IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Post-Exit Exit Planning

With careful planning and some soul searching, channel pros who sell their business can have a new beginning—whether’s that’s another career or retirement. By Carolyn Heinze
Reader ROI: 
SELF-REFLECTION prior to selling your IT service business can help chart a smooth transition to the next phase of life.
DEFINE YOUR sense of purpose, and create a plan or enlist professionals to help you achieve professional/personal objectives.
IF RETIREMENT is the goal, include your spouse or partner in planning, and try a “dry run” if you intend a move to a new home.

SMART CHANNEL PROS invest considerable time into planning for the day they will sell their business. Not all, however, put the same amount of energy into figuring out what they will do next.

Former MSP owner Dave Sobel, host of The Business of Tech podcast and co-host of the Killing IT podcast, urges channel pros to ask themselves, What do you want your life to look like after exiting your business? For instance, he poses, “Do you want to do another [business]? Do you want to consult? Do you want to take a job? Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to spend time with your family?” If you haven’t answered those questions, he adds, “I would not be surprised at all if you’re lost.”

This self-reflection is even more important now, he says, as it’s no longer the norm to work in the same job for 35 or 40 years and then retire. “That means a lot more of this is on us to figure out,” Sobel notes.

Whether your next move is retirement or a new venture, here are some tips to avoid stress and feelings of loss once you’ve exited your business.

When Exiting Isn’t “Retirement”

At age 46, Sobel says he’s been actively planning for retirement since the sale of his MSP business, and thinking about it in general, but wasn’t ready to “retire” in the traditional sense. “When I sold my MSP I was very happy with the transaction––and it’s great retirement money,” explains Sobel.

Dave Sobel

For now, he’s enjoying his work as a host and says the podcasting business “both generates revenue and it has an asset value itself, and I think about it in those terms.” He also contemplates what he will do with that asset, and when, to continue powering his life plan and what comes next.

“For me, retirement is about: I don’t need the work for the money to sustain my life; I need the work because it’s what engages my brain,” he explains. “I want to do something, and produce something, and be engaged.”

Define Your Sense of Purpose

If you do plan to retire, the key to a successful transition “is really this whole topic of purpose,” says Fritz Gilbert, founder of the The Retirement Manifesto Blog and author of Keys to a Successful Retirement: Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years. “Recognize you’re going to lose your work identity,” he stresses. “What are you going to replace it with?”

A former executive in the aluminum industry, Gilbert retired at age 55 and moved to a cabin in the mountains outside of Atlanta with his wife. The couple spent a number of years planning for this transition, including a 10-day “dry run” living at the cabin.

Rather than an action-packed itinerary full of hikes and bicycle riding, Gilbert used those 10 days to disconnect from work and reflect on how he wanted to spend his time when he retired. “I had a little bit of an interest in writing, I liked podcasts, I liked personal finance,” he explains. And so he started writing.

Gilbert urges would-be retirees to identify interests that they’d like to pursue. “Then go out and try them,” he says. “You might throw 10 things against the wall and maybe one or two will stick, but if you find one or two that are really good, that’s a huge leg up.”

About the Author

CAROLYN HEINZE is a regular freelance contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.

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