Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
It’s an all-too-regular topic in job interviews. Indeed ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ is regularly voted one of the most annoying questions a prospective employer can ask. But what if a prospective buyer of your business asked you the question – what would you say then?
One of the most fascinating aspects of our job as M&A advisors is discovering what plans our clients have after a sale or exit. Some clients, quite understandably, aren’t really thinking too far ahead. Running their company may take up all their available time, Monday mornings don’t feel the same anymore, and they need a change. Many are seeking more time with their families, more leisure time, a comfortable retirement, or that chance to travel more widely.
But increasingly, many of our clients are developing longer-term plans in a variety of different areas.
In the last year alone, we have taken on a number of clients with entirely separate business ventures, often in totally unrelated disciplines. I can think of two clients who are seeking to sell their existing, successful companies to fund new start-ups. Some clients are seeking combine business with pleasure - establishing restaurants, or taking over pubs.
Of clients who have sold recently, one is going back to his professional roots, ditching the board-level responsibilities to write software. Another is writing a book. A number of clients have built up extensive property portfolios over their successful working lives, and this is their post-sale focus.
Sometimes selling your business allows you to give something back. I was extremely impressed with one client, who told us that her business – and its sale – would mean financial security. As a result she was planning to work as an unpaid volunteer in the charity where she is a patron.
That sounds like a plan – and a pretty great answer to the question, I’m sure you’ll agree.