it.
We had focused exclusively on the operational and financial—and ignored the emotional.
The Win-Win realization
During a particularly difficult day, I had a huge flash of self-awareness: I needed there to be a Win-Win or there would be no deal.
I’d always felt like a “win-win” gal, but I’d lost that perspective in the swirling emotions of fear, frustration, excitement, and relief that had buffeted me throughout the months of negotiation.
For this sale to work, I realized, I needed to know
It wasn’t the price (although that was a tough one for me to let go of—really tough).
It wasn’t my title.
It wasn’t even the long-term strategy.
My real win was a realization: I did not want to own this business. I was ready for my next chapter.
Hallelujah! Clarity! With this fresh understanding of what I truly wanted out of this sale, I was able to be more receptive to the other participants’ win’s as well. And we got the deal done…win-win style!
When firm owners/shareholders are on the fence about what they want, I get it. —It’s not an easy thing to think about and plan for. But it’s worth it.
My #1 piece of advice? Get started today. Put planning in your calendar and defend the time—get clear on your win!
Is it time to get to the heart of your own win and begin your next chapter? Don’t wait, start today!
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