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What Do I Do Now?

Posted on January 21, 2014 by

Tim Hilligoss

Tim Hilligoss

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Succession Accomplished … Now What?

Our firm focuses on working with business owners. These are generally individuals that have started and grown a business for a number of years. Some have spent a lifetime at their labor of love.

Most of the owners are those Type A personalities we all read about: competitive, proactive, and ambitious. They are often visionaries in their field and think nothing of putting in the time and effort to grow a successful business.

When it is time for them to transition the business to others (family members or an outside buyer), they are faced with a number of questions:

  • How will my customers handle the news?
  • Will my employees embrace this change?
  • Will the new buyer treat both the customers and employees well?
  • What is a fair price?
  • How will I invest the proceeds?
  • And, the most important question of all … What do I do now?

These are generally individuals whose lives have revolved around their business. Sure, they had outside interests. They golfed, mostly with customers. They traveled, mostly to industry trade shows or conventions. They supported causes, and were able to mix and mingle with other titans of industry.

Now they are faced with taking on a new, often full time, job … figuring out what to do with their new found freedom.

Most start talking about the joy they will get golfing, fishing, traveling, spending time with family and friends, supporting that favorite charity, etc. In short, shedding the burdens of a day-to-day schedule and taking a much deserved opportunity to enjoy the bounty of their efforts.

Some, like our own Don Clayton, don’t quite want to get out of the game so abruptly. Like Don, they choose to maintain involvement in the business community, add value to the boards of directors they are involved with, meet with long-time clients, and convey their still sage, and valuable, advice. However, they also find ways to make more time for their hobbies, families, and friends. All of this adds joy to their lives and makes taking that “slowing down” step worthwhile.

A few, like a long time client of ours, Paul Ewing, get very restless and seek a new challenge. Paul was an active owner of NSS Industries, Inc., and sold the business in 1999. The buyer and Paul agreed he would stay on for a five year period to transition the leadership of the company to other members of the management team. After doing so, Paul was free to pursue his other interests which include the opera, traveling to Italy, and maintaining a wonderful estate in Franklin. Despite his best efforts, he was still looking for a new challenge.

Then Paul spoke to a long-time friend who is an orthopedic surgeon. He explained that his biggest challenge was the wide variability in patient results following total knee replacement surgery. Unfortunately, current solutions were unable to achieve the results he knew were possible. Boldly, and with the same can-do attitude he took to work every day at NSS Industries, Paul proclaimed that a machine could be designed to accomplish the task. So began Paul’s new challenge. He recently launched a new rehabilitation device, the X10, which focuses on rebuilding both flexibility and strength – keys to knee surgery success. If you want to learn more about it, you can read the profile of his new venture in Crain’s Detroit Business ( or visit their website

In summary, after many years of work, Paul and his team are excited about bringing a new piece of technology to market that addresses the concerns of his long-time friend.

So what does this all mean as you face the possibility of transitioning your business to others? Simply stated, there is no simple answer to this very complex question. As you go down this path you will need to do your own soul searching and determine what is best for you. Fortunately, we have a lot of clients that have already taken this step. They are often very willing to meet with others considering their next step and will gladly share their experiences. Call us at Clayton & McKervey so we can set up the meetings. We can help you get the answer to that age old question … What do I do now?

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Tim Hilligoss

Shareholder, Tax & Assurance

As a trusted advisor, Tim guides clients through business transactions, tax issues and international expansion.

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