You’ve sold your business and have a healthy sum in your bank account. Most people would expect you to take some time off, possibly sipping champagne on a beach in Barbados. But that’s not the typical approach to life after exit says Mark Call, London chair of Tiger 21, the peer-to-peer learning network for entrepreneurs.
“Recently I was speaking to an entrepreneur who is planning to spend the next six months relaxing on the island of Bora-Bora. Selling gives you the time and money to pursue hobbies or go on dream holidays, but in my experience, living the high life for months on end or just playing endless rounds of golf is a rare path to take,” he states.
“We find that entrepreneurs don’t truly understand the scope and scale of the change in their lives post-exit. They learn that it is much broader than just a financial event. It has a profound impact on family and social life and can affect you psychologically. It’s like a grieving process.”
Call says many entrepreneurs find themselves ‘pulling up the drawbridge’. However, entrepreneurs use this time wisely, reflecting on the change in their circumstances and how it impacts those close to them. It gives them space to ponder how to re-balance their lives and seek out the next chapter.
So, what options are out there? Investment is one area that entrepreneurs can focus on. Many start to build a portfolio of angel or venture capital investments in start-ups or growing businesses.
“Entrepreneurs are often very grateful for the breaks they were offered when starting out and they want to help others begin their journey,” says Call.
“We are seeing more people in their 20s set up businesses than ever before. They have the advantage that they can take more risks because they don’t have mortgages or children yet. But they also need experience and advice and so good partnering, either through direct investment or mentoring from older entrepreneurs, can help.”
In a similar vein, entrepreneurs often write books or give talks and lectures at schools, universities or business groups to pass on the secrets of their success. Some entrepreneurs move into local or central government to use their experience to benefit the country.
Philanthropy and charitable work is another channel entrepreneurs can go down. They can either donate to existing social organisations or charities or get pro-actively involved in the organisations’ strategies and management. This can also lead to entrepreneurs setting up their own charities and foundations. “Entrepreneurs can be game-changers for social causes,” Call explains.
Entrepreneurs can also be enticed by sticking to what they know and looking to set up a new business from scratch or lead an existing business to new heights. “Entrepreneurs are intrigued by the concept of being a serial entrepreneur,” Call says. “Can they do it again or was that first business a case of luck and being in the right place at the right time?
About three quarters of our members are still involved in business in some form and it tends to be an active role rather than the role of a non-executive director. They want to keep contributing to success.”
Retirement is another option for entrepreneurs who, because of their demanding work, may be keen to slow down. However, if they have the energy and time, a quiet life rarely follows a business exit.