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June 20, 2018

Small Business Advice

Exit planning should include retirement ideas

Jerry Osteryoung | 9/16/2013

I recently began working with a very successful business owner who had come to me for help drawing up a succession plan. He was 66 and had been at the helm for more than 35 years. He planned to hand the company over to his daughter when the time came for him to retire.

During a deep discussion about when he planned to make his exit, I asked what he was going to do when he retired. His reply was that he was going to keep on working because “I have no other interests.”

He talked at length about how devoted he was to his business. All his time went into running it. Everything else was secondary. This instantly concerned me. Without any other interests, he would not be able to let go, and I could see stepping back was going to be a struggle for him.

Dedication is admirable, but this absolute commitment to the business was really going to inhibit our ability to implement any succession plan. His daughter would need some time in sole command to get the hang of running things. If he could not step back to allow her that opportunity, it would make the transition much tougher.

Entrepreneurs and managers know how important planning is. Jim Moran said, “The future belongs to those who plan for it.” I would add that when you do not plan, your choices become fewer and fewer.

When talking about retirement, you need to plan for many things, from how your financial assets will be allocated to what you want to do to keep busy. There is no question in my mind that lack of adequate planning is the reason so many businesses struggle and sometimes fail after being handed off to the next generation.

While traveling about a month ago, we stopped in to see The Villages near Ocala. With golf courses, tennis courts, bicycle trails and much more, it is clear this is a retirement community designed for people who want to remain and socialize with others who share similar interests. It was a great setup, just not for us. We just love living in the cities that we do.

The day you retire is not the time to start looking for things that interest you. This should be part of your retirement planning, which should begin at least 20 years before the date you want to retire.

One of the best ways to move toward retirement is to work half-time for a few years as a lead-in. When I retired from FSU the first time, I was lucky enough to have them hire me back to work half-time. I used the next three years to think about and plan what I wanted to do when I retired permanently so I was ready when the time came.

Now go out and make sure you have a realistic retirement plan in place. Remember to include activities in that plan so you can spend your retirement doing things you really enjoy.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here.

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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