What Happens to Your Business If You Die?

What happens when you want to retire and stop running your business? Here are a few tidbits of advice on how to keep your company growing, even when you are no longer the boss.

learn more about Melanie Spring

By Melanie Spring


This story originally appeared on Sisarina

What will happen to your company if you die?

During a meeting recently, a 6-year-old company with three partners told me they had been grossing $150,000. That's about $25,000 per person after expenses. Ouch! They had never written out their goals for the company, there was no vision, they were all working day to day and trying to make ends meet doing something they love. (Money wasn't the main driver, but to keep working, they had to start making some.) Asking about their ideal income, they seemed happy with a goal of $500,000 total. I asked the 60-year-old partner -- the oldest by 30 years -- if he ever wanted to retire. With their current foundation, it would never happen.

"But I built a lifestyle company." I hear this a lot from other business owners. I even thought that's what I did when I started my branding firm Sisarina. It's just a lie we tell ourselves because we forget that someday we could die or want to retire or want to just stop working so dang hard. We are people, not companies. Your company could easily outlive you, and it should be able to. It's up to you to make that happen.

Related: 6 Myths About Retirement We Need to Retire

As much as branding efforts, great graphics and a company-wide voice matter, growing businesses have a rock-solid foundation to keep up with the growth.

Here are a few tactics you can do to make sure your company keeps growing, even when you're no longer the boss.

Write your vision down. You have the story of how your business started. Your vision is the story of your business in the future. Pick a date a few years from now and describe the day you're having. Talk about your coworkers and what they're doing now, your revenues, your business focus, how your office feels, what you're providing and where you're heading from there.

When Ari Weinzweig started Zingerman's farmer's market, he wrote a vision story that gave him a place to put down his hopes and dreams. He talked about what he was feeling, seeing and smelling. This gave a bigger dimension to his vision and allowed others to buy into it. When they opened, Weinzweig walked through the market and realized his vision had become reality.

Create Your BHAG. No more thinking small or short term. What's that Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of yours that you know will be a little bit of a stretch but, given enough time and resources, you can rock? Your BHAG is the ridiculously awesome goal set far enough in the future, say seven to 10 years, that you base all of your decisions on. It has to be tangible and trackable -- not "I want to be cool."

Our company's 2023 BHAG is to be a $20 million company with five offices and 55 employees all over the world. We base all of our decision making on this goal by setting our goals for hiring, revenue and opening offices in different time zones.

Related: Will Today's Entrepreneurs Ever Retire?

Set short term and long-term goals. You and your team have goals but your company needs to set goals to accomplish them. These goals will be based on your vision, and your 10-year goal should be in line with your BHAG. Creating goals for one year, two years, five years, and ten years from now will get you to your BHAG.

Your goals should include:

  • revenue - net and gross profit?
  • hiring - where current employees will be and who you are adding to your team?
  • office - where will your office(s) be and how much space will you need?
  • benefits - what will you offer and how?
  • offerings - what will your services or products be?

Hire the right people. Now that you have your vision and your goals, making sure you have the right people in the right seats is imperative. These are the people who could someday take over your company, so only hire those you would trust. Find the hiring process that works for you, and use it for every hire.

Zappos has every hire, even C-level, go through customer-service training when they start. If you're not willing to go through it, you can't work there. Zappos will also pay you to quit after you're done with your training. If you stay, they know they have the right hire.

With all the traveling I've been doing the last 12 months, I finally put together a will for the "just in case." I have a clear plan for what would happen inside my company, who would run it,and who would share the profits. With our vision statement, our BHAG and our growth plan, one or more of my colleagues could keep Sisarina going without me. Someone has to keep my imaginary friend alive.

Related: Thinking of Quitting? Remember, the Sun Will Rise.

Melanie Spring

Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina

As the Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina, a D.C.-based branding firm, Spring built her business with a strong content marketing strategy. With an innate sense for social media, connecting with her customers, and building a culture around her brand, she teaches businesses and non-profits how to rock their brand. She also recently toured the U.S. on the Live Your Brand Tour collecting stories from businesses living their brand.

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