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Do successful business owners realise when they’ve won?

There’s no doubt that running a business can be all consuming. For some it’s simply a means to an end, for others it can be a life’s devotion that entails long hours, constant thought and not much time for anything else. Most businesses take at least ten to fifteen years to build up and forge into something substantial. That’s a large part of your life spent in meeting rooms, networking, developing products and services and getting everything just right.

I remember meeting a very successful business owner who had a company that was reasonably well prepared for sale. It wasn’t dependant on him, he could take lots of time off and delegate responsibility to his team. So I asked him why he wanted to sell it.

He said two things. First, he could never switch off and was always thinking about the business even though he didn’t have to. This is not unusual, in fact it’s more the norm particularly with successful business owners. It was his baby and he was responsible for it even though the company could happily continue without him.

Secondly, it came down to something his wife said to him and which finally made him decide to sell: “Darling,” she said, “you just need to know when you have won.” This second point was so profound that it has resonated with him and is something I’ve shared with other business owners over the years.

Successful business people are empire builders at heart. It’s often not about the success but the space they own, their achievement that sets them apart from all the rest. The work and energy needed to reach that point in a career is generally phenomenal and it’s not an easy thing to give up just like that.

You can’t simply close that office door behind you and walk away, it’s not in an entrepreneur’s nature.

The reason my client wanted to sell was that he realised there was nothing more left to achieve with the business. There was plenty of money in the bank, the business was thriving, he’d done the job and done it well. When it came down to it, though, selling up and moving on was a life-changing, monumental decision.

Not something to be taken lightly.

There are a number of reasons why you might think about selling your business. You may want a new challenge and feel that the equity you raise from selling will provide you with a good starting point. You might just want to retire and enjoy life rather than constantly having your nose to the corporate grindstone. You may actually realise that you have won this particular battle and there is nothing left to do.

When it comes to making that decision, there is still some more work to do, of course. You don’t just want to cast your business to the wind, you want it to continue to be a success once you have left. That means you have to balance the options of getting the right price and ensuring the best people take over. You will most probably have a number of staff whose future you want to protect. There’s audit and paperwork to get sorted.

Once all that is done and your business is finally sold, all you need to realise is that the world is still full of great opportunities.


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