Thinking about transitioning from your business?

Do you understand how to plan for this critical life change?

In a recent article, I provided an overview of a 4-Step Transition Plan for your business:

  1. Discovery
  2. Options Assessment
  3. Strategy Selection
  4. Plan Execution.


Based on an overwhelming and growing amount of compelling research and statistics, as well as my personal experience, it is my opinion that business owners need a Transition Plan. They need to plan whether or not they are currently interested in some form of transition, business exit or sale. There is an extraordinary level of risk in not addressing this process well in advance of any action!


According to the Mass Mutual American Family Business Survey 2007/2012:

  • By 2017, it is estimated that up to 40% of family business owners expect to retire. This trend will create a significant transition of business ownership in the US.
  • Less than half of business owners who expect to retire in the next five years have selected a successor.
  • Nearly a third of family business owners (31.4%) have no estate plan beyond a will.


At Capitus Group, the first step we use to develop a business Transition Plan is Discovery. This initial step addresses both personal and corporate goal delineation.

Many times, owners fail to examine how selling or transitioning out of their company can impact personal emotions along with issues related to identity, meaning and purpose for life after leaving their company. So, in this post, I will focus only on personal goal delineation and execution post transition.

The Successful Transition Planning Institute in 2011 stated that “Owners who do not create a transition plan for their lives after they leave their companies often fall into a void, become bored, depressed, get divorced and die prematurely.” As someone who has sold companies and tried unsuccessfully to retire twice, I think there is a lot of truth in this statement.

Jack Beauregard in his book, Finding Your new Owner-STPI Press 2011 believes that truly understanding what makes up your identity is a good place to start to plan for life after a transition. He suggests that business owners formally answer questions about yourself like some of the following:

  • What do I like about myself?
  • What gives my life meaning?
  • What are my shortcomings?
  • What good (& bad) things have other people said to me over the years?
  • What will people think about my value after I transition out of my company?
  • What do I like doing?
  • What am I good at both in and out of work?

I might add that asking spouses or significant others some of these questions about you may also give clarity.


These are just a few issues to consider regarding your new Post-Ownership identity.

The next step in this journey is to develop a Vision of your personal future. Mr. Beauregard offers some very revealing questions. Those answers are critical in a business owner’s personal goal delineation and execution in order to successfully transition to their “new life”.

I propose that working on this before an exit is extremely important. Examples can include your view of the future in the following areas:

  • Physical Health & Activity Levels
  • Intellectual Stimulation
  • Recreational/Creative Activity
  • Activity with Your Spouse
  • Activity with your Family
  • Physical Residence
  • Social Connections
  • Other Income Producing Work
  • Volunteer/Philanthropic Activity

Most business owners have dedicated their life’s work and poured their heart and soul into their companies. Most, hopefully, have taken the time to develop and execute a strategic business plan. However many surveys have shown that they haven’t spent much, if any, time formally developing a plan for life after their company.

One of my clients, after true introspection, realized that he didn’t really want to sell but rather just needed a little more time away from the day-to-day hassles. He wasn’t emotionally ready to leave. After formalizing his personal Vision, he pulled the plug on his divestiture path and began to re-organize his corporate organization chart. He made the decision to invest in his future by adding a management position and hiring a COO.

In conclusion, the most important first step of any transition plan process is (1) understanding ownership’s underlying emotions (& potentially fears) (2) development of clear personal goals and a vision for your future life and (3) willingness to formalize and implement a plan to get there. Be honest with yourself and get help from professional advisors experienced in business transition to help objectively guide you to successfully reach your goals.

David T. Raden