I’m not ready to retire or sell my business!
Dear Ken Keller,
My wife is pressuring me to turn over the reigns (and the company checkbook) to my son. She wants me to take more time off, to travel with her, and to start slowing down.
I am in my late 60’s and in pretty good health. I’m not interested in working less, don’t want to travel to places I do not care about and have no intention of retiring.
The business has grown through the years and is profitable but once I turned things over to my son we would start losing money because my son is a spender and I’m not.
When I return from a vacation or a business trip, I always find something that got screwed up and I have to clean up the mess. Despite these problems, I love running this business, I am happy about how my life is and I don’t want to change it.
I often share with my clients that, as an owner, there are only four ways to permanently exit your business.
The first option is to sell outright; you walk out of your company for the last time and the money someone paid you for the business is in your bank account.
The second option is to be removed because you are no longer fit, mentally or otherwise, to own the company. This is what happened to Donald Sterling.
The third option is that one morning you wake up and you announce your immediate retirement. It’s the kind of call Queen Elizabeth will maybe make to Prince Charles someday. But Charles is nearly 67 and has been sitting by the phone since his mother turned 65. Are you going to have your son wait 24 years or longer for his call?
The fourth option is to be wheeled out laying on a gurney with a white sheet covering you on a one way trip to the Coroner’s Office. When this happens, someone needs to be ready to step up and take charge of the business.
I assume selling isn’t an option and your wife wants you to choose option three now. But based on what you wrote, option four is what you are thinking today.
I often wonder if Queen Elizabeth has spent any time preparing Prince Charles how to run the British Empire . She could go to sleep one night and never wake up; or she could be diagnosed with a terminal disease with little time left to live. In both cases, the Empire would suffer. Is this what you wish for your business, the one you have devoted years to building?
Whatever issues you have with your son, today is the day you need to start teaching him what you think he needs to learn.
Part of the process is for you to understand that your son’s styles of leadership and communication is different than yours. His core values may not be the same as yours. You are going to have to accept those things and work with whatever strengths, capabilities and talents he has.
If you truly believe that your son will never ever be ready to take command of the business, and there are no other successors available or on the horizon, you need to have an honest discussion with your spouse about how to move forward.
Finally, while you love what you are doing, at some point your work life will be over with and you will need other passions to propel you forward in the next chapter of your life. You need to start thinking and preparing now for that time.