I share insights gathered from purpose-driven entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs rarely sit still. They risk it all to start new companies, build empires, then exit and repeat the process. Some ventures succeed, while others crash and burn. To an entrepreneur, the ups and downs are all part of the lifestyle — until the day of the final exit. A rare few may start new companies as long as they still draw breath, but most entrepreneurs eventually begin to dream of life after business. As much as lifelong grinders deserve rest and relaxation, however, many find it difficult to turn off the habits that made them so successful in their working lives.
How to Shift Away from Entrepreneurial LifeIf you have recently made your last exit or are considering stepping down to enjoy other parts of life, don’t panic. You don’t have to abandon the personality traits that made you successful to appreciate what comes next. On the contrary, the skills and mindset you developed as an entrepreneur can help you make the most of your post-founder years.
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“Entrepreneurs thrive on the excitement and specificity of envisioning the future and planning for it,” says Steve Braverman, co-CEO of family office advisory firm Pathstone. “The good habits and fast-paced expectations that entrepreneurs pride themselves on can actually serve quite well, so there is no need to feel unequipped or fear the unknown.”
According to Braverman, that goes double for entrepreneurs who maintain a presence on boards and in advisory capacities after giving up CEO duties. “While your ‘exit’ is the reward when building a business, it should also empower those left behind to take your vision and legacy forward, creating greater success and satisfaction for your shareholders,” he explains.
You can do anything, and for some, anything is the most frightening possibility of all.
What Your Post-Exit Life Should Look LikeWhether you feel relief or dread at the thought of your final exit, don’t despair. Life, with all its complexities, is just another venture.
Enjoy the post-exit life you deserve by starting off with a plan:
1. Make clean legal breaks with clear contracts.No one wants to begin a new life mired in an ugly legal battle. No matter how much you trust your old team or how reluctant you are to separate fully from your business, invest in a lawyer to draw the necessary lines between your old life and your new one.
Friends and families routinely tear one another apart in the wake of handshake deals and unspoken arrangements. Get everything on paper so you can enter the next chapter with a clear conscience and a clean slate.
2. Give yourself the same attention you would give a promising new venture.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 outside the startup world doesn’t move as quickly as you’re used to. Take a moment to breathe and think about the things that 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.
3. Downsize your options before you choose.Successful exits come with wealth, perhaps more than you know how to use. Instead of dumping half your money into 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.
Michael de la Maza, a former co-founder of InQuira, vowed not to spend any of his exit money for one year after he learned that Oracle had purchased his former business. “Looking back, I’m satisfied with my decision to not spend my exit money for one year,” he says. “The experience has given me a better perspective on wealth while teaching me a valuable lesson: that money isn’t everything, and it certainly doesn’t determine your self-worth.”
4. Surround yourself with people who inspire new growth.Jeff Giesea, a successful entrepreneur-turned-consultant, advises recently liberated founders to prioritize community. “Many entrepreneurs overlook the psychic benefits of their companies, particularly the sense of community and purpose,” says Giesea. “For this reason, I recommend identifying a community or peer group to join.”
If you find that local groups, such as nonprofits or your place of worship, don’t scratch the itch, consider teaming up with other former business leaders. Look into mentorship at a startup accelerator, where you can potentially find new investments while practicing your entrepreneurial craft on your own schedule.
The nice thing about your last entrepreneurial exit is that you get to decide which exit is the last one. You could start a new company next year, a few years down the road, or 20 years from now if you wanted to. Your life is your own. Embrace it no matter where it takes you, and you will never feel trapped by someone else’s definition of retirement.
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