June 27, 2022
Written by Monique Borst, entrepreneur and advisor guiding founders and change makers on the parallel track of building, scaling and funding their vision, and growing themselves.
What do you do with the time you have now? How do you infuse your soon to be newly free time and life with purpose and empathy?
The after-the-exit experience is a subject area that is rarely talked about.
In part because it can be very difficult for Founders to vocalize that they’re finding it challenging to adjust after a sudden influx of wealth. It also goes against what we are taught to think and live for as an entrepreneur: build to an exit and it will rain cash forever.
But the transition challenge is real, the sudden lifestyle change that comes with letting go is both an abrupt stop and a fast new learning curve, and the reality is often quite different to the perception, your own as well as others’.
An experience filled with questions, reflection and silence as you face ‘what is it I really want to do with my life now that I have financial freedom?’
It’s a challenge you’re probably not prepared for … and you should be.
Whether you stay on in an advisory capacity post-transaction, maintain a presence on boards, become an angel investor, coast on your savings on a beach in Thailand, donate your business savvy to help non-profits make the world a better place or write a book, life after your final entrepreneurial exit can be whatever you want it to be.
You can do anything, and for some Founders, anything is the most frightening possibility of all.
Here are three areas of focus, questions and considerations, I believe all entrepreneurs must think about when approaching an exit.
Adjustment: Give yourself the same attention you would give a promising new venture
The one thing most Founders don’t give themselves is time to just sit and think. It’s a classic entrepreneur default, used to a business culture that is ‘go go go’.
You would never invest in a company you didn’t vet thoroughly beforehand. Why start working toward a new life before taking time to understand what that life might look like?
You may feel that you have to hurry, but life post-exit doesn’t move as quickly as you were used to. Take time to breathe and think about the things that really matter to you. Consider how much time you have available, how much of that time you want to spend on new ventures, and which parts of your life you’d rather leave in the past.
Avoid filling your time so you don’t have to answer that fundamental question: ‘what do I really want?’.
Be OK doing nothing. Be patient, be led by your deeper motivations, and then create focus.
Understand your work orientation
In my experience, Founders orient to their work as entrepreneurs in primarily two ways.
Those with a self-fortifying orientation focus on themselves and their ideas, they are motivated to achieve personal benefits such as money, learning, and ego gratification, and they view business primarily as a vehicle to get their ideas into the world.
In contrast, with a stewarding founder orientation, Founders are more socially focused, they are motivated by the team journey and having a positive impact on the world, and view business as an important entity worth sustaining.
These different orientations shape how founders psychologically experience and disengage post exit.
For Founders with a self-fortifying orientation it is a process of becoming, whereas for Founders with a stewarding orientation it is a process of unbecoming.
Importantly, these different disengagement paths impact how and when Founders start the next chapter of their lives.
Downsize your options before you choose
Successful exits come with wealth, perhaps more than you know how to use. Instead of allocating half your money to angel investments and riding the wave, see what your life looks like on a tighter budget. You may discover that you don’t need as much as you think.
‘The first thing I did was to leave it alone!’ one Founder told me. ‘I didn’t believe the money was really mine or if there was a hold period where people could take it back. It took 6 months before I truly felt safe, and by that time, the initial excitement had passed and I was able to think more strategically.’
Learning: Surround yourself with people who inspire new growth
Running a business is a dynamic experience that teaches you lessons every day. How you will plug the stimulation gap and continue your journey of lifelong learning?
Many entrepreneurs overlook the psychological benefits of their business, particularly the sense of community and purpose.
As the emails dry up, and the phone stops ringing, you need to build a new network.
If you find that local groups, non-profits or your private members club don’t scratch the itch, consider teaming up with other former business leaders. Look into mentorship at a start-up accelerator, where you can potentially find new investments while practicing your entrepreneurial craft.
Legacy: Winning is different this time
And the most important lesson of all? Legacy.
Winning means something very different the second, third, or tenth time around. The requirement for financial freedom is no longer a key driver. That creates an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve built so far and use your position to fulfil yourself beyond making money. If you’re not quite satisfied, or you feel there’s more to do, you now have the time and means to do something about it.
And a final message: embrace the unknown.
No matter what you do next, you are in charge of your own legacy. Look forward to uncertainty, to being able to navigate, but not plain-sail, to find out what you are capable of doing. You are still in charge of the ship of your life and you can take it wherever you want it to go.
But it is not a journey that any Founder should have to face alone. Navigating those early months can be an unsettling period for anyone, and the challenges of new wealth, taking the next steps and finding your calling are huge life decisions.
Monique is a multi-hyphenate with a background in retail, wellness and hospitality who’s navigated her way from a full-time Managing Director role, to founder of a pioneering food delivery business and food education programme, to a trusted advisor, consultant, and coach. She partners with growth-oriented individuals, teams and organisations seeking real change in the way they and their employees think, improve leadership, agility, resilience and the bottom line, and ultimately flatten the learning curve and minimise risk for investors. Monique knows first-hand the challenges and blocks her clients are facing because she, and the 100+ leaders she has worked with, have experienced them too and the impact they’ll be having, in business and personally.
Monique is interested in how the quality of our relationships shapes the quality of our lives, and she draws on the latest findings in psychology, consumer behaviour and neuroscience. Monique writes about re-imagining leadership in ‘Leadership Squared’ on Substack and is in demand as a speaker and a regular media contributor.
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Richard Millward, Former Client
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Helen Dickinson, Former Client
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Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
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Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
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Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client