Rains: Sell Out Versus Sold Out

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It’s time that I finally admit it: I’m a sellout. That’s right, after all these years in this industry I decided to officially get out. I sold all five of my shops last month. This column is going to get a little more personal than usual. I want to unpack why I sold and a bit of what’s next. 

First I want to address this idea of “selling out.” That phrase has a double meaning. A sellout can be someone who compromises his or her values for personal gain. There’s also this other idea of being sold-out that carries a much more positive meaning. To be sold-out is to be all in on something. It means to be completely devoted, committed, and invested in something. 

It’s possible to wait too long to sell a business. That delay can lead us to be sellouts in the negative sense. When you’re tired or burnt out or in over your head, it’s natural to start to compromise on the things that brought you the success that is now wearing you down. Also, holding on too long prevents us from being sold out to something else. 

So, am I a sellout or just wanting to be sold out to something else? Maybe it’s both. Maybe neither. You be the judge. 

Why am I selling? Why wasn’t I able to keep bringing my all to this industry as a shop owner? Even though I’m not a skier, I recently learned the phrase “out over his skis.” In many ways, I got out over my skis as I took on more and more shops. It’s sometimes hard to admit this but I’m starting to realize that I’m better at growing a company (marketing, deal-making) than I am at leading them. It’s not that I think I’m a bad leader but I do now see that my ability to expand the company I started was greater than my ability to lead it once it expanded. 

I’ve talked a lot about this in previous columns; it boils down to recognizing the vastly different, though complementary, gifts of visionaries and integrators. Operationally, I was out over my skis for years. Thankfully, I had some advisors and team members to help me hold it together for as long as I did.   

I’ve also been asking: Is there another way I can bring my all to this industry? Helping others; guiding others the way I wished I was guided early on; sharing openly about my wins and losses and what contributed to each of those; coaching. I do want to help other owners build then profitably exit their businesses. 

I taught at a recent FenderBender Management Conference on the five stages of business development. With this exit, I’ve now experienced all five stages so I can speak honestly and truthfully about what it’s like to be in each stage. I’ve experienced the dreamy visionary stage where anything is possible. I’ve also been through the chaotic valley where things feel impossible and confusing. I’ve put the processes and systems and people in place so that things could run and grow without a lot of my direct effort. And now I’m learning what it's like to enjoy the fruits of an exit; the prosperity of time, relationships and money.  

Now what? Do I just retire? I’m 52 but I feel like I have a lot left in the tank! Retiring in the traditional sense holds no appeal to me right now. There are a few things I really want to invest in for this next leg of the journey. I’ve already alluded to coaching other shop owners; I love to roll up my sleeves and help shop leaders grow. I also know I want to continue to work with my kids by helping them launch businesses of their own. And lastly, I want to dive back into the not-for-profit sector as well. In 2022 my family will be leading a non-profit focused on orphan care and adoption.

I love to ride motorcycles and a couple of years ago before setting off on a new adventure, I realized I needed a new tire for the off-road portion of the trip. Maybe that’s what I’m after in this next chapter: re-tiring. This is a new adventure and I’m still prepping for it! 

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