For every entrepreneur, the business started and nurtured through tough times is as personal as raising a child.
Some have spent an entire life building it and would give an arm and a leg to see it continue with the next generation. But that doesn’t happen all the time and sooner or later, as entrepreneurs, we face the inevitable. There is a time to retire. There’s a time to hang your hat and say this is it.
But retirement is not an option for some of those who have started businesses and have watched those businesses grow into global powerhouses. Take the case of casino magnate Kirk Kerkorian who at 94, is still running his business. For them, their business defines their life. They have grown with it, they have always gone to work and focused all their energy on building it, and expanding it and watching it grow. Yet, in today’s world of flexibility and innovation, some choose the option of giving it all up. Of course, some sell up for the right price and retire early. There are many who have done it. Creator of one of the world’s most popular video games, Minecraft, much adored by school children and capable of wasting away hundreds of hours aimlessly, Markus Persson from Sweden said it best when he said that money really didn’t take his loneliness away. Having sold Minecraft to Microsoft for US $ 2.5 billion, Persson’s life became a pointless, aimless drifting journey from nightclubs to Ibiza, from one billionaire hot spot to another.
Despite the wealth it brings, the accolades and the recognition, the true motivating factor behind wanting to stay in the business is to have a purpose in life. As we get older, we like and cherish routines. Predictable routines, the experts say, are important for a stable life. Among lottery winners in the UK, it seems many opted to go back to work despite the riches – they had the money but no purpose.
So where would we go ultimately as entrepreneurs? Where does the road end – should we hand over the business to the next generation, sell up or stay hands on until we are too old to keep at it?
Those are not the only options, fortunately. In today’s tech driven-world, there are many options for us to engage in. There’s the next generation to think of – the young men and women who are enthralled by the prospects of entrepreneurship and start ups. They have ideas, concepts and innovative mindsets. Yet often enough, they lack experience and would benefit from those who have travelled the road before them.
As experienced entrepreneurs, there is a vast sea of expertise and knowledge that can be shared with the young generation. It is happening in bits and pieces but not on a scale that would make a difference to the way start-ups get going and young entrepreneurs enter markets. Most have the enthusiasm and the drive but could do with exposure to the experts. In fact, I personally believe that if we as experienced entrepreneurs are able to come together and share our experiences and expertise with the younger generation, they would benefit and we would benefit too. Most of us have had mentors of one form or another – those mentors have helped us a great deal. Mentoring is not an option in my opinion but a must for any would-be business owner.
There are some who are disappointed when their children do not express an interest in taking over or running the family business. The first generation worked hard and built it, the second generation may not show an interest in continuing – they have other interests or are engaged in other career paths. Such disappointments need not stay on though – changing your mindset is all you need to do. Maybe the most sensible option would be to sell the business – or invite new partners to come in. You do not have to be attached to the business you created. You have to make a conscious decision to distance yourself from it at some time. If you were able to do it sooner than later, you would have a better peace of mind later on.
There are many roads to travel – when the business is up and running and you feel that maybe the time is right to sit back and think about the options. Retirement for some, working as usual for others, passing the buck to the next generation for yet others and so on. In the end, what matters is what we share and invest in other people – more valuable than the wealth we leave behind.
To me, that’s the greatest lesson in entrepreneurship.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)