Do you have an Identity beyond being a Business Owner?
We all hear of the stories of folks who sold their businesses and are miserable! Or the parents who just don’t let the kids take over the business completely, and become an obstacle to the growth and successful transfer of the business.
Why does this happen?
In most cases it’s not money. It’s personal self-esteem!
It’s an owner whose complete self-worth is defined by the business.
Without a vision, owners face a life-after-business that is uncertain and dreary.
For years, the owner’s identity has been centered around building the business…they invested their blood, sweat, tears, family life, relationships with their kids, their complete being into the business. They were the hunter for the family. They protected, and provided. They were obsessed with the business, and what the business provided for themselves and their families.
And for all that investment of relationships, energy, bravado, and emotion, at the end of the day… the owners are afraid.
Afraid of what they don’t know.
Afraid of living a life without the identity of the business.
Will they still be respected?
Will the family continue to love them?
Will they be relevant?
It is heartbreaking to see this happen because it doesn’t need to.
Owners can easily fall in love with their businesses; what they need to realize is that the business can’t love them back!
I had a client who received an unsolicited offer for the business he loved that he just could not refuse, tens of millions of dollars. He sold the business and within a year was unhappy.
He was beside himself; they had it all, he had achieved the American Dream!
He determined that while he was loving his business, his wife developed interests that supported her self-worth, and purpose in life. They both had created their own lives, and only met in the middle caring for their three children. He did not have many interests beyond his “owner identity.” Fortunately, the couple had a commitment to their relationship, went to counseling and worked it out. They were lucky.
This scenario of separate lives becomes an issue more often you think.
The extreme opposite happens sometimes, also.
The fear of living a life without the business identity causes the owner to hold on too long. Eventually the business declines in value and market position, creating a list of issues that impact retirement, family, and emotional well being.
How do you avoid your identity being too focused on your role as owner?
It some point, sooner rather than later, you need to create your vision of your life. Take a break, unplug from the business. Take a extended vacation, a retreat, get away from the business long enough to decompress.
Once you feel the release of the issues of the business, seek to answer these questions about your identity:
What is my purpose in life?
What refreshes my soul?
What fulfills me above all other things?
Other than my business, what brings me joy and peace of mind?
Really give this deep thought and commit to creating a life that incorporates your vision of YOU into your business.
This is key:
Begin the process of creating balance in your life to the point that the
amount of space in your head that was consumed by the business is replaced with a balance between what fulfills your life’s plan, and the needs of your business.
It won’t happen overnight, and will take experimenting with various activities and interests before you land on what really gives you purpose, just don’t give up!
While defining your vision, begin managing your business away from dependence on you.
If you are a dictator, delegate. Empower your key staff to run the business, work to manage them by clearly defining their responsibilities in writing, reviewing their progress, counseling them, and holding them accountable for performance.
Recognize that you cannot have ALL the responsibilities of the business and have a fulfilling life.
Finally, financially incent your key managers to the performance and behaviors that support the business and your life beyond business.
By taking steps to lessen your role in the business, you are increasing long-term value, creating an empowered team to carry the torch, and supporting the financial engine that supports your personal vision of a fulfilling life.