When I sold my company, AdKarma, the CEO of the acquiring company said, “Just remember, Bobby, it’s not the money you make, it’s the money you keep.”
I’ve found that to be a wise piece of advice, because deciding how to invest my earnings entailed a lot of work. What was even more challenging was the question of “what next?” It wasn’t until my first day out of the office following the acquisition that I truly felt free to think about what was next. Here are five things I’ve learned in sorting through my post-sale financial and business future:
1. The sale has value outside of that pile of cash in the bank.
The money you make from the sale of your company and the financial security it offers is the most important thing. But the value of the sale is bigger than just your financial take. Building and selling a company is a hard thing; 93 percent of all tech companies fail, according to the Startup Genome Report. You not only started a company, you also made it successful enough that someone bought it. This will give you a lot of credibility with potential future investors.
Investors and partners want to do business with those who know how to build companies and make profits. Make sure that you use the narrative of your successful sale to stimulate financing or acquire the tools needed to pursue your next venture.
2. Financial advisors can help with more than just finance.
Finding a competent and trustworthy financial advisor is not as easy as it seems. After the sale, you will be swamped with advisor introductions and pitches. It’s quite a challenge digging through the presentations and making a choice.
What you will also find is that many of those presentations and projections look the same. For me, the “winning” advisor was more than just a good money manager. The firm had previous experience with post-sale owners like me and as part of its service, connected me with like-minded and driven individuals. This was a value that went beyond just financial planning. The firm help me connect and gather resources for my next steps.
3. Fear is good. Fear is bad.
Fear is good because it makes you think about your choices. Fear is bad because it keeps you from making choices. I heard Ariana Huffington speak once about the fear of failing. She thought that the reason so many successful entrepreneurs have only one success is that they are afraid of failing with their next company.
Better to quit while you are ahead! I’ve experienced this fear myself, even though I’ve started multiple successful companies. Fear can keep you from making the bold choices that made you successful at the start. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what you’ve got to do is recognize your fear and come to terms with the idea that failure is a possibility and that that is OK. If you choose to start another company or venture, remember to go after it the same way you did with its predecessor.
4. Be true to yourself.
There are many ways to make money. After the sale, you will have countless opportunities to invest in projects. I myself had a variety of investment opportunities. And they all had the potential to be lucrative. But, I asked myself, did I just want to make more money?
I think there are two ways to be true to yourself. The first is to invest and continue to pursue opportunities that you are good at. If you are a tech guy, do tech — that’s what you’re good at. If you are a banker, do banking, that’s what you’re good at. The second way to be true to yourself is to pursue your passion.
And keep in mind that there’s one thing in this world money cannot buy: time. That means time with your family, time making the world a better place, time just living. So, if you can choose how to spend your time, be true to yourself and spend it on something you are passionate about.
5. It’s OK to disappoint people.
People will want you to do a variety of different things. It’s OK to say no. It’s healthy to say no. This will disappoint some people, and they may very well resent you. I’ve been asked, for example, to donate, serve on committees and boards and take different leadership roles since the sale. Yet I couldn’t possibly do 25 percent of the things I have been asked to do.
You will also be asked for advice, and it is OK not to give it. I received some good tips from an investor who told me he doesn’t give advice very often because he believes most people do not want to hear the truth. I agree that people often just want to be reaffirmed and not truly hear what needs to be done. After your sale, you could spend every day giving advice. I would advise you to save it for the people who will truly listen.
Hopefully, my experiences will help you navigate the post-sale world. Growing your company all those years may have felt like going to war. All you thought about was keeping it alive and winning the battles. But now the war is over and you’ve come home. Sometimes that’s harder than the fight. Take time to appreciate your accomplishment. Then carefully decide what’s next.