Greice Murphy, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Atlanta, founded Advanced Care Partners (ACP) in 2010 to raise the quality of home care nursing services for medically fragile patients in the Southeast U.S. Murphy led ACP as its CEO from inception until June 2021. During her leadership, ACP grew at an annual rate of 40 to 50 percent, making the Inc. 5000 list six years in a row. Greice shared her experience in reinventing herself after her exit.
You started your business to fulfill an unmet need in the world. You dedicated your career and a big part of your life to building your company from the ground up. Then, you took a leap of faith, conquered your fears of selling, and spent countless hours finding the right buyer. After signing contracts and popping champagne, you officially stepped down. While you’ll always be the business’ founder, you might find yourself wondering–now what?
Answering this question may be more difficult than you imagined, as feelings of uncertainty arise about navigating the next phase of your life.
Many entrepreneurs have found themselves in this exact same position. The statistics are staggering: only 33 percent of business owners found more satisfaction post-exit than in their pre-exit life More often than not, the reason for such regret lies in the fact that selling a business can result in both a loss of identity and community accompanied by an overwhelming newfound sense of freedom.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that uncertainty about your next phase can easily overshadow your successful sale. While the importance of a pre-sale plan is undeniable, the need for a post-sale plan is arguably just as significant. Many founders fail to realize this crucial fact: only 4 percent of business owners have a formal written plan for life after selling. It’s clear that this significant transition into new levels of wealth and freedom is typically the entrepreneurial stage that receives the least attention.
To make the most of your life after a sale, here are some tips that I followed after selling majority ownership of my company:
1. Keep your awareness open to new opportunities and say yes.
You never know when an incredible opportunity may come across your radar. Even though your time as CEO may be over, “retirement” doesn’t have to be lackluster. Continue building your network, volunteer as a board member, or attend business conferences. You might be surprised at what happens when you say yes at every chance.
2. Step outside of your comfort zone.
Some of the best advice I received after stepping down as CEO was to focus on anything that wasn’t in the healthcare industry, as that was my expertise. Although that was uncomfortable, it was the time to challenge myself. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you can learn new things and continue to grow.
3. Redefine your purpose and goals.
For years, you spent every day working hard to grow your business. Now, you have the time, money, and freedom to explore new pursuits. Take time to truly consider what you want out of your next phase. What is something you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but couldn’t because of your role? What new purpose will drive and fulfill you?
4. Learn new skills to get closer to your new goals.
Once you’ve figured out your vision, start to identify the steps that will get you there. What new skill do you need to master to get you closer to your new purpose and goals?
5. Pivot from corporate branding to personal branding, including your new “why.”
Until now, you focused on establishing a solid brand identity for your company. Now, it’s time to focus on your personal brand so you can effectively communicate your own values. How will you tell the story of your newfound purpose? Invest in PR resources to help you implement your new vision for the future.
6. Measure success differently.
Most business owners tie their success to that of their companies. After selling your business, you must find new ways to measure your success. Is it your ability to learn new skills? To give back? To launch a new business endeavor? To sit on the boards of privately-owned or public companies? Remember: progress is not measured by looking ahead but is the distance between your starting point and where you stand today.
7. Be present, and enjoy your new pace.
Most CEOs have a fast-paced life, where each day is a flurry of meetings and action items. Now, you have the opportunity to pause and reset. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to immediately decide exactly what your future will look like. Instead, slow down and take the time to reflect.
8. Focus on your mental and physical health.
Over 60 percent of entrepreneurs report feelings of burnout due to financial concerns, daily stressors, and work-life balance. Stress takes an incredible toll on both mind and body. Take this opportunity to prioritize your mental and physical health, whether it’s through exercise, physical and/or mental therapy, meditation, prayer, etc.
The initial transition period after a sale is a time for you to experiment with your passion. Be patient, enjoy your success, and start dreaming about the future. And be patient: 66 percent of entrepreneurs say it took at least two years to find a post-sale lifestyle that makes them happy. While creating a fulfilling life after a sale may take time and effort, it’s worth it!