Forever Isn’t Really Forever

“They’re going to have to carry me out on a stretcher.” You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve heard this from business owners. And once they make a decision to never retire – or to retire at 75, 80 or beyond – they set it in stone.

The Long Road HomeBecause they plan to stay in their business practically forever, these owners don’t do any planning.

But forever isn’t really forever. It’s only for their lifetimes. By refusing to plan for the inevitable, owners don’t put in place the structures that their spouses, children and employees will need when “forever” comes to pass.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s perfectly OK to choose to keep working until you’re in your mid-70s or even mid-80s, if you love what you do and your health allows.

You’d be in good company. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business owners report that they plan to retire, on average, at age 72.6. That’s significantly longer than employees, who plan to retire at 68.4.

And just 11 percent plan to fully retire. In a Gallup poll, 40 percent of small-business owners say they will continue to work as long as their health allows them to do so, and another 47 percent say they plan to eventually cut back on their workloads but maintain their involvement in their businesses.

More power to them. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean they should put on hold any of the planning efforts it takes to get their companies and people ready for their eventual exit. Since most transition plans take three to five years, if not 10, to execute, planning ahead is the responsible way to govern the business that owners have devoted their lives to.

And you never know. Maybe the business climate will change and it’s just not fun anymore. Maybe your spouse will finally talk you into making time for travel. Maybe you will just get mentally tired and decide to move on. Laying the groundwork early gives you the flexibility to dive into the next adventure in your life.