Many entrepreneurs, whether it's five, 10 or 20 years into a successful business or franchise, wake up one day and wonder: "What's next?"
Figuring out the next chapter can be a financial and emotional challenge.
Jean Moran, 58, has spent more than three decades in one business and more than 20 years at the helm of LMI Packaging, a manufacturing business based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisc.
With a tenure like Moran's, many Baby Boomers would be planning their exit, but, for her, retirement is not even on her radar.
"I am used to being a problem-solver and working in the daily issues of the business," Moran says. "My fiduciary responsibility in this family-owned business is to make sure it goes on into the next generation."
For entrepreneurs who live and breathe their business every day, retirement can certainly be a daunting proposition. Letting go of day-to-day operations for Moran has been difficult, yet essential.
"A necessary part right now for this business is that I allow the executive staff that I have put in place to do that problem-solving and not get in their way," she says. "So that these guys can thrive and grow this business."
To help her make a smooth transition, Moran turned to retired business owners who've already done it. Bruce Leech and Dave Jackson are the founders of Evolve USA, a mentoring group for seasoned entrepreneurs based in suburban Chicago. Both made the transition successfully, but not without some bumps.
"One day I had 400 employees working for me, and the next day the phone didn't ring. It was a very weird place to be," says Leech, who ran a telecom company. "I just wish I had been with some people that had been through that experience before me and with me to be able to process what was going on."
Most members of Evolve USA have owned, operated and sold businesses. They also have grappled with that question: "If I am not my business, who am I?" Jackson, a former CEO of a home healthcare company, sold the business and became an investor. He and Leech started Evolve USA as a gut check for business owners interested in selling or defining a new role for themselves within their business.
"There is a time where maybe we need to transition or change the game plan," Jackson says. "It's creating a new way to do what we do so well."
Through Evolve USA, Moran has learned to step back and see more clearly the goals she wants, not only for her business, but her life. "The Evolve group really had me take a look at where will I create a new outlet for myself, so that I can work on whatever it is that juices my life," she says.
"In no way am I ready to just sit back and retire."