By Tom Kirk
“I suggest you take the necessary steps to get your affairs in order.” This was the rather startling advice I received from my cardiologist after he reviewed the results of the latest echocardiogram of my heart. This advice forced me to address some personal and business issues that most entrepreneurs put off, perhaps until it is too late.
I had already survived triple-bypass open-heart surgery performed on me in 2003 and was regularly seeing a cardiologist as a result. It was during one of those routine visits in 2013 that I heard those dreaded words. I remember asking him what exactly he meant. Was I dying? And soon? He said I had what is called aortic regurgitation from a faulty aortic valve that needed to be replaced. He said getting this done was not an emergency at the moment, but that it would need to be done, sooner than later, or it would kill me. The risks of this, my second open-heart surgery, were significant. So the doctor said it was better to have the surgery while I was still healthy, while I had good health and life insurance and when I could take some time off from work for a possibly extended recovery period.
After my brain cleared from this receiving this news and I accepted that I was going to experience a second open-heart surgery in my near future, I began the process of imagining what would happen to my business if I was gone for various lengths of time (30 days, 90 days, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, forever) with different levels of separation (i.e. no contact at all, only phone contact, occasional office visits). I wanted to know what parts of the business would do fine without me in these various possible future circumstances and what parts would break down. With this knowledge we put resources in place or lined up contingency plans to deal with the uncertainty of how the recovery from my surgery would go.
We documented all this great thinking and had, for the first time in my 30 year entrepreneurial life, a written business continuation plan. This gave me confidence that we had a strategy to take care of our clients, our team and my family regardless if I was still able to work or not. All small businesses need a documented business continuation plan, but few have them. This was the first strategic by-product of my deteriorating health situation. But the next one was even more profound.
I realized that the resources we put in place for how the business would continue in my unfortunate absence could be used to help facilitate my planned absence in a business succession. In other words: If our clients, our team and my family were going to be fine without me, how much better would that be if I was still here and successfully transitioned ownership of the business? Much better if you ask me!
I began to investigate various options and methods for transitioning the ownership of my business to others, but was getting nowhere fast and time was running out on when I needed to have my aortic value replacement surgery. That’s when I discovered the Transition Roadmap Developer process offered by Elizabeth Lake-Ledoux with vNacelle Consulting. Through this process, I was able to work out the answers to the tough questions that surround a business transition, such as: Why do I want to transition my business? What do I want to accomplish for myself and for others? Who will be the next owners? When do I want this transition to occur? How much do I need to receive for my current business ownership?The answers to these questions empowered me to develop a business transition roadmap that led to an agreed upon three page memorandum of intent with a potential purchaser.
The legal documents for this business transition were signed and executed in December, 2015. I had my aortic value replacement surgery in January, 2016. I am happy to report that both transactions went splendidly. The business continues to thrive under the new owner and will celebrate 25 years of service excellence in 2020. I am living a life beyond my imagination.
Like most small business owners, I probably would not have developed the business continuation plan that led to the business succession plan if not for the tough news from my doctor back in 2013. I would have liked to avoid my surgery, but am happy that my business and I have continued to survive and prosper as the result of executing the plans we developed.
What’s your plan? All small businesses transition eventually. Today you have the choice if that transition is going to happen while you are vertical or when you are horizontal. Be intentional. Call today to schedule your complementary consultation with one of our WealthCoaches TM to see if the Transition Roadmap Developer is the process you may want to investigate for improved clarity in this critically important area of your personal and business life.
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