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Getting Started

Life after exit

Many entrepreneurs return to the world of business even after a successful exit gives them the chance to retire

Life after exit

When entrepreneur Andrew Clough sold his publishing business in the middle of the recession he bought himself a “top quality” mountain bike and headed to the Pennines.

“I made a tidy profit from the sale but it wasn’t quite enough to buy a yacht and spend the rest of my life in the Bahamas,” he smiles. “So, I went to the hills on my bike instead, rode around there and got my head back together again. I’d put a lot of work into building the business since it started in 2004 and everything was going swimmingly until the credit crunch hit and print media almost became a dirty name. I was feeling frustrated and disappointed that we hadn’t quite achieved what we planned.”

The company was called Skep – which is a wicker beehive and was chosen to represent buzzing and constant energy. As such it wasn’t long before Clough came up with a new business concept, The Brew, which offers co-working business clubs to around 2000 members. “We had retained our Shoreditch office but without the computers and the people it was a little bit lonely! So, we looked at renting out the space to members looking for an office, internet connection and camaraderie. We now have five sites and a five-year roll-out plan to go nationwide.”

Back to work

Clough’s experience appears typical of entrepreneurs. Barbara Roberts is NY Chair, Tiger 2, entrepreneur in residence at Columbia Business School and co-author of the Columbia Business School white paper ‘Life after and Exit’. She says they tend to move into other fields such as philanthropy, investing, mentoring, setting up a new business venture or more typically acquiring an existing business they can grow.

“In the early months they may travel, take up a hobby or renovate their home but they soon, usually after 18 months, become agitated and disorientated and want to try something more satisfying,” she says.

Business psychologist Mark Parkinson says this is part of a distinct entrepreneurial mindset. “The public view is that if you have been extremely successful then you buy an island and put your feet up for the rest of your life,” he says. “It is precisely what entrepreneurs don’t do. They can’t stop themselves setting up another business or like one entrepreneur I know trying to get into an Olympic team. They are ambitious, independent minded and need to achieve. Retirement means nothing to them - they are unstoppable forces.”

New life

Perhaps but life after exit is not always smooth and ever climbing.

“Whenever you leave something you’ve thrown years of your life into there is a sadness and feeling of loss. You go through the mourning process and enter a period of renewal,” says Roberts. “Those entrepreneurs who set up a new venture immediately, often fail because they feel disjointed and scattered. It can take up to seven years before you regain the peace and happiness you felt when you were busily building and running your own business.”

She says entrepreneurs can best prepare by building up a social network outside of work pre-sale. They also need to assess how they are going to handle their new-found wealth both practically and emotionally. “You need to take time to adjust,” Roberts states.

Clough took his time to analyse the ‘What If’s’ of Skep’s growth and sale. “Money isn’t the driver. It is the endeavour of creating something,” he explains. “It’s like an artist. You always think you can make the next one better.”

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​Where opinions are expressed by third parties, they may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.