Like most things in life, entrepreneurship too comes to an end. The allure of starting a business , watching it flourish and letting it become a powerhouse can and does fade as time goes by. Sure, the achievements are left in stone and the laurels are to be worn life long but in retirement, such things may be good memories.
We come to the question – can entrepreneurs retire – do they retire? What happens to the business once you reach the age you believe you should take things lightly? I don’t mean a chronological age but the physical age when you think you can retire. For those who believe that retirement is not for them , they need to sit back and take stock of their lives. We are not here forever, although some of us behave as if we are. We must someday leave everything we have possessed in this life and go to the after life – that includes leaving the business you built , behind.
What then of business you have built? Are you going to pass the baton on your children? What if they are not interested – do you sell it or close down? Far too many businesses started by enterprising men and women have faced problems after their deaths. But the fact remains – you must think about its future someday, without you at the helm.
For many entrepreneurs, their businesses are an extension of themselves. It is like another child – nurtured and handled with loving care. But realities must be faced and that reality can stare you down in the face sooner than you realize.
Selling off a business is always an option – that way, you can watch it continue though not always on your terms. But then, retirement is all about setting yourself free from the worries of running the business. Nurturing aside, survival is key to keep it going. Sometimes selling it off yields better results because the new owners may be better equipped to run it better ; myopia can prevent many business owners from seeing ground realities, even though they may have the best interests of the business at heart.
Many multinationals and big business houses started off as entrepreneur driven small businesses that were sold and then eventually grew. There is always potential for expansion and growth if the business is sold – the text books are filled with case studies on the subject.
Leaving the business to children is best if the children are interested in letting it grow and not just enjoy its yield. Some business owners get the children involved at early age in the business –as a result, they grow with it and expect someday to be involved with it. Inheritance issues aside, in my opinion, children do best at heading a business if they are able to acquire experience and expertise outside their own little worlds. They can always come back to heading the business, with the experience acquired elsewhere safely tucked under their arms.
There are other issues – some children maybe uninterested in inheriting a business they feel they are not a part of. Ye others may fight among each other, wanting sole custody. Yet others may want the benefits of the income but reluctant to work hard to make it work. On the whole, the spirit of entrepreneurship, the formula that made it work, the hard work and dedication put in by the parent or the parents who started the business, may not always go down the line to the children and it would be best if the business owners are alive to this fact. It would save everyone a lot of heartburn in the long run.
If no proper guidance is made available, the business may die in the wrong hands – there are plenty of examples of that too. Allowing ourselves to understand and comprehend that someday, we should consider retirement and walking away from something that has held us captive, active and engaged for a lifetime, must cease, is best for all.
We should ideally be able to think beyond retirement. We still possess the skill set, the thinking, the vision that built the business – can we use them in retirement to reach out to others and empower communities in need of such skills? If we can, then we are giving something back to society, a task that always provides a soul satisfying result.
For those who cannot let go, things don’t always go right. Postponing letting go is even more dangerous because time rolls faster than we can understand it. Keeping track of time is tough – it is gone before you know it and then you wonder what happened to the years. It seemed just yesterday that you watched the business grow and today, you are contemplating what you should do with it.
Too many of us get caught in running day to day operations of the business we have built – it is all some of us can relate to – it defines everything we have. But think of retirement we must – not just because old age creeps up on us but because there must be a legacy beyond our lifetime.
Whether in a business or anything else, we must be able to let go as time goes by. It doesn’t pay to hang on to anything in life – some cling to their children, others to their businesses, yet others to their work.
In the end, we have to learn to let go.