About eight years ago, the owner of a successful industrial supply company announced he was going to sell his business and retire in five years. The day came and went, and he made no move to do so. Instead, he changed his major supplier after 20 years of selling the same product line, sending the business into a tailspin.
The owner reversed his decision to retire, intending to swoop in to save the day. But the crisis he had created was too big for him to solve; clients and employees left and he was in danger of losing everything. When the business finally sold for cents on the dollar, he was a shadow of his former self and had lost the respect of everyone around him.
Wayne Vanwyck relates that story in the preface to his new book, The Business Transition Crisis. The book is intended to serve as a wakeup call to entrepreneurs facing retirement and offer strategies for planning their succession.
“For most entrepreneurs, it’s a major change in their life,” he said. “Their business is such an integral part of their life – it’s so important to them – but they haven’t taken the time to think about what’s next.”
Vanwyck cites a survey done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in 2005 that found 71 per cent of entrepreneurs intended to retire in the next 10 years. Of those, only seven per cent had a written plan of succession.
Two years ago, Vanwyck and his wife Dawna took a six-month sabbatical and travelled across North America. Vanwyck interviewed about 35 retired business owners from Texas to Newfoundland about their retirement process – what worked well, what they would do again, what they would do differently, and the lessons they learned.
Drawing on those interviews and his experience as an entrepreneur and business advisor, Vanwyck has put together a guide to help business owners prepare for the transition to retirement. While there were plenty of books available on the transaction of selling the business, there were few resources helping entrepreneurs prepare mentally and emotionally.
“This isn’t for people who are looking to sell their business in the next six months; we’re really looking three to five years out,” Vanwyck said.
Entrepreneurs also have to think about what they’re going to do next, whether that be travel, volunteering, or even working for the business in an advisory capacity. Even if they don’t plan to retire for a number of years, it’s good to have a plan in place that the business could continue to function if they became sick or disabled.
Vanwyck has been forced to think about those very things himself, due to a degenerative muscle disease that is gradually affecting his mobility. He’s found a partner for one of his three businesses and is in the process of getting the others in a good position.
“I’m working on taking my own advice,” he said.
The book is available on Amazon and from Vanwyck personally.