In The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber suggests that each business owner has three personalities: entrepreneur, manager, and technician. For many, the technician is the dominant type. These owners are skilled tradespeople, scientists, and service professionals, and they excel at the hands-on work of their company.
Imagine John, an expert electrician who started his own business. For a long time, John’s work was energizing and rewarding. But as the business grew, John no longer enjoyed what he did each day.
Instead of developing installation plans or rolling up his sleeves on the job site, John spends his days in the office putting out fires, stressing over HR issues, and reviewing balance sheets. He barely talks to his customers, unless there’s a problem, and he doesn’t have time to coach his team.
John is burned out and feels stuck. After all, he figures, he’s too young to sell the business. It won’t fund his retirement yet, and there’s too much opportunity out there. Besides, he can’t imagine what else he’d do.
What John doesn’t know is that selling his business might be the best way to fall in love with it again. He doesn’t have to sell all of it, and he doesn’t have to walk away.
Sell a minority share: The M&A process can match you with a business partner. You retain majority ownership while your new business partner brings fresh insight and connections. With the right arrangement, you can step back from management pressures and refocus on the work you like best.
Sell majority control: When you sell a majority share, you take some chips off the table, securing a portion of the wealth you’ve built. Meanwhile, you keep some equity and get a second bite at the apple years later, when business has grown.
This option is attractive to owners who see a clear path to growth, but don’t have the resources or don’t want to risk their own capital. It’s also appealing to owners who want to alleviate certain pressures of ownership, like HR or financial management.
Sell, but keep working: For some, it doesn’t work to be half in, half out. These owners may choose to sell but stay on in an employment contract. As long as culture and philosophies align, long-term transition contracts can be extremely beneficial to the business.
As an owner-turned-employee, you get a salary and benefits, meaning you can put off dipping into the proceeds from your sale. You also get to be part of your employee team in a different way, coaching them and helping everyone adjust to new leadership.
If you’re feeling burned out, you owe it to yourself, your family, and your employees to explore your options. It could be that finding a new partner or owner could be just the right “love match” for you and your business.