The Emotional Impact of Selling Your Business

Selling your business could be one of the biggest changes that will ever happen in your life, especially if it’s a family business or a company that you built from the ground up. After all, if moving to a new house is in the top 5 most stressful experiences of a person’s life, then you can only imagine where selling your business ranks. 

Yes, this is personal to you and your family! Do you know that 75% of business owners regret their exit one year after leaving? (The 2013 State Of Owner Readiness, The Exit Planning Institute) Why is this? The answer to this is largely due to owners neglecting their emotional preparedness to exit.

It’s therefore incredibly important not to underestimate the emotional impact that this sale could have on you and the people around you. 

What Does It Feel Like to Sell Your Business? 

Business owners can go through all kinds of emotions when they are selling up. How you feel could depend on your reasons for selling and how well the sales process goes as well as on your personality. Some people cope with change well or are excited about their plans for the future, but others can find the process unsettling or upsetting. Your feelings could also change at different stages of the process.

Some common emotions that you might experience along the way include: 

  • Anxiety about the sales process or whether you’ll get a good price.
  • Uncertainty about your future and what will happen to the business. 
  • Sadness at having to leave behind your business and employees. 
  • Guilt or regret about giving up a family business or not being able to keep going with it. 
  • Doubt about whether you’re making the right decision.
  • A sense of loss or emptiness as you hand over the business. 
  • Relief at handing over the responsibility to the new owner. 
  • Confidence that you have made the right decision for you and the business. 
  • Pride at what you have achieved in the business. 
  • Excitement about your plans for the future.
  • Happiness at having found the right buyer and completed the sale. 

It’s not surprising that selling a business can be so emotional, because business owners have put in so much time, effort, and energy, often over many years. The people around you, including your family, employees, and even your customers, will also have an attachment to the business, so they could be going through a lot of the same emotions. 

Coping with the Emotional Impact of Selling Your Business 

Recognising the fact that selling your business can bring up strong emotions is one of the biggest steps you can take towards managing the impact. Ignoring your feelings or dismissing them as unimportant can make you feel worse. You should give yourself some time to think about your feelings before, during, and after the sale. You might find it helpful to talk things through with someone you trust, whether that is a friend or the broker who is managing the sale. Making plans for the future can also help you to adjust to this big change in your life and give you something to look forwards to. 

It’s also important to acknowledge the feelings of those around you. Failing to address any negative emotions could lead to them building up and breaking out at the wrong moment, potentially disrupting the sale. You need to, at the right time, get your family and employees on board to ensure they’re ready to welcome the new owner. You can help by providing a listening ear, keeping people informed, or getting their input on the sales process. You should also be able to rely on your broker when you need to have difficult discussions with employees, family members, or other interested parties. Having an understanding third party on hand to manage these conversations can help keep any strong emotions under control. Finding a way to commemorate everything you have achieved together can also be meaningful. You could show your appreciation by giving employees a memento of your time together or create a book or album to record the history of your family business. 

Getting the right support along the way can make all the difference. You won’t feel as anxious about the sales process if you’re being guided by an experienced broker who has been through it all before. You will have someone to talk to if you’re experiencing doubts and you’ll get the expert advice you need to avoid making emotional decisions that wouldn’t be good for you or the business. It’s important to work with a broker who understands how you feel about your business and what you want to achieve through the sale. Your broker should find a buyer who you can trust to take on the business that you have worked so hard to build.  

The same care and diligence that you have applied to building your business, should be applied to selecting the right business broker to make the exit journey as smooth and successful as possible. 

Contact Iain or your local office if you would like some confidential advice around your business sale.