Don't Sell Your Business Just Because You're 'Over It' Why? It's The Worst Possible Time To Sell cover image
05 Feb 2010

Don't Sell Your Business Just Because You're 'Over It' Why? It's The Worst Possible Time To Sell


As you and your business enter into your second five years, beware of the symptoms of burnout. We know them all too well. We've been there.

This is the time most business owners start thinking about selling. And, just because you feel you are done with the business is not a reason to put it on the market.

Bottom line: if you do, you won't get what it's worth.

So, here are five major symptoms to be aware of as you approach your second five years.

  1. Loss of passion
    You feel as though you are trapped on a never-ending grind of work, work, and work. After going through the same old routine for five years, the passion has gone. While spending so much time at the coalface, you forgot that your original objective was to dig through it. Without your objective sin mind, you become like a ship without a rudder, going around in circles and getting nowhere fast. Without the spark which created the business, how can you light the fire?

  2. Lack of focus
    At the start you had a dream and a goal and you knew why you wanted to get it. Not only did the goal pull you on, it inspired you, your team and your clients. However, as an entrepreneur, you see opportunity after opportunity and can get distracted from your core goal. And if you lose focus, so does your business.

  3. Lack of new ideas
    You instinctively know the gap between you and your competitors has narrowed. They copy your product or service or, as a result of improved communications and technology, they are bringing in innovative ways of improving what you are doing. Your product is not new any more and you are in danger of losing your competitive advantage in the market place. Without fresh ideas, you are going to be left behind.

  4. Lack of skills
    With things succeeding, there are more people and a bigger business to manage. Your management skills are no longer good enough to take your business to the next level. A lack of planning can affect productivity and profitability. You know you don't have the capacity to master all the skills you require, and the solution is to bring in somebody who can help. But your ego doesn't allow you to admit you're out of your depth. The temptation is to put the foot on the brakes and hold the business to within your competencies. And to hold the reins more tightly than ever.

  5. Lack of adequate capital
    Like most small businesses, you're usually running close to the wire with limited funds. This puts pressure on introducing new technology, marketing initiatives and better human resources to improve products or services. You are feeling the pressure of insufficient capital but don't know what to do.

These are all key symptoms of becoming tired of a business. The core issue here is that you are exhausted and lack energy. You are at least five years older than when you started and not had enough R & R, if any. Burning the candle at both ends, working on pure adrenaline and lack of mental rest has caught up and you are close to burnout.

Most businesses go down not from being badly run but from the owner running out of energy.

Your body may get used to all these years of work, work, work. You could even be numb to the subtle aches and pains, desensitised to your internal alarm bells.

It's like the frog in hot water. As the water heats to boiling, he'll stay there because he won't feel the difference until it's too late. Next, the frog is cooked. The same principle applies to business owners who just keep on keeping on - day after day. You might think you are strong but...

You may well be able to relate to some of these symptoms. But rest assured that all these problems can be addressed with time. Time to think, time to plan and time to reignite your passion.

If you really want to sell, then plan to sell. Don't sell because you're 'done' with the business. By selling when you're sick of

the whole box and dice, you're setting yourself up to get the lowest price possible.  And you deserve far more than that!

Louise Woodbury,
co- author of “The Invisible Entrepreneur - How to Grow Your Business by Taking 3 Months Off” and “The Invisible Partnership - How to Work with Your Spouse Without Ending in Divorce