Five Things Adult Children should do after Mom and Dad Sell the Family Business

Over the next 10-30 years, we’ll see the largest transfer of wealth (here too) ever in the history of the world as the Boomers sell their businesses, then die and pass on their wealth to their heirs.

In a number of these situations, their wealth has been created by the founding and growing a profitable, family business. In many instances, one or more children in the family have grown up working in the business and even after starting their own families and other career opportunities have come and gone, they continue to work in the family business.

When the parents are ready to sell their ownership in the business and realize the reward for having worked hard their entire life, their children may well be into their thirties or even early forties. If the business is sold to an outside, third party, what should the adult children do to move on after the sale of the family business?

Well, here are five things they can do to move on and create a second career for themselves.

First, get some career counseling and professional coaching. Find out what you’re good at and what you really love to do. If you’ve worked in the family business your entire life, you’ve likely not worked a series of other jobs, gaining valuable experience as to what you do and do not like to do. Often, adult children in family businesses haven’t explored what they really like to do, so this is your opportunity to go through that process that many of your peers went through earlier in life. Getting some career counseling and finding a personal coach can help you process what your true passions and talents really are and then help you devise a plan to build a second career around what you really want to do.

Secondly, define your personhood apart from what you do in your job. This is essential to being successful in any career, but it is especially important during a career transition. Don’t define your inherent value and work by what you do. Let your work be your work, but let it be a reflection of who God has created you to be and not the end-point of your personhood.

Thirdly, you may need to downsize your standard of living. If you were overly compensated in your family business because mom and dad were generous, it is likely that other employers will not be so generous, so be prepared to lower your standard of living. You might find you like not having all the perks that a high salary brings. I’ve heard people say to me more than once that when they lowered their standard of living, their life became less hectic. They enjoyed a new found simplicity in life that money could never buy them.

Fourthly, think about going back to school to get an advanced degree that will help you move forward in your new career. Adults going back to school is such a common experience these days that schools are bending over backwards to appeal to the adult learner. If you’re in your early forties, think about the fact that your education might be twenty years old and you have another thirty years of work ahead of you, so getting another degree might be a good way to position your new career for the next thirty years while brushing up on the information updates that have occurred over the last 20 years.

Lastly, don’t make any life-changing decisions for at least one year if you get a lump sum from the sale of the business. In many family owned businesses, adult children own stock in the company. If the sale has brought to you a bucket of money, don’t go out and immediately start your own business or build a new west wing onto your house. Take some time to decompress, perhaps grieve the loss of your family business and work with your trusted advisors to move into a new phase of your life.

But whether or not you’ve run into a sum of money, look back over the last 15 years and evaluate what you’ve liked and not liked about your life. Retain the basic structures that you want to retain. Jettison those things that haven’t worked, but don’t get rid of them impulsively. Do it after thoughtful consideration.

When mom and dad sell their business, it’s a huge change for the adult children who now need to move on. Through thoughtful planning and foresight, the sale can be one of the best things to ever happen in the lives of the adult children.

Bill English
The Platinum Group