As a business owner, you’ve poured your time and energy into making your company successful. But how much thought have you given to what will happen when you relinquish this role? Sooner or later, you will step down and hand the reins to someone else. Even if you intend to work for many more years, having a well-defined path can help you develop peace of mind as you enter the next phase of life. Looking ahead allows you to anticipate future opportunities and challenges, as well as give you time to create financial contingency plans that improve your prospects down the road. Here are five ways to constructively think ahead.
1. Decide what the future looks like – for you and your business
What would you like the next chapter of your life to be? Whether it’s starting another business, dedicating time to volunteer or visiting countries on your bucket list, your goals and dreams will be in better reach if you take the time to articulate them.
Next, think about what you desire for your business when you leave the helm. If you want your company to continue after you’re gone, then it’s important to groom future leaders. A succession plan can help you avoid potential gaps in the chain of command and make your company more attractive to prospective buyers. Even if you choose to shut the doors, you’ll want to think about how to best wrap things up with vendors, customers and clients.
2. Assess your retirement savings
After you’ve identified the goals and dreams for you and your business, focus on planning the details of your retirement. You know from being your own boss that you need to have a strategy when you want to achieve specific goals. First and foremost, it’s important to have separate retirement savings as you plan a future that’s independent of the business. Pouring every dollar that you make back into your business is not a retirement plan. Even the best intentions can be thwarted if something unexpected happens.
When you have a retirement savings account in place, commit to making regular contributions. Start as early as you can and consider increasing your contribution as you get closer to retirement age. Enlist the help of a financial advisor to ensure your retirement plan is robust enough to finance your transition and maximize your retirement.
3. Calculate your retirement expenses
Knowing that your savings are enough to cover the lifestyle you want in retirement may help you step away from the business with more confidence. Project what you expect to spend, including any anticipated housing, healthcare, taxes and lifestyle expenses. If you are still years away from retirement, use your best estimate and tweak your projections as you approach your golden years. Compare your expenses to your savings to get a sense for your financial readiness.
4. Consider what income you may receive from selling or passing the reins
This is where you figure out how to optimize a key piece of your nest egg. Do you cash out in a lump sum or negotiate a sale over time? If you’ve built a business that hasn’t reached its full potential, you may be reluctant to sell and forego future profits. You might consider bringing in new leadership to manage day-to-day operations while retaining your ownership stake. If you don’t think you’ll be able to sell your business (which is sometimes the case for sole proprietors who themselves represent much of their business’s value), identify business assets that can be liquidated to generate cash on your way out.