How life changes after selling your business.
People say that money can't buy you happiness.
Is that true or not? The only way to really know is to put it to the test. So two years ago I sold the business that I'd built, got some money, and below I will give my thoughts on whether I'm happier, sadder, or 'don't know'.
I should say, I was pretty happy already. I loved running the business that I went on to sell. I have a mega wife and kids and a brill family. Not trying to show off. I just think it's relevant. Oh, but I am a Sunderland fan, so not 100% happy most of the time.
Also worth pointing out that the money we got for selling the business was a kind of life-changing, could-be-retired amount. Again, makes me sound like a smart arse, but it's just meant to set the scene. And actually, a year before selling the business, I sold some of my shares in order to pay off my mortgage. The aim was to remove the pressure of having all my eggs in one basket and let me fully focus on the big exit. That was a 6 figure sum that allowed me to be mortgage free.
Ever since I can remember, being mortgage free and the freedom that provided was my life goal. I can confirm that, for me, there was almost zero impact on my life or happiness when I became mortgage free. The idea of being free and secure once the mortgage is paid off quickly dissipates when you realise that your mortgage was just one of many big monthly bills you had, the rest of which you still have to pay.
Anyway, a slightly bloated introduction. But here is a summary of how my life has changed, two years on from becoming financially free.
My definition of happiness - ride on lawnmower. Done.
Things that are better
Life is easier
Life feels a lot easier. Not having to think about paying the bills or whether you can go on holiday or not. Not having to really concentrate when the news talks of interest rate rises or cost of living crisis. It doesn't necessarily make you feel happy, but it absolutely stops you feeling stressed and worried. There are newfound responsibilities that come with wealth, but in the very most basic sense, it makes day-to-day life so much less hard. And I guess that lays the foundation for you to find happiness in other areas of life.
You can say no
I was always rubbish at saying no to things. Whether it was a dinner meeting with a client, or attending an event, or having a meeting to discuss a meeting. But for me the confidence that came with the money has really allowed me to just say yes to the things that I want to do. It doesn't sounds like much, but I would say this factor brings far more happiness than any of the shiny expensive new toys that you can buy. Waking up every morning and not dreading the day ahead I think is the best thing that money can buy.
You can work on what you want
Because you are now saying no to the things you don't want to spend time on, you can fully focus on the things that you do. If you've made your money by building a business then I'm certain there will be things you've had to sacrifice along the way, whether it's passion projects that won't lead to company valuation growth, or just hobbies in your personal life. Now you can only focus on the things you want to do. Again, it's that feeling as you open your eyes in the morning and don't feel dread (unless the kids have woken you up at 5am - money won't change that).
Things that are worse
Lack of motivation
Chances are, unless you've just won the lottery, you've had to work really hard to get your life changing sum of money. And no doubt you have managed to achieve this by being tenacious, relentless and driven. All attributes that are essential in getting you through the dark days of business ownership, but also all attributes that don't know what to do with themselves once you've 'made it'.
Most people will take some time off after selling their business to try and get healthy again and figure out what life 2.0 looks like for them. For me, I found myself really miserable during this period. But then thinking how lucky I was to have the opportunity to do nothing for a while, and then feeling guilty and miserable. The reality is that no amount of money that you ever get will be as impactful on your life as the first 7-figures. £0 to £5m for example is a full life change. £5m to £50m isn't.
So you need to find a different way to motivate yourself. For me personally, I'm doing that in a few ways. I have 4 new ventures that I'm involved in, and all of them have success metrics that excite me that aren't just money. I'm mentoring other founders, and their success becomes my motivation. I'm redeveloping a house, and the end result becomes a very visual success. I'm writing this blog and the number of viewers and subscribers becomes my success.
Entrepreneurs need a way of keeping score, and once money can't be it, you just need to change the rules of the game.
Managing the money
I definitely worry more about money now than I did before I had it. When the money first hits your bank account it's a surreal, fist-pump moment. But it quickly becomes a responsibility (I know, get your tiny violins out now). Only £85k is protected in a bank account. So suddenly you need a lot of bank accounts. Or other investments. But then a small change in the stock market can wipe out a significant portion of your hard earned money, without anything you can do about it.
People say that once you have money it just goes up and up. Just stick it in the bank and live off the interest. So when you do move the money into bank accounts, investments or property and it doesn't go up, then you feel like a bit of a failure.
Growing money is a very different skill to making money. And it took me some time to learn that.
More pressure for the next thing
If you're happily employed in a job, you don't have people constantly asking you what's next. The assumption is that you will continue doing your job, or maybe seek out a promotion. But once you've sold your business, the assumption is you will come back with something bigger and better.
This is external pressure, but also internal. Now that I know that I can build a company to a point where someone wants to buy it, then why wouldn't I do it again. I tried to give myself a year off between leaving Molzi and starting the next projects. I ended up having 3 or 4 months because I was getting bored quickly. But now I'm staring down the barrel of 4 new ventures I think that maybe the year out would have been useful to fully recharge the batteries.
Things that don't change
In the first 6 months, lots of things change. You probably buy a new house, fancy car, a celebration holiday etc. But two years on, even those things just become normal. And in terms of happiness, I think you probably quickly find the level you were at before. Life is easier, 100%, but actual happiness I think is still driven by the things that money can't buy. Your friends, family and the areas of life that you seek joy from.
My advice (not that anyone asked) is to absolutely focus on growing and selling your business if that's what your heart is telling you. But don't forget to also focus on the other things in life. The money will open up the world for you, but the real happiness comes from sharing it with people.