When is it time to go?

This is a question I spent much of my time pondering this past summer as I forged my way across Spain on the El Camino Santiago. When will I know when it’s time to move on? To start fresh?

I have been a Vistage Chair now for over twelve years. Over 500 monthly group meetings. Over 3,500 executive coaching sessions. I’ve had the pleasure of working with almost 200 high-performing small business executives.

I have also been a GrowSmart program facilitator now for over twelve years. Great symmetry with my Vistage practice. I have facilitated close to 100 programs statewide, in Texas, and Kansas. Next week we are expanding into Alabama. Approaching 2,000 graduates of the program.

When is it time to go?

I preach to my Vistage members as well as GrowSmart participants the importance of having an exit strategy. A plan for leaving the business. You thought it was difficult getting started in business? Try figuring out how to get out. Very tough. Even painful for some.

As a result, very few small businesses owners have a formal exit strategy. Sell the business? Transfer it to a family member? Just shut it down? Maybe easier to just not think about it.

When I returned from my trip last summer I felt an emptiness in my life. Part of which I attributed from coming back from a great six week journey in Europe. On my walk, I had a clear destination that I was always moving towards. A five hundred mile trek. The vision of the cathedral in Santiago was firmly planted in my head.

Each day, I also had a specific destination I needed to achieve in order to stay on track. I knew the village I was stopping in that night and the inn I was staying at. There was little doubt at any time where I was heading.

But now there was.

I now found myself wondering where I was going. What was my destination? Where is the end? And I had no good answers. It almost felt like a “job”. This is a dreaded word for any entrepreneur.

Hence I felt I need to craft my own exit strategy. Take charge of the situation. Take a leap of faith. And here it is:

In three years I will Chair my last Vistage meeting. Facilitate my last GrowSmart program.

Fifteen years is more than a lifetime for both efforts. Prior to both, I had never been involved with any business more than five years. This has been much longer and yet it has gone by so quickly. I look forward to exiting both of these ventures as quietly as I got started fifteen years before.

After making this decision last Fall, I experienced a very interesting transformation. I felt a surge of physical and emotional energy in my work. Now that the end was clear, I felt re-energized. I began to make plans for the next three years which will hopefully insure a smooth transition. I plan to leave “on top”. The cloud that had been hovering over my head for months was gone. Bright days ahead.

What will I do next?

No idea.

But the idea of charting a new course is very exciting. Boundless opportunities. A fresh start.

Several things I do know…

One, I am largely unemployable. 🙂

Two, I want to continue to make a difference.

Third, small business will continue to matter.