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Paula Fargo

Sign Company Owners, What’s Your Magnet?

If you want to sell your shop, you need something to pull you away.

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PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

LAST MONTH WE listed the most popular options for selling your signshop. Before we go down the rabbit hole of exploring the myriad alternatives, how about we focus first on why you want to consider this dramatic step.

Summarizing some of the biggies, we’ve got:

  • Enjoying the fruits of your labor while you’re still physically able to do so
  • Lack of continuing enthusiasm
  • Poor health
  • Taking your chips off the table
  • No longer wanting to reinvest
  • New, tough competition has entered your market
  • Struggling to find good help for the shop, replacing exiting employees
  • Tiring of the day-to-day grind
  • Wanting to be off the hamster wheel

Any or all of these are legitimate reasons for wanting out, and no doubt you’ve got some I haven’t even considered.

I’ll boldly state that none of these are good enough reasons to drive you to sell your business and retire. The above list are all factors you are trying to get away from.

To improve your odds of having a successful transition out of the business, you also need a “magnet” to pull you toward your next chapter.

In his fantastic book Half Retire, author, speaker and business owner Jim Muelhausen lays out the cold, hard facts: If you don’t have a magnet drawing you away from your business, you will continue to be drawn back to it, and unable to make a pleasant transition to your next phase in life.

What are some magnets to draw you toward your next chapter?

  • The love of travel and the ability to take trips without being contacted by the shop
  • The opportunity to spend more time with family, maybe grandchildren or elderly parents
  • A slew of hobbies you’ve never been able to indulge to your heart’s content because of work obligations
  • The desire to try a new or different career or industry, or learn a new skill or area of expertise
  • A need to improve your physical health by reducing stress and modifying your lifestyle
  • The craving to give back to your community by volunteering
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There are as many different magnets as there are poor, beleaguered and put-upon signshop owners out there. But listen, this is the fun stuff! As small business owners, we are constantly thinking about others — clients, employees, vendors, competitors. Here’s your chance to finally think about what you want and what you need and what you look forward to. Everything I’ve read about this leads me to believe that the better and stronger your magnet, the more positive your transition away from business owner will be.

In later columns, I’ll go over things you can do to transition your business more successfully to its new owner — things like cheat sheets, process documentation, one-on-one employee meetings and a training schedule. Some of these can even be done prior to selling your business to make for an even smoother takeover.

It’s also vital to remember that, once you sell your business, it’s no longer yours. Changing the pronoun “ours” to “yours” is challenging, but important (as in “this is your desk, these are your employees”). During the training period, when you see circumstances that you know will turn into problems based on your experience, it is not up to you to fix them. If you see the new owner doing something differently from the way you would do it, that is their prerogative and not necessarily something you need to address.

I’m talking about mentally distancing yourself from what has been your “home” for many years or even decades. It takes discipline and determination, and causes not a little bit of sadness. At the end of the day, it’s healthiest for you and for the new owner, as well as the best way for everyone, to move forward from this major change.

As we journey farther along in these columns, I’ll let you know some of my trials, tribulations and victories, both small and large, which hopefully will allow you to avoid some of my missteps and walk my path toward some victories of your own.

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