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Private business exit Q3. What are your goals and dreams?

In my occasional series on private business exit, so far I’ve asked you why you want to sell, and what your business offers the world. Now for a question that should be asked of the owners in any private business strategy exercise, but rarely is. What are your goals and dreams - inside the business, outside the business and after the business?

I’m not looking for warm fuzzies; I’m looking for realistic aims that you still want to achieve and for which you are prepared to sweat and sacrifice. They may be purely monetary; they could be associated with status or scale or time or experience; anything really, as long as it’s what motivates you.

These are not things people always admit, so a high degree of honesty and trust is needed for this process. One British guy I know had the dream of achieving a knighthood because it would have made his mother proud (his parents had started married life very poor), and business followed by personal philanthropy was his way to get there. A New Zealander wanted to make enough money that she could afford to be a full-time mother while giving her family a very attractive lifestyle.

You’d be amazed by how many owners have become so mired in the day-to-day that they’ve forgotten why they’re doing what they do. Re-exploring those dreams and goals can be a way of re-igniting the creativity, passion and drive needed to make decisions and carry them out, to re-invigorate yourselves and/or your business. Or it could firm up a vague desire to quit into a decisive exit plan and implementation.

Of course, sometimes I’m just told to mind my own business! Many private business owners are decisive, confident people. They’ve made a decision and I’m just there to help them carry it out. In the context of private business exit, what’s important to understand is whether the private business owners are ready to sell, able to sell, and willing to sell. It may also set some constraints or freedoms around the business sale process.

First posted July 21st, 2008