March 2010

Life after work:
What happens to the business owner after the business is sold, or the next generation takes over?
When leaving the business, what's important psychologically?
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For anyone transitioning out of their work, whether retiring from a corporate career, or selling a small business, financial considerations are typically given more weight than anything else.

However, just as the business (or career) provided much more than an income, it is critical to consider the following three areas (and their potential impact) during the planning process:

1. Activity
2. Identity
3. Mortality
(yes, mortality)
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Successful business owners and executives tend to be highly active, busy, and ambitious individuals.  Over the course of many years, it is normal to develop a strong reliance on (and, for some, an "addiction" to) constant, varied activity.  Having control over, and making decisions related to, business finances, strategies, and day-to-day operations, becomes an expected part of one's life.

INSIGHT: It is reasonable to expect that a sudden drop off in these types of activities (without a robust and stimulating list of new ones) could result in frustration, boredom, and potentially, depression. 
Because entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate leaders spend more time working that doing just anything else, these individuals' identity is based on their work.  At work, one may see oneself as a leader, competitor, visionary, innovator, driver...without work, it can be difficult to define one's purpose and identity.

INSIGHT: Exploring and selecting those opportunities and roles within which one can develop a new identity, or maintain a strong, prior identity is absolutely critical.
Despite the ability to continue working and contributing in significant ways, many individuals associate leaving their business or career with dying (often without conscious awareness of it).  "I'll be one step closer to the grave" is a common belief, despite not frequently spoken.

Any type of loss (divorce, children leaving for college, death of loved ones) often brings up thoughts about death and dying.  This reaction is common, and should be expected.

INSIGHT: To adequately balance out this universal experience, individuals should define something to move towards, as opposed to just what they are moving away from (their business, career, etc.).  Playing golf all day, everyday, is not a realistic plan.  Days filled with new and varied activities, responsibilities, and contributions is much stronger, healthier, and thoughtful plan.
Creating Successful Departures & Transitions
Business owners and retirees who successfully transition out of their business or job typically have the following things in common:

1.  They view their business or job simply as a closed chapter in their life - not the whole book
2.  They still work almost everyday - just not in their prior career or business
3.  They develop interests and passions outside of their work years before leaving their business or retiring

MK Insights provides objective, behavioral solutions that increase the probability of a highly successful, satisfying transition.  Contact me for more information on how my process can help.

Michael Klein, PsyD
MK Insights, LLC