"As any business owner knows, there are going to be bumps in the road. But if you’re just in it for the money, those bumps can be awfully hard to get over. In the words of Steve Jobs, “You have to have a lot of passion.”
He tells entrepreneurs: “It’s so hard, that if you don’t [have passion], any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you’re going to give up.” I’m part of the International Business Brokers Association. In 2007, we had over 2000 members. Today, we have just upwards of 700. A lot of those people didn’t want to persevere through the recession. And there were certainly people who thought I shouldn’t have either.
But I knew what I liked to do. I really like to solve big problems for people. And selling a business is a big problem. Or rather, as one client put it, selling a business is a “game changer.”
In the last 30 days, I got to watch the joy build and the stress disappear as two different clients sold their companies. One business owner got out from under an inactive partner and got fresh resources and energy as a new majority owner joined his company. The other was a more traditional full sale, leading to the owner’s retirement. I watched the smile spread across his face when I told him we had a deal. And I was in his office when he called his wife, put her on speakerphone, and told her the good news. Later, I thanked him for letting me share that experience. I think she was literally jumping up and down as she congratulated her husband and told him, voice cracking, how proud she was of everything he’d accomplished.
That night, I took them out for a celebration dinner. And I listened, with my own happiness, as they shared story after story of the challenges they’d been through and all the things they planned to do next.
They were going to more Detroit Tigers games, and they were going to the Grand Canyon and to Maine in their camper (or maybe now, they said, in a big new motorhome). They were going to visit friends and family—all without having to worry about coming back for work or calling in to deal with the inevitable problems.
It brought me back to why I do this work. Yes, any business has to make financial sense, but next to that, you need work that gets you energized, excited, passionate. If you’re burned out, it might be a good time to sell. If you’re not ready for that, try to reexamine what it is that made you passionate about your business in the first place. Hopefully you’re in a position to shift work around or bring in someone new so that you can get back to doing what you love.
I’ve been there. I’ve stepped away from doing deals in order to run the business and coach my team, but ultimately that wasn’t a good fit for me or the company. I found I’d much rather sell a business than manage one.
As with many industries, mergers and acquisitions work can offer up some big wins. But there are also many times when you’ve put 400 hours of work into a deal only to have someone else blow it up. It’s a rollercoaster, with both emotional and financial highs and lows.
I’ve been able to hold on to my highs, because they mean more to me than a commission alone. I reorganized my business so that I can continue to do what I love most. Can you remember what you love about your work? And if you can, what can you do to get back there?"