What's the ultimate end game for your business? It could be to be sustainable well into the future or to have one of the fancier exits to a bigger company. My first startup, Cuddlr, was acquired earlier this summer. We launched it exactly a year ago and, while getting acquired was less important than making a cultural impact, I'm grateful for the modest financial reward.
What entrepreneurs rarely think about, though, is the emotional impact of selling your company. We were lucky: An active team of two, no outside investment and no interest in continuing with the company. It was an easy decision and a relatively simple process.
Now, however, a major part of my daily life is gone. Here are a few things I've learned this past summer:
- Make peace with it not being yours anymore: My business wasn't just a full-time job, but the main thing on my mind throughout the day: How can we make the experience better? When should we launch this new feature? Should we give this publication an exclusive interview? Now the dialog had to stop, and I suddenly didn't have to worry about competitors, market space or pivoting. Whatever happens beyond this point isn't your responsibility anymore.
- Don't immediately worry about what's next: Within a week I was talking action plans with mentors about what do to next. (No, the acquisition didn't set me up for immediate retirement.) Thankfully, one of them stopped me in my tracks--and reminded me it had been days, if not hours since I dramatically shifted my career. You haven't yet absorbed what you learned from the experience, so you can't immediately make smart decisions. If you have the space, take it.
- Give a window for mourning and celebration: Not making any immediate decisions was a good thing, as for a few days my feelings oscillated from pride and excitement to sadness and reflection. We decided it was time to move on, but making the mental declaration is different than making an emotional one. Being a parent was a huge asset, as letting go of the startup felt very similar to watching my child become more independent. Respect that you'll be both happy and sad to let go of your company.
- Get guidance. Immediately: Accept that it is an emotional time and, because of it, accept that you need guidance. We leaned on legal guidance, obviously, but I also had long conversations with strong mentors and trusted confidants who had been through similar processes. Make sure your network is strong, as objectivity during an acquisition is hard to come by.
If you have sold your company, what emotional skills did you learn in the process?