How Your Partner Can Support As You Stabilize and Scale Your Business

How Your Partner Can Support As You Stabilize and Scale Your Business

This is our third part and our final part in the series What Your Life Partner Needs to Know About Supporting Your Business. I hope you have had some good insights and have maybe even shared this episode with your partner. John and I have been re-listening to these episodes together. I wanted to take a moment to share some of his thoughts from our early days in business. 

In the last episode, I shared two specific times where he was so helpful to me in how he supported me during times that were emotionally challenging and how he spoke some hard truths to me that initially made me mad but wound up being truly insightful. These were not the initial moments that he remembered. He shared something completely different. I think that’s really cool to go back and be like, “What do you remember from this time?” I think this is also a lesson that always really shocked me. When John and I would go back and reflect on our first business, and the financial trouble that we had and the bankruptcy, his memory of that time is completely different from my memory of that time.

I’ve even done this with my sister. She has an interpretation of her childhood that’s different from my interpretation of our childhood. It’s easy to default into being frustrated about that but I think we all need to work on finding greater compassion for those closest to us in our lives. So John remembers not really understanding what I did or how I would make money, doing this. I think part of it, it’s really funny because my dad felt the same way. My dad when I first started out, he made some comments to me that really shook me. They were basically around I think not understanding how digital marketing worked. That felt squishy to them. They didn’t quite get it. 

John also had a really valid point in not understanding how I would make money because you probably haven’t heard this before if you’re new to the podcast or new to my story but I started this business in the fall of 2014 and was charging $10 an hour. Legitimately less than a babysitter for your three-year-old. I had a decade’s worth of relevant experience, a master’s degree, a proven track record for developing high-performing leaders and teams. When John says he didn’t understand how I was going to make money doing this, that was a very, very real perspective back then. Despite how confident I might seem today or even back then, on the inside, I have battled low self-confidence for a very, very long time. While I don’t identify with the term impostor syndrome, I’m sure that those behaviors are probably in the mix as well.

With each passing year in business, my confidence has grown and grown and grown and grown to where I am today, feeling very confident about my business, my business skills, how I help people, the results I get them, the benefits of working with me, all of those things, my message, all those things, but in the beginning, I didn’t. I really want to encourage everybody to find the evidence that you’re great at what you do. Stay clear of people whose behavior erodes your confidence, like clients who don’t value your time and expertise, clients who second guess your ability, who don’t show up in the same energy as you do, people who aren’t in alignment with your core values. Being around certain people can really ding up your confidence, making it really hard to get back. 

In those early days of being in your business, your number one job is developing your confidence.

I’m sure that my lack of confidence caused John to wobble in his trust in me. He said he just held firm and kept the lines of communication open. He just kept believing in me and he just kept trusting me. I had an entire army of people at this time in my life who were demanding me to be confident. I appreciate how staunchly they believed in me before I believed in myself. I remember a former mentor of mine telling me during this period of time after hearing what I was charging, which at that point was actually a lot higher than what I was charging when I first started out but not nearly in alignment with my skills and expertise, she said, “I don’t want you to be confident. I want you to be arrogant.” 

Remember when I was talking in the other episode about swinging the pendulum, that’s what she was saying. She wanted me to swing the pendulum way to the other side. I don’t think I ever really did that but I appreciated her point of view. My dad would give me pep talk after pep talk. My coach at the time, Sarah Kaler, supported me with this. So much work went into me becoming more confident. But the more confident I became, the more open to talking about what I was up to, and how I was approaching my business, the more transparent I was, the more John trusted me. It takes the both of you.

We need some initial default to trust from our partners, then we need to show up and really continue to build relationships. With everybody around us, we want to be building high trust relationships but especially with the people who matter most. 

How Your Partner Can Support As You Invest In Your Business

John shared how uncertain he was at the end of 2015 when I approached him with the biggest investment in my life, at the end of the first year of my business, my life to that point I should say. I didn’t have the money. It was genuinely the scariest thing I had ever done. I remember exactly what I said to him though. I was thinking about investing in this program and it was $25,000. 

Honestly, that number was scary to me, maybe you have a higher threshold, maybe you have a lower threshold, the number’s really not important but what’s important is that it was a big number to me and that I didn’t have that money. We can all, I’m sure, remember being in those places or maybe you’re in that place now. I remember the first investments that I made in my business were much, much, much, much, much smaller. It’s bananas. I had no idea at the time how that was going to turn out but I remember saying to him, “I want to become the woman who invests $25,000 in herself. I want to be the woman who bets big on her dreams and success. If I’m not willing to do this, nobody else will invest in me either.”

I wasn’t actually even talking about my clients. I was talking about my time in corporate where I used to put forth training budgets and I used to put forth requisition after requisition for trainings that I wanted to take. It’s funny because I was actually responsible for the leadership development and my boss was over me. I needed her approval and they would sit on my boss’s desks for weeks, and weeks and weeks, and weeks. I would notice that the engineers would always get their requisitions approved right away. Most of the engineers were men, and that there was a propensity to invest in harder skills but not the softer or power skills that I was looking to invest in. Really that’s what I was referring to when I was talking about that. If I’m not willing to do this, who is going to be willing to invest in me?

It’s funny because when I look back at this time, I don’t remember John even wavering in his support, which for all the times I cursed him for his stoicism. I should probably thank him for it because at that moment, his poker face was incredibly helpful. I think that probably, I’m going to make a generous assumption about my husband right now. It’s probably a fairly accurate one. I’m going to say that while he was probably like, “Oh my God, she’s doing what?” When I said to him I want to become the woman who invests $25,000 in herself, he probably wanted me to become that woman too. He was just as scared as I was. What’s funny is we invested four to six times that in our first business, so I don’t know why this worried him other than to say our investments in the first business were into machines, materials, and the build out of a physical location. We even borrowed money from our home equity line of credit at one point to make payroll for the employees that we had. I guess those things were tangible or investing in machines versus our discomfort with investing in and trusting ourselves.

I remember having a similar conversation with my dad a few years into my business when I was well into the growth stage and shared with him how much I had invested in my business. I felt so uncertain and scared sharing that with him because I was afraid of his judgment, and what he would say. I really respect my dad. I consider him a mentor. He has been running a manufacturing business for almost 40 years. I talk about his business often on the podcast

He said to me, “Of course, you would invest that in yourself like I used to have to invest in machinery, the building, and employees. You don’t have those things because you’re a service-based business with very little overhead, so you would be putting those things into yourself.” That was also a big moment of confirmation for me aside from obviously the growth that I’ve had over the years, both personally and professionally, that I really needed to have some of that external validation and that’s okay. That’s okay. At times, we will need external validation. Our partners, the people who matter in our lives who we have deemed safe and important are the people who can validate us in that way if it’s needed. I know there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s like, “You should never need external validation.” I don’t buy that. We’re human.

Looking At The Story We Tell Ourselves

The other moments that I wanted to share that this conversation with John really jogged for me were in the really early days, my startup days in my business. I remember feeling some of the following: I felt like I was going to outgrow my husband. Any success I would have would make him want to leave me, not love me or me leave him. There were a lot of, “Success makes me unlovable or success drives people away” or “Success causes me to leave people behind.” There was a lot of that. I remember the month of the year, it’s February 2016, I remember having a crying fit practically on the floor of my kitchen, worried about this. I was really starting to experience success in my business. I was really at that point where I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So raw emotionally and saying to him like, “Oh my gosh, are you going to leave me if I become more successful? Am I going to leave you? I’m so scared of this.” As uncomfortable and as vulnerable as that, was really just saying it and shining the spotlight on it, like Brené Brown says.

This is why I recommend Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. She talks about having a framework for the language we use when we speak to people and saying the story I’m telling myself. The story I’m telling myself is that I’m going to become unlovable if I become more successful. The story I’m telling myself is that you’re going to leave me if I become more successful. Some of those conversations were awkward, not going to lie, awkward, definitely activating. I remember John not really knowing how to respond to some of the things that I was sharing. I remember looking back, me not sharing it in sometimes the best way and maybe in a way that was harsh or that created more conflict but just really having the patience to work through that.

I also remember desperately wanting to out earn him. This was such a goal for me. I just wanted to out earn my husband. I think that’s there for a lot of women, given our experiences in past jobs in corporate, in relationship to our careers and men, our relationship to the data around our earning and men. If you have a male partner and they’re listening to this episode, I think it’s important that they know that it exists and that it might exist for you. If you can’t tell them that here, I’m telling them that here right now. Have them listen to this podcast if you’re like, “I don’t know how to say that. Let Tara say it. It’s fine.” 

I remember also the first year I started my business, I was working full-time still, so I had income coming in. We were reducing our expenses dramatically, trying as best we could to live on one salary, so we could save mine for those peaks and valleys of early business ownership, then we had an agreement that he was going to support me for a year while I got this business up and running, and left my corporate job. I had money coming into the business. I was making money. I was not obviously making the money that I was making when I was in corporate but that I was going to take the money that I was making in the business and reinvest it all into the business that first year. That first full year was 2016, then in 2017, I was going to start paying myself as best as I could. Those were our agreements. We would check in on them frequently.

You have to realize too that when John started our first business and he left his full-time job, we lost two-thirds of our income. That was one thing that we were like, “Oh, whoops, that happened. We were unprepared for that.” I supported him. He didn’t take a paycheck for the first 10 or 11 months that he was in business, in running that business, then it was very sporadic. For a lot of those years, I stayed in corporate and worked my job as the steady income to support him. But I remember feeling so much despair when I wasn’t earning what I was earning in corporate. There was so much enmeshed for me in what I earned and who I was and my identity. Having to rely more heavily on his income made me feel so disempowered. 

Having to work through that was probably one of the best experiences early on in my business. I truly believe that getting myself to a point where I could receive from my husband in that way allowed me to step into receiving money in my business because I know so many women struggle with receiving. This is a big topic that comes up whenever we talk about money. I really had to look at this as my assignment. What is your assignment at this moment? That was my assignment. I needed to work through the very raw, uncomfortable icky feelings that I had around no longer identifying with my salary, no longer identifying with my corporate role, what I made success mean in terms of money, and really starting to untangle some of those things.

I have to tell you what’s here for you and your relationships at home are here for you and your business. If you can work through some of these things at home, I realize that not everybody has a loving supportive relationship with their partner. I realize that we are on a spectrum at all times in our relationships with our partners. I’ve shared my ups and downs in the past few episodes as well. But if we can somehow navigate these things on the home front, which despite not maybe having the best relationship with our partner at the time, it is safer I feel in most cases—I realize there are extreme cases where it’s not. I do want to acknowledge that—But if we can practice these things at home with our partners, with our children, with our parents, with our siblings, with our very close friends, if we can practice these leadership moments where we’re leading ourselves in these relationships, it’s a great place to practice. It’s a great place to practice having influence. It’s a great place to practice communication and difficult conversations, which are important for some of these next stages that we’re going to be talking about in our businesses, which are the next three stages, which are stabilize, scale, and legacy.

I just want to say that I brought up these points, these things that are more vulnerable and raw that lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment or guilt. I want to say, “Hey, if you have any of these feelings, you’re not alone.” It’s probably more common than we think that these are the feelings that we have and this is the stuff that we’re not talking about, that we’re not sharing, that we’re not saying out loud. I really want to put a voice to those things that you might be feeling. If you’re not feeling those things, then that’s fine. Disregard. These next three stages are really starting to become punctuated with leadership, difficult conversations, learning how to navigate our stress, our anxiety, and our worry.

How Your Partner Can Support As You Stabilize Your Business

Stabilize is that point between growth and scaling. Most businesses either don’t get to this phase or skip it and rush right towards scaling a business because stabilizing requires you to be really present with what’s happening. Stabilizing is a bit of a respite. You might choose to stay in this phase. You might be like, “You know what, this phase is great. I like this phase. It’s calm. I’m bringing in money. I can make some continuous small improvements to keep up with inflation or maybe add a little revenue each year but this is really a sweet spot for me.” 

I like to think of “stabilize” as answering the question, “What if you could make the same amount of revenue that you’re currently making but make it easier? How would your life be different if you could do that, if you could claw back some space on your calendar, be more efficient but still maintain the revenue that you’re currently making? At this stage, you’re stepping into your role as a CEO, so you can start reclaiming that time, your life, most likely your health if it’s gotten a little dinged up in the process. It’s a time to pause, breathe, reflect on your successes, and decide on the future vision of the company.

Energetically, you’re experiencing a wide variety of emotions from pride and joy, that you built something from nothing to deeper levels of fatigue than you thought you could experience. Your nervous system has most likely been rocked by personal growth, by business growth. It’s time to really start prioritizing, if you haven’t already, you should always be prioritizing yourself but I understand that in times of growth, even when you’re prioritizing yourself, you might not feel like you’re prioritizing yourself. 

By facing your fears and doing things that are uncomfortable, you’ve most likely come face to face with past trauma, relationship issues, high degrees of stress and uncertainty, questioning your purpose, questioning your values, questioning your vision, and a whole ton of rethinking what your life’s choices are. 

This stabilize phase is as much about stabilizing you, the human, as it is about stabilizing the business.

 It’s about integrating who you have become all this way. We re-look at boundaries, systems, structures, and all those things in this phase. Mentally, you’re realizing that to continue in a way that’s sustainable. You’re going to have to do less. A lot less. If you want this business to truly be sustainable, there’s a reckoning that is going to have to happen, which means you’re going to have to make some excruciatingly difficult decisions, have some hard conversations, and discern between what’s good and what’s great. That is agonizing. 

The stabilized stage can feel intellectually boring. It’s free from drama for the most part. This is a much less reactive stage of business, which gives you the space to think more strategically and be proactive. It’s the type of work that often creates a need to shift beliefs, how you think about work, financial rewards, and what truly motivates you. It’s often a challenge for business owners who pride themselves on being a visionary to curtail their ideation and not run with every thought that enters their head. It takes time to train yourself to think big but act with restraint. That is what’s required to simplify the business. When we start to do this, oh my goodness, this leads to scarcity, to FOMO, grief. There is so much grief that comes with growth. Nobody talks about it.

The grief that comes with saying goodbye to clients that you might have worked with for a long time but might not be a fit any longer in your business. Grief that comes with saying goodbye to the parts of you who have been around and have kept you safe and protected you and have been loyal to you but might not be taking front and center right now. They might have to sit in the back seat or step off to the side. Really, grief that comes with rethinking. 

I believed this at one point but now I don’t believe that anymore or I shared this and now I’m sharing something else or I’m letting this part of my thought leadership go or I’m letting this part of my business go. There’s just a lot of grief. Your business is becoming much more stable at this point in terms of revenue, cash flow, and operations, which is great. Amazing. Your product or market fit is confirmed and validated. There is clear evidence of traction, growth, revenue, and client retention. Your value proposition is clear. There’s a large enough market to sustain your business.

Challenges at this stage may include making the best investments to take you to the next stage if you decide to scale, delegating, and letting go of things the way you have always done them. This came up on a call on our mastermind the other day around someone letting go of thinking they should be doing something a certain way because they’ve always done it, then when they really stepped back and looked at it, they saw how much more profit they were going to have if they stopped doing this thing. It almost didn’t matter. 

It was like, “What are people going to think? What are my clients going to think if I stop doing this and I stop offering this thing? Then it was like, “Well, it didn’t really matter because let’s face it, not all of her clients were going to be like, ‘This sucks. We’re leaving.’” That’s a little extreme but if she did lose some clients, what she was gaining in profitability offset that revenue. These are the kinds of things that you’re really rumbling with at this stage, as well as planning ahead and focusing on bringing consistent improvement to few revenue streams rather than the many.

This is a time that you’re going to be digging into focus and consistency, even more patience than you thought you had before. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You might be delegating and letting go of things that you want to control. This is a big time where we’re releasing control. This is a great time in your business to reassess what you want. 

This is really where I think our partners come in. Having these conversations together.

What do we need to thrive? Now that we’ve seen the success, we’ve experienced success, how has this changed us? What would we do differently? What are we saying no to? If you haven’t already thought about this or had these conversations, now is the time to be making sure that you have a plan for creating wealth with cash generating assets other than your business.

The way I see your business is that your business is a cash generating asset that fuels other cash generating assets, like retirement accounts, stocks, index funds, real estate. What are some of those things? Maybe investing in another business. What are those things that you want to be investing your money in at this stage now that things have stabilized? If you haven’t had that conversation—which by the way, you can be investing at any stage in your business, I know it doesn’t feel that way sometimes but we can do anything we put our minds to doing, we could do anything that we have a plan for—but this is really that stage where you want to be having those deeper conversations around your vision, the future, your values, money, getting clear on what you want and don’t want. It’s not easy. It takes vulnerability and courage. But also at this stage, it’s time to get a damn life.

If you’ve been putting in a lot of effort, you’ve been hyper focused on growing your business for years and it’s time to have a life now, it’s time to enjoy what you’ve built, read some fiction books, get outdoors more, find a new hobby, enjoy the money you’re earning, this is a great way for your partner to support you. But I also hear from so many women that they work to avoid their life. This also isn’t just women. These are men too. It’s definitely time for a check-in around, “What are you avoiding? If you feel like you’re overworking, why? What are you leaving unsaid? What are you avoiding? What conversations do you need to have with yourself, then your partner? Are you having family meetings or partner meetings regularly? Do you need to practice asking for what you need on a more regular basis?

Let me backup for a second. Here’s a red flag for me. If I’m feeling super overwhelmed and I’m like, “Okay, who do I need to hire next in the business? What help do I need to have more of in the business? What do I need to spend money on for support in the business?” I need to check in and look at my personal life and see, “Am I asking the people in my life to be supporting me versus defaulting to paying for support?” 

Listen, yes, pay for support, absolutely, 100% but also you don’t always have to pay for support. You have people at home who you can ask for support who it’s their job in their relationship with you to be supporting you. This goes for your husband, your kids, friends, siblings, whatever. Ask for what you need. We don’t always have to be paying for that. When I start to feel that way, it’s always a check-in for me to go, “Okay, am I getting the support I need from the people in my life who are here to support me? What are my expectations around this support? What conversations do we need to have?”

Over the last few years, I’ve become very present to my habits and behaviors that occur when I’m feeling stressed because let’s face it, you’re running a business, you feel stressed. 

How do you communicate when you’re feeling threatened, scared, uncertain, embarrassed? Really ask yourself that question. If I’m having a challenging day for whatever reason, sometimes, this is what support looks like for me. I want to share that because I’m not always sure we know what support looks like for us. What support looks like for me is I’ve gotten into the habit of texting John at the end of the day to say, “Hey, I’ve had a particularly draining day and need a few hours of quiet. I’m going to sit in my chair.” I love my chair. If you know anything about me, on my chair, and my cozy blankets, that is where I’m most of the time. I wish I could just live there on some days. It’s my equivalent of maybe crawling into bed and pulling my blankies over my head but I’ll say, I’m going to sit in my chair, read, write, scroll the husky videos on Instagram for an hour. It’s not anything you’ve done. Thanks. I love you. I just want to be clear. I need space. It has nothing to do with anything that he’s done.

I realize that sometimes, I could be moody. I’m working through things. Really the most support that I need from him is just not to make a big deal about it. “Don’t make this mean something. Don’t take this personally.” I tell him, “Don’t take this personally. I’m in a funk. I’m not fit for human interaction right now. I needed a break,” or the other night, I asked him to make sure we were in bed at 9:30 PM. “Hold me accountable to a good night’s sleep because I am feeling really fatigued. Can you please make sure that we are in bed at 9:30 PM?” He’s great with that stuff. Find the things that your partners are good at and understand how they can be a source of support in those ways. We all have our strengths.

How Your Partner Can Support As You Scale Your Business

First, let’s acknowledge that scaling your business is a choice. You alone need to make that choice. You and your life partner need to decide, are you going to scale this business? This is not for a business coach to decide. This is not for internet marketing people to decide. This is a you and your partner thing to decide.

Scaling happens gradually over time. Scaling requires doing less, not more. Women tend to avoid this phase because they think it’s about doing more and they’re burned out from growth, which is why I like to put “stabilize” in between the two. It’s like, “Let’s catch our breath. Let’s do some rest and recovery before we decide whether or not we want to make this thing bigger than it is.” This does require a check-in around what you’re willing to do, what are your boundaries around scaling your business, what are you willing to do, and what aren’t you willing to do? I do think that’s a conversation you need to have with your partner.

Here’s the thing at this stage though, at stabilize, even probably in growth a little bit but as we’re getting to stabilize, scaling, your business is making money, you’re making money coming in, you’re meeting the financial demands of the family, you’re not talking so much about like, “I’m investing X in my business. I’m investing Y in my business.” I don’t talk to John at all about what 

I’m particularly investing in terms of money in my business because I can meet my personal financial commitments. If I can’t meet my personal financial commitments, that’s a conversation we need to have and we need to have quickly like, “Hey babe, I noticed that sales are dropping off in the business. I’m not sure what that’s going to mean for cash flow. I might have some tight months. Let’s sit down and talk about how we’re going to make this work,” or when we do our check-ins, I’m like, “Yep, plenty of money. No problem. I can pay us. This is what we’re doing.” This is what contributions look like for us. Having those conversations in terms of line of sight but it’s less about, “I’m spending X on a marketing person or I’m hiring somebody,” or anything like that.

This phase means that you’re able to handle a large increase in work, output delivery, service and revenue. You’ve created a reputation and you’ve become known for the specific role you play in your customers journey. That’s what scaling looks like. You have navigated being in demand and possibly have a waitlist for your services, so your business is making the money required for you personally. Now, you want to impact more people with your work. 

You have the team and systems in place to manage a larger scale of delivery in operations. The increased growth can be managed without issues arising in other areas, like staff availability and workload or cash flow equality. This is actually a place where both John and I are at right now in our businesses. Our conversations are very, very different. They’re making a lot of decisions, so we’re mentally fatigued.

John just hired a new employee that he’s on boarding and that is taking a lot of his mental bandwidth, and his time, realizing that investing his time into this employee is going to take maybe six months before they’re up and going. John has a lot of additional challenges right now, just because of the economy around labor shortages and ability to get goods through supply chains. I’m really thinking about, “What are we going to stop doing? What are we letting go of?” That’s bringing up a little bit of scarcity, fear, and anxiety. These are our conversations that we’re having now. It’s me listening to him about how his day has gone and really just being an ear, and me saying to him, “Hey, I’m feeling super anxious right now. Just sit with me. Just sit with me. I’m feeling anxious,” or “I’ve got a lot of fear around this. I just need to be able to speak my fears out loud.” I don’t need him jumping on my fear bandwagon. I need him to be in a place of trust in me. It’s almost like sometimes, that startup phase again that never really goes away. That’s really how John and I are supporting each other now as we scale our business.

We’re talking about things like, How much of this do we want to do? 

We just put a seven to ten year plan in place for us to retire. I’m 45. He’s 48. In seven to ten years, we want to be able to say we’re done. He’s been running a business for a long time. I’ve been in the workforce and running a business for a long time. I don’t want to wait until I’m 65. How does this business right now contribute to that long-term plan? That is a lot of the conversation that we’re having right now as we’re scaling. How is this going to impact our personal freedom if we grow the business in this way or that way? Are we keeping our personal freedom front and center because we’ve hit a lot of those other financial benchmarks? 

I don’t have to scale my business. I want to scale my business. I want to have a greater impact. What does that mean and look like? What am I willing to do or not do to have that impact that I want to have?

During this time, some of your challenges might include developing a company culture, stepping into responsibility for both employees and customers, managing your boundaries, energy, and focus. Like I said, “What am I willing to do and what am I not willing to do?” Finding the right balance between hiring and sales growth, this is such a dance like, “Do I hire the person, then that allows me to increase sales? or “Do I increase sales, then I become bottlenecked but I need the person?” Those are tricky things that we’re navigating in that scaling phase, thinking strategically about the entire business’ ecosystem, economic factors, like I was just mentioning, and having a plan for growth but also having a plan for recessionary times. 

At this point in your business, you should be able to have a worst case scenario, a better case scenario, and a best case scenario plan for your year.

I have already planned the worst case scenario in my business. Here’s the absolute minimum that I need coming in to meet my financial goals based on the data I have, based on past performance in the business, based on my energy and attention levels right now. Here’s what I think I can do at a minimum. Then what does growth look like? I always want to make sure that I can achieve that worst case scenario number so that my family is always provided for. That becomes a lot easier as you grow your business. Those are some of those conversations that you might want to be having with your partner. John and I are both having these conversations around the economy, what we’re seeing, what is reasonable and realistic, and what is hopeful and optimistic. We want to be able to navigate both of those things.

How Your Partner Can Support In the Legacy Stage Of Your Business

Legacy is the last stage. At the legacy stage, your business is well established. It’s been operating for many, many, many years with success and has a well-defined offer, long-term client success, market fit, all those things. At this point, you’re feeling ready to move on to a different career, most likely a passion project. Many of you are not in this space but there are a handful of people that I work with who are in the legacy phase. It is such a fun phase to be in. 

You might not even have to scale your business to reach legacy. Legacy can play out in a couple of different ways. Your business can now run on its own without your input and operate successfully as its own entity with a minimal interaction from you, or two, your business has become an asset in itself and can now be sold to a private buyer or an investment group, or three, you have built up assets and personal wealth through investments in index funds, stocks, real estate, other businesses that allows you to have passive income from a source other than your business. Those are three ways you wind up in legacy.

At that point, when you have that income coming in or you have been bought out or you have somebody running the company, you can move on and do your own thing. Let me tell you, this is a rumble for people.Often, I’m watching some of my clients rumble with this for multiple years now because you’ve had a whole lifetime, you have a whole identity as this business owner who does this thing, who has experienced the success, who has these employees or has these customers or has these colleagues or whatever it is and it’s closure. It’s a transition. It’s a big, big life closure. It’s a lot of trust. “Can I trust that the business will run without me? Can I trust that I have enough money saved to do this next thing?” This is a big existential moment in a business owner’s life.

When you’re here, the challenges at this stage are deciding what you want to do next, shifting your thinking around the role that work plays in your life, navigating the opinions of other people, especially if you’ve reached this stage and you’re young, and you’re not 65 plus and this is not a retirement situation. Making the best decision for your existing business clients and employees like, “How do I do right by my existing clients and the business, and the employees?” 

I remember when my dad went through this because he actually chose a very different path. He liquidated his business. He didn’t have anybody to hand it over to. My sister and I were not able to run the business. He did not groom someone to run the business in his absence. He sold parts and pieces of it but he didn’t sell it to a private person who was going to then run it. He owned a bronze casting foundry. There are very few of those in the states. It’s a very rare type of business. It’s not something that somebody can easily come in and run. He really had to have a longer range plan around how he was going to handle his clients, how he was going to handle employees, how much notice he was going to give people, what kind of severance he was going to give. This was a multi-year process for him to work through.

I’ve seen this play out in lots of different ways. It’s a really lovely time in a business owner’s life. It’s also a time that requires a lot of stillness, solitude, and going inward and listening to your intuition, and big conversations with the person in your life and how are the two of you going to navigate what comes next. 

These are all decisions you’re going to want to make with your life partner. 

It’s going to affect your income. It’s going to affect your finances. Hopefully, you’ve set yourself up well for this. It’s really no big deal but you’re also going to want to support each other through I’m sure the fear that might come up around leaning into this. How are you going to navigate other people’s opinions? How are you going to navigate the opinions of your family and friends as you make these decisions? What does that look like? How do you want to spend this time that you’re going to get back in your life? What about your other partner? Are you doing this together? Are you both going to be stepping back from roles together or is one going to be working? What are the expectations around each of you and your time, and how do you spend that time? Are you looking to be going on vacations and traveling together or are you going to travel by yourself? Big existential life questions here, but fun ones, fun ones, fun ones that we can enjoy having and playing with.

I really want to challenge everybody. Think about your legacy. Think about this legacy business now. Let this be your vision. Let this be the thing that’s seeing you through the startup phase, the growth phase, the stabilize phase. Have this be a vision for the purpose you want your money to have in your life. 

Have this as a conversational point for you and your partner around, “What does our life look like 10, 15, 20 years from now? What does our future self have to say to us about this life that we’ve created?” Really allow yourself to dream a bit. If you’re anything like me because this gets dicey. I remember having a hard time when I was 40, I started my business. I’d done the thing. I’d left corporate. That was a big deal. I left corporate and my vision collapsed. I was like, “Well, what do I want for myself now?” That was the big vision. I was like, “Okay well, what does the next 10 years of my life look like?” I was about 40 and I had a really hard time with that because that would be projecting me out to 50. My kids would be grown and flown. That’s tender.

My husband’s mother passed away when she was young. She was 53. I didn’t want to think about him turning 50 and in relation to what was happening there. These were very raw things to talk about. I didn’t want to talk about where we were with our money and face the numbers that it might take for us to achieve retirement. I felt like we were so far away from that. It felt so daunting. It’s fun to have big dreams. It’s also sometimes really challenging. I don’t think we acknowledge that. You might be a big dreamer and maybe your partner isn’t. Is the conversation, “Are you willing to get on board with my dreams? Are you willing that if I start to think about this and start these conversations, are you willing to join me in the conversation?” Where do we need to meet our partners or where do they need to meet us in these moments?

I hope these episodes were helpful. I hope that they challenge you to have a different level of conversation. I hope that they normalize some of the things that you might be experiencing and going through or thinking about. I’m going to ask once again, John heard my wrap up to the other podcast and he laughed. I’m going to please ask you to share this podcast with your friends who are also running businesses. I believe this is one of the most underrepresenting topics in business education today. I know it’s going to help so many people.