I Wanna Quit But Can't

This article is dedicated to all the mature business owners who are bored with their jobs, would like to retire and don’t really enjoy the business anymore. First, I can identify with you more than you think. I have been doing this for over 30 years, and I think no matter what one does for a living, there are days, tasks and projects that just are not as exciting as they once were.

Start by understanding that such an attitude may be more about life than your actual business situation. Whether you deliver mail or are a U.S. senator, our biological clock has a way of shortening our tolerance for nonsense and creating a desire to enjoy life. As the end of career and lives approach, we want to do things that are more meaningful.

Mature business owners who want to quit but can’t tend to fall into two categories. One group does not have enough money to quit and is forced to continue. Another group has money but few interests outside of work and would not know what to do if they did quit. Let’s talk about both.

No-Money Quitters: The actual numbers may vary according to which actuary report you consult, but if you are currently 50 to 60 years old, there is a good chance you will live beyond 80. This represents another 20 to 30 years. We all know that Social Security is helpful, but it won’t support most of our current lifestyles. With Social Security issues, it is questionable what will really be there once future Social Security program cuts have been made.

The first step is to meet with a financial planner and calculate your current situation. What are your debts, when will they be paid off, what kind of money will you need to live comfortably, etc.? Too many business owners think they will sell their business and use that money to retire. The simple truth is that it is very difficult to sell most family businesses and rarely is the business worth what the owner thinks it is. Here lies the paradoxical situation. If the business made money, you would have the money you need to retire. If the business does not make money, well, then it is broke and who would buy it?

If you are an impoverished mature business owner, you must fix the business for the autumn of your life to improve. Stop the denial. Be willing to change. You will have to do something dramatic for this to happen. Business as usual is not going to cut it, and your biological clock is running out. Here are some steps to consider:

Go back to work. Do what you do best and generate revenue for the business. If you are primarily a salesperson, go back to selling. If you are a field guru, get out and advise your crews on how to lower production costs. Being a desk jockey is not making you money.
Get rid of employees who are not performing and are holding back the company. Both of you being broke down the road is not going to help anybody. You know who they are; act accordingly.
Make cuts and get your overhead in line. If the boat is going to sink because there are too many people in it, don’t let everyone drown. Get the ship to the right size so it will support you and your staff.
Embrace technology. Learn how to use technology. If you are going to work another 10 to 15 years, then not being able to type or use a computer costs the company.
No-Life Quitters: If you are a workaholic and have the money you need to quit, you need to develop outside interests that are meaningful and test your intellect. Too many retiring contractors buy a motor home or take an extended absence but then return and worry the heck out of their successors. You are an active businessperson with a mind that likes business, solving problems and building things. In the short term, recreational golf or fishing might be fun, but long term you are going to get bored. Find outside interests that are meaningful and embrace your talents.

Another option is to admit that you enjoy your business and job. Stop being a grumpy old geezer. Embrace your business; do and learn new things.

The 2007 and 2008 recession had an interesting impact on some mature business owners. They had to jump back into the fray to fix things, and they realized they liked being in the thick of things. They liked selling, project managing, etc. What they didn’t like was being a desk jockey.

Regardless of what kind of quitter you want to be, stay away from plunder. Plunder businesses have owners who don’t want to change. The organization becomes stale and the excitement wanes. Soon the younger, more progressive people leave and the business becomes a bunch of has-beens.

While you are working, be the best you can be. When you quit, well, quit. But don’t have one foot in and one foot out of your business. This only ensures you get the worst of both worlds. APC

Monroe Porter is president of PROOF Management Consultants, a company specializing in seminars and business consulting for contractors. He is also founder of PROSULT Networking Groups, developed to help non-competing contractors. He can be reached at (800) 864-0284 or monroe@proofman.com. For more information, visit his website at www.proofman.com.

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