How to live after selling a successful business

Selling a successful business can

Selling a successful business can - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Selling a successful business can mark the pinnacle of a career, but what happens afterwards? Here, Alastair Graham, executive director and wealth manager for Coutts in Guildford, explains how to have a happy and fulfilled life following a business sale...

Wealth manager Alastair Graham has plenty of useful advice on life after a business sale

Wealth manager Alastair Graham has plenty of useful advice on life after a business sale - Credit: Coutts

Here at Coutts in Guildford, our experience with clients points to the fact that for every entrepreneur who embarks on the journey of building a business of their own, a successful business exit represents a high point in their career.

While this is rightly cause for celebration, it also represents a step into the unknown. Although there is plenty written about the growth stories of entrepreneurs who build up new businesses and great fanfare for those who successfully sell up and exit, very little is written about life after they leave their businesses.

So just what do entrepreneurs do when they have sold a business? Is it easy to build a new career? And is life after exit as satisfying as many would imagine?

To throw light on this important matter, these are the questions we asked over 180 entrepreneurs for our report: Life After Exit – What Happens Next?

What we learned is that although many entrepreneurs find the transition into this new phase in their lives a straightforward one, others find the combination of wealth and long-awaited freedom far harder than they imagined.

Most tellingly of all, both groups find that it takes substantially longer than they expect to find activities that put their time and wealth into play in a way that keeps them fulfilled.

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Lessons in life

Looking at our research, three important lessons emerge for any entrepreneur contemplating life after a business sale.

The first of these is the importance of planning. Many argue that in the quest for growth, success and ultimately a business sale, there is little time to think about life after the business is sold. But the experience of those who have sold up is the opposite. Their advice is to plan for exit before you sell so you have the right options open to you when the time comes. This includes financial planning. It will have the biggest bearing on your ability to achieve the lifestyle you want yet many choose to ignore this until after the sale.

The second lesson is to invest in your network. The unanimous view of entrepreneurs we spoke to was that once out of their business, the quality of people you know are as important as the time and money you have available. Your network is the place you will find opportunities to advise, invest and get involved with new ventures – the common interests for entrepreneurs who have sold a business.

The last lesson is to accept the need to experiment. The majority of entrepreneurs build up portfolio careers after exit but part of that is understanding that experimentation will not always lead to success or satisfaction. It takes time and patience to find the right opportunities that will work for you and your new lifestyle. Entrepreneurs may even experience more failure in their new career than when they were running their first business.

There is no doubt that those who see a business exit as the opportunity to exercise choice and freedom are right. But even with money and time on your hands, successfully carving out a new career requires planning and no small amount of hard work.


• For more information about becoming a Coutts client, contact Alastair Graham on 01483 299042 or