Going From Hating Your Company To Exiting It
Deciding to exit the business I painstakingly grew for 8 years was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. And my decision certainly didn’t happen overnight – it was a drawn out painful process that took several months to make. And once I finally decided to exit it took over a year to process all the emotions I cycled through.
The emotional investment to my companies was similar to raising a child. I put all my energy, love and attention into doing the best I could. And to say good-bye was heart-wrenching.
I had so many conflicting feelings. I was so full of ‘shoulds’. I should be happy that I own and work at my own business – but I wasn’t. I should feel free, happy and alive, but I felt confined, miserable and lethargic. I should be grateful that I’m increasing my wealth yet I actually felt angry. I felt as if the troubles I endured weren’t worth the payment I received. In fact, I eventually came to the conclusion that no amount of money was worth the journey I was travelling.
My health was declining, my energy levels were getting lower and my relationship with everyone around me was suffering. I had built a successful business but it wasn’t successful in relation to who I was and what I truly needed.
In my quest for ‘success’ I mistakenly thought that financial freedom had to be obtained by sacrifice, hard-work and massive amounts of will power. I was taught that things don’t come easy – you need to get out there and do whatever it takes to make things work. I forced, cajoled, pushed and kicked my way to ‘success’ and now that I’ve exited I look back and think, ‘what the heck was I doing?’
No – it wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed the creative side of things. And I enjoyed all the marketing elements that I designed. There were some very special parts that I’ll always hold dear, but as a whole, my businesses ended up confining me rather than setting me free. That’s my fault. I created things to happen that way – I just didn’t know I was doing it.
When you’re so stuck in the mud it’s often difficult to see that life can be lived another way. Deep down inside I knew that I needed to get out. I needed to raise myself out of the mud but I was so scared. And I felt so alone. There was no one around to empathise. And for me to leave my businesses I also had to leave my business partner. Or at least put an end to our working relationship. My decision not only concerned my working life but also it meant I had to ‘divorce’ someone I was very close to.
But before taking a course of action things had to get so bad that I had no other choice. I became increasingly frustrated, angry and disillusioned. I felt as if I lost touch with everyone around me. I could feel my health get worse – I had already ended up in the hospital and took months to recover. I was going down and I had to exit before something serious happened.
Luckily I had some new friends that helped me make my decision. I announced to my partner I was leaving and then lived in a self-imposed hell for several months. I felt as if I was letting myself and everyone else down. I couldn’t tell the employees so I carried on pretending to be a ‘leader’ while the legalities were worked out.
Every other day I woke thinking ‘what am I doing’? I’m throwing away everything I’ve done and created. I’m walking away from the only life I know. And then I’d eventually remind myself that I needed to break away. I needed to find another way to live.
I was so alone. Or…at least, I felt so alone.
It’s now been a 1 1/2 years since I left and taking this time to reflect I’ve realised that my decision was a monumental milestone in my life. I had my ladder of success against the wrong wall. I was doing things that I thought were necessary to create success but I was so misguided. I’ve now realised that I don’t have to push, prod and force myself to gain an elusive reward in the future. I can actually flow, love and enjoy want I do now AND be rewarded. What a concept – eh?
As we get older we get wiser. I’ve learned so much over the past several years. I’ve learned that if you’re not enjoying the journey you won’t like the destination. If what you’re doing now isn’t working for you, don’t invest any more time or emotions into it. Get out. Switch direction. Figure out what does work for you. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to transition . And if you wait too long, something will force you to change. It’s better to voluntarily make the switch rather than it being made for you!
And if you say, ‘but I have a family to support – I can’t just jump ship.’ Well – when I made my decision to exit my business there was no certainty I would get an income. I quit my businesses without knowing if my business partner would buy me out or pay dividends. For months I moved forward not knowing how I was going to make money. And I am the sole provider for my family – I support my husband, my daughter and my father-in-law.
As luck or destiny would have it, my business partner agreed to pay for 60% of my shares over 2 years providing an income and time for me to figure out my next move. Things always work out. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t ever succeed personally. And to take care of ourselves, we need to trust that doing so will create the best outcome for everyone.
Has the time come for you to exit? If yes, you’re not alone!
Kim Brown, Co-Founder of Business Wand, helps business owners navigate their way through the start to finish process of selling a business. Her specialty is to help owners cut costs and increase profits prior to sale. To understand how you can sell your business quickly for the highest sales price, purchase the book, “How To Sell A Business: The #1 guide to maximising your company value and achieving a quick business sale”