Purpose After the Sale


Purpose – “Having as one’s intention or objective.”

Many exit planning advisors discuss the three legs of the exit planning stool – business readiness, financial readiness and personal readiness. In our previous two articles, we focused on two of the “big three” components of a successful life after the sale, activity and identity. The third is purpose.

So many advisors point to the 75% of former owners who “profoundly regret” their transition, and say it’s because they didn’t make enough money. To quote Mr. Bernstein in the great film Citizen Kane, “Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money…if all you want is to make a lot of money.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of business founders. When asked why they started their companies, by far the most common answers are about providing for their families and having control of their future. Only a very small percentage say “I wanted to make a lot of money.”

Decades of Purpose

So what kept them working long hours and pushing the envelope after they had reached primary, secondary and even tertiary financial goals? Non-owners often chalk it up to greed, but Maslov’s hierarchy of needs drifts away from material rewards after the first two levels. Belonging, Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization may all have a financial component, but money isn’t the driver.

For most owners, the driving motivation is this thing they’ve built. The company has a life of its own, but it’s a life they bestowed. They talk about the business’s growing pains and maturity. Owners are acutely aware of the multiplier effect the success of the company has on employees and their families. In a few cases, that multiplier extends to entire towns.

That’s the purpose. To nurture and expand. In so many cases every process in the business was the founder’s creation. He or she picked out the furniture and designed the first logo. This aggregation of people breathes and succeeds on what the owner built.

That’s why so many owners still put in 50 or more hours a week, long after there is any real need for their constant presence. This thing they created is their purpose.

Purpose After the Sale

purposeIt’s no surprise that so many owners find that 36 holes of golf each week, or 54, or 72, still isn’t enough to feel fulfilled. You can get incrementally better, but it doesn’t really affect anyone but you. Building a beautiful table or catching a trophy fish brings pride and some sense of accomplishment. Still, it never matches the feeling of creating something that impacts dozens, scores or hundreds of other human beings.

That’s why we focus on purpose as the third leg of the personal vision. In the vast majority of cases, it involves impacting other people. Any owner spent a career learning how to teach and lead. Keeping those skills fresh and growing is a substantial part of the road to satisfaction.

Purpose may involve church or a community service organization. It could be serving on a Board of Directors or consulting for other business owners. It might be writing or speaking. Purpose after the sale doesn’t require a 50-hour week, but it does require some level of commitment, and the ability to affect the lives of others.


This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on awakeat2oclock.com. John develops transition and succession strategies that allow business owners to exit their companies on their own schedule, with the proceeds they seek and complete control over the process. He takes a coaching approach to client engagements, focusing on helping owners of companies with $1M to $250M in revenue achieve both their desired lifestyles and legacies.

Updated: Mar 4, 2024

About the author
John Dini of The Exit Planning Coach is a member of XPX San Antonio

I have owned companies in manufacturing, distribution and services, along with well over 10,000 hours of coaching business owners. I will understand your business and your objectives.