Exiting Your Business: Do You Listen to Your Head or Your Heart?

The signs dictating when a business owner should exit are subtle. Unlike a professional athlete, the body doesn’t break down or the ability to thrive on the court diminishes. Instead, you have to take a high level view at market conditions, the financial position of the company, internal economics and the owner’s drive to continue the daily fight running the company. 

Timing the exit of your business is more of an art in that sense.

Without the cut and dry indications for the exit, the decision to exit will not be easy to make. As the Chief Decision Officer of the company, you will waiver to exit now or wait. You will feel the pull of emotions. It will be painful to walk away from the company you dedicated your life to. Yet you have to balance emotions with what’s right for the company.

It’s the classic internal struggle between the head and the heart. That same struggle, rarely resulting in an objective decision, is why we advice against a lawyer representing himself or a doctor diagnosing herself. Emotions play too strongly into the picture, outweighing practical advice.

Which brings me to the question, “Do you listen to your head or your heart when exiting your business?”

Unfortunately there is no clear answer I can give you. 

Your heart, dedication, endless optimism and pure determination are what brought the company to where it is today. Yet the other key aspect was relying on good council. You succeeded by balancing the heart’s passion with the solid strategic advice of the head.

You’ll have no shortage of heart when approaching your exit. Now it’s time to educate yourself on the process and timing of an exit. Learn from experts, read articles on the topic, consult friends who have exited their business, review your plans with service provides, find a coach and work with consultants. 

Good professional advice is a wonderful asset in your toolbox. They are the key components of giving your head the tools to approach such an important decision. As in all decisions, the more information you have the more informed decision you can make.

While the head and the heart will never fully align, it’s essential to work to create the best mix of the two as possible. Just as every other major decision in your business career was made prior to this one, you have to just struggle with it. 

I’ll be honest though. At no point will your business exit be easy.

If you’re completely honest, you know your heart will always be with the business. Your head is telling you to start planning your exit, or possibly even leave now. The key is to come to the best decision possible in your unique situation.

Now for the hard truth of the matter.

You won’t be objective when consulting with the experts you work with.

It’s impossible to be completely receptive to someone else advising on your business, or your life. Try to listen with an open mind. If you chose experienced professionals, this is their specialty. That’s why you are working with them. Take their advice into serious consideration.

Trust that they know what they are doing.

I’m continually amazed at owners who asked for advice, general information or suggestions and then argue with me about my perspective.

Now I want to be clear. I’m not right, but I’m not wrong either. 

What I can tell you is that I am more objective and have much more experience navigating business exits, transitions and developing succession plans for family businesses. That’s why my clients work with me. Together we work to align what the heart wants with what the head knows is best for the business.

It’s the closest to balancing your head and your heart that you can achieve throughout this process. 

There will be regrets. There’s no denying that. No one ever said business is easy. The same is true for leaving. The connection an owner has with their business is a bond that can never be broken.

Yet at some point, you know that you must leave. The biggest regret you will have is not taking the necessary time to narrow in on your goals early in the process.

It’s time to realize that your exit is approaching sooner than not. The key is to start planning early enough that you can define your goals for the exit and build a roadmap to achieve it. To start to developing your exit planning, contact me today.