Life after business doesn’t have to mean you sever ties with your business all together. The Question doesn’t have to be “To Sell, or Not to Sell” In fact your current business could be vital to your next phase in life, or your ‘second half’ as our friends at the Halftime Institute call it. If you want a change, there is a lot more you can do than simply putting your business up for sale and there is a ton of introspective work you should do prior to making any of your decisions!
Your business is so much more than a financial asset – it is a platform – and from this platform you can build yourself a whole new future.
What do we mean by, your business is a platform?
In this context your ‘platform’ is the sum of ALL the parts of your business, i.e. cashflow, vendor relationships, the community it serves, the product, the equipment and/or expertise required to deliver the product etc. The key things that make a business effective can often be applied across a multitude of different causes. You simply have to find them or become aware of what it is that you have and how your future purpose can leverage those assets.
Before you use the platform…
To really make the platform work for you, you must first reflect on what you want your next step to be. What are your strengths? What is your real passion? Which of your day-to-day activities give you the biggest buzz and get you into the zone?
What is it in your business that you wish you could do all day long? Do you love the financials, getting out in front of customers, winning the next deal, acquiring new businesses, inventing new product, or being the leader?
There is no point in thinking about how you can use your business as a platform until you’ve had some proper conversations with yourself about where you want to go and what passion and purpose is going to get you there. The Strengths Finder exercise is a great tool you can use to help with this part of the process… an ideal platform for the platform you might say!
Get in the habit of change
Before overturning your life, business or both, dip your toe in and try some things out. There are too many stories, on drastic ends of the spectrum. The first, and common, situation where an owner comes back after a conference and jammed “their” new mission down their employees throats and completely distracting everyone with out a bigger vision or plan. The other end situation, and harder to reverse, is to completely sell your company because there was a higher mission. Only then to realize that the company might have been the best way to accomplish that mission.
The goal is to start making a few small changes… Our friend Lloyd Reeb spoke to us in detail about the value of these ‘low-cost probes’ to anybody’s long-term future. The trial and error element of it can help refine the answers you may have come up with.
Think about this as in bullets and cannonballs approach that Jim Collins talks about. HERE is a great youtube video of him explaining that method.
Clear the path for the platform and build value at the same time
There is no point in having a platform unless you have the time and the headspace to use it. This comes down to one of the fundamentals that we go back to again and again, i.e. do you run your business or does your business run you? Are you the hub or are you the spoke? On many different levels, removing yourself from the hub and having a business that can function without you is vital to the platform:
- You need enough hours in the day to pursue something new
- Stepping away from the day-to-day hamster wheel allows you to look more objectively at your business and really understand the potential of your platform
- Once your business is less dependent on you, the increase in value this brings will automatically strengthen the platform
How can you use your company as a platform?
So now it’s time for the big question. The answer to it will vary massively depending on your company, industry and the results that came from taking the steps outlined above. But there are some great examples out there to take inspiration from.
TOMS Shoes is one of the most famous examples of a company platform in action. Founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed firsthand the difficulties that impoverished children face through a lack of proper footwear, so he set out to do something about it. TOMS Shoes was set up with a pledge that for every pair of shoes bought by a customer they would provide a pair of shoes to a child in need. This was the beginning of what has now become a world-renowned phenomenon, “One For One”. TOMS has since branched out into other charitable areas such as child birth, sight restoration and safe water; and now sits alongside millions of other businesses doing similar things.
That is just one example of the power of a platform. If you’re thinking of using your platform for a charitable purpose then it might be worth registering your company as a B-Corporation here. But your platform can do what you want it to do – we’re not saying that it’s all about charity and philanthropy.
Understand the power of your platform
Just think about it. If you have a database of 10,000 customers who have already opted in to your product/service, you’ve got a great starting point to do something innovative. You’ve got a readymade source of income and momentum right under your nose. Once you’ve decided you need a change in direction, it’s very easy to just walk away and start afresh, but you really shouldn’t do that before you’ve taken the time to understand what else your business could empower you to do.
When your platform becomes a springboard
Or perhaps your best future lies outside of the business? You can still use your standing at your current business to open doors elsewhere. By just being a company director you will be able to make connections with other company directors and you may be invited onto other boards of companies, charities, clubs etc. Maybe one of these opportunities is going to define your future?
All these insights still might lead you to the eventual sale of your company. However, through the process you will learn who you are, what you want from life and what you want to do next. Then you can use the money that comes from the business proceeds to live a life after business with passion and purpose. And the best part of that… you did all that introspective work WHILE you owned your company and not while you where sitting at home wondering who you were.
What should you do to get started?
The person that says it best is Lloyd Reeb in his TEDx talk – The Most Productive Years of Your Life May Surprise You
- Get clear
- Get free
- Get going