We feature the first-hand experiences of eight entrepreneurs from diverse industries who have tackled this critical transition. We are indebted to the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School for collaborating with us on this project. And we are deeply grateful to the entrepreneurs who shared their stories with candor and graciousness.
As the following case studies attest, entrepreneurs encounter distinctive issues with every exit. Each situation is unique, reflecting the diversity of business owners and enterprises. One theme recurs, however: the magnitude of this transition. Selling or transferring a business has critical ramifications for an entrepreneur, his or her family, employees, and community. Entrepreneur Charles Scheidt aptly reflects, "building and nurturing a fascinating business is immensely demanding and ultimately satisfying. Letting go of it, selling it, is both a very difficult decision and a stressful process."
The most successful transitions require entrepreneurs to orchestrate finely tuned exits. But in a lifestyle that is already supercharged with responsibilities and deadlines, taking the time to initiate the planning process early is often neglected, a situation that can greatly affect the choices available and the ultimate value of a life's work. Without this planning, "business owners are often forced to exit on other people's terms."