Selling Your Company Won't Make You Happy
As the traditional rhyme tells us, the heads of children on Christmas Eve generally dance with visions of sugar plums. For start-up founders, the equivalent dream is of acquisitions.
Stoked by media tales of quick and immensely lucrative exits a la Instagram and frenzied home buying in Silicon Valley following Facebook's IPO, the fortune-making exit tantalizes even the most level-headed entrepreneur.
This is simple human nature, of course, and far be it from anyone who's ever bought a lottery ticket or ogled a sports car to judge others' dreams of fabulous wealth, but a founder that's himself a veteran of two acquisitions took to his blog recently to remind entrepreneurs that while daydreaming is healthy (research confirms this!), selling your start-up for a boatload of money won't make you happy and shouldn't be the sole focus of all your entrepreneurial efforts.
Ryan Carson currently runs coding-tutorial company Treehouse, but previously he has built and exited two other start-ups. He sold DropSend in 2008 and Carsonified in 2011. Like most entrepreneurs, he confesses, he thought selling his businesses for a very healthy sum would instantly catapult him to a new, higher domain of success, but reality was different. He writes:
Selling your company doesn't make you happy and you don't feel like you've reached the summit of your career or life. It's just another stop on the journey.
Yes, the extra money is useful for things like paying off your mortgage and giving you more financial freedom, but it doesn't change who you are fundamentally. If you're reading this post then you're already richer than a huge portion of the world, so selling your company isn't going to fundamentally change your existence. You already have a laptop, an internet connection and some sort of education. You already crossed the poverty line.
After you sell your company, you wake up the next day the same person. You drag yourself out of bed, bleary eyed and start the coffee maker. Your kids still wake you up too early and you still have to do your household chores. It's all the same. You don't just sit back and relax. But the truth is you don't want to coast. You want to keep moving forward.
Entrepreneurs, he says, are a restless bunch driven by a fundamental need to solve problems, be creative, and keep learning. A successful acquisition of your business doesn't change that, nor does it alter your basic psychology.
"My advice is to examine your thoughts and see if you're waiting to sell your company in order to be truly happy. The truth is that you're probably already as happy as you'll ever be and selling your company won’t change that," writes Carson. "Enjoy the adventure that you're currently experiencing and realize the daily highs and lows are what actually make your life meaningful," he concludes, offering entrepreneurs a healthy reminder that instead of reading about the oodles of cash some entrepreneurs are making, you should appreciate the day-to-day reality of building your business.
Are you failing to miss some of the joys of your start-up journey because you're too fixated on the destination?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.