This blog post is an excerpt from the Trelus Transition Readiness Webinar Series. To access this webinar and the full library of Trelus resources, create your free account here.
Between calculating taxes, finding the right buyer, and keeping your business running day to day, you have plenty to do as you prepare to sell your company. During this busy season, don’t forget to prioritize one of the most important items on your list: collaborating with your family.
The sale of your business will affect your loved ones in ways large and small. Being proactively aware of their needs during this time will help the family ties stay strong even when other stressors pile up.
With that in mind, here are four ways to care for your family as you exit your business.
- Communicate with your spouse.
If you’re married, open communication with your spouse will be key. You and your spouse need to develop clarity and agreement about the direction of your life post-sale, so bring them in early on those discussions. What do you want daily life post-transition to look like? How do you want to use the money from the sale? Give your spouse time to air any concerns and listen carefully.
In addition, the intensity of the sales process makes it more important than ever to connect with your spouse about topics outside of work. Your spouse needs to see that you can unplug from the business and give them your undivided attention when needed.
Keep in mind that selling a business is a one-time event, whereas the relationship with your spouse is ongoing. Your spouse may need reassurance that they are still a priority over and above work.
- Find a third party to facilitate family communication.
Every family has problems and miscommunications, no matter how much you love each other. That’s why it’s wise to find a third party to help guide family conversations as you approach the sale of your business.
There are things that your family members, especially children, may not say directly to you, that they will say to a neutral third party. Your third party will likely observe interpersonal dynamics you aren’t consciously aware of, and can help you overcome obstacles you didn’t anticipate.
Before seeking out a third party, however, gauge the severity of conflict in your family. Critical issues like addiction and estranged relationships require the help of a trained professional and should be addressed before you tackle any issues related to business sales and finance.
It can be painful to open up family wounds, but if you acknowledge them in the light of day and seek assistance, true healing can begin. Wounds that stay covered become harder to deal with and cause more damage over time.
- Be realistic about the time frame for making family decisions.
These conversations with your loved ones cannot happen at the last minute, and clarity won’t come overnight. It’s not uncommon for these conversations to unfold over the space of a year or more.
And because the last year leading up to the sale will be largely focused on finances and logistics, it’s best to finish the family conversations before that last year. Ideally, this means beginning to plan with your family two or three years in advance of when you hope to finalize a sale.
Give yourselves time. You and your loved ones deserve ample space to process your thoughts and envision the future.
- Stay flexible to serve your family better.
Try to avoid setting too much “in stone” as you plot the sale of your business. Sometimes, setting things in stone is inevitable—for example, you face an immediate window of opportunity for financial benefit and must make the leap now—but many elements about selling your business can shift as you move through the process. Government regulations, life circumstances, and even your own desires can change. By keeping options open, you give yourself the freedom to change course in ways that benefit your family most.
It’s best to think in a 2-4 year timeframe. What should you be doing in the next 2-4 years to take care of your family? If that has changed two years from now, you can always reassess.
Keeping Priorities Straight
Remember that even after you hang up the hat of “business owner,” you will still hold the title of family member. Protecting and nurturing those relationships today will continue to pay dividends long after the ink has dried on the sales contract.