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Should I sell my business? Opinions wanted

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by EasyMoney_in_NC, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    I have a small local business that is family owed (I own 49%). It has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 5 years, but IMHO is solely linked to the massive wave of new construction over the same period that we have experienced here.

    Here's my quandary. I have a competitor (who himself has just bought this competing business and is now looking at mine) who wants to buy my business for pretty nice money (on the surface).
    With very little work on my part, this business has supported my life in every way, as well as the rest of my family (of which Father wants to now retire). If we sell, we will loose all of the "perks" associated with running our lives as one big "expense". Yes we will have the cash from the sale, but the interest (assuming the $$ was set aside in a CD lets say) wouldn't even come close to the value that profits have represented in the way of income/distributions/expense accounts etc.....

    I could buy Father out and keep the business or sell it and cash out. To this point, the way I have set this up for you, one would say "just keep it, no brainer".
    Getting back to the success of it, if my gut is correct and this has grown because of new construction, then it would stand to reason that if new construction slows, my growth will also slow and may even recede. Some of the beauty of the business is residual income from each customer each year, so as long as I maintain my customer count, the bus. will still be somewhat profitable, but nothing like if it continues to grow. I wonder if its time to pull a Jerry Seinfeld and get out on top (our company is highly repected in town compared to the other competitors).
    This is a high liability business and as some of you may have read in the past, that bothers me greatly from the standpoint of risking my rental RE to credtiors. I don't want to get into the asset protection discussion again, I understand what would really need to be done to protect.......lets keep to the question at hand.

    With 2 small children (one 8 months old) I really am looking to simplify my life for a while. I am SOOOO on the fence about this. I could sell and make a nice pot of change, I could retain, and continue with the business and come what may.......

    Curious as to opinions, good bad or indifferent. Don't be shy :) My wife says keep, Mother and Father say SELL!!! Obviously we are at two different points in our respective lives.......but should I move on to try something else or keep in a cash cow that may or may not continue to prosper and that I have no real passion for?

    TIA
     
  2. Diane Kennedy
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    Diane Kennedy Bronze Contributor

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    Hi Easy

    Nice to see your postings. I missed you on the forum!

    Not sure if this is helpful or not... I have a tendency to build companies with brand new ideas and am in command of the market...for a time. Then the competition comes in and they do it a little bit cheaper. I've tried both strategies. Twice I've sold and then seen the old business gradually decline. And I've stuck it out through the market changes, but it takes work because with the change in the market and competition, you've got to innovate again.

    What is the barrier to entry for your business niche? For example, as a CPA with a large practice, there is a pretty high barrier to competition. Someone else would have to have a CPA license (requiring special education, training and passing a test) plus have years of experience. On the other hand, if I had a carpet cleaning company the barrier to entry would be pretty low.

    If you've got a low barrier to entry, then I'd sell. If you don't sell, you'll get competition that will force you to continually lower prices. If you've got a higher barrier, then it might be worth it to stick through it.

    Where is the value in your company? Unique methods? Client base? Could you reproduce it again, in a different way? (Best of all worlds - get the money and then just go build it again)

    And, one more question - what would you do with your time/money if you sold? Where is your passion?

    And, congratulations. It's nice to have options.
     
    klh6686 likes this.
  3. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    Thanks Dianne for the kind words :)
    Ah, lets see if I can answer.
    As for barrier to enter......probably pretty high. This is not a business to many people are in or look to get into (propane business). I "happened" into it via the man that owned it before me, who I patronized as part of my construction activity. He went into bankruptcy just before the wave of RE came into play. I paid nothing for it $4K and had not much more of my own money ever put in (for which has been long paid back). I bought it for "giggles" and to turn it over to my (at the time) semi-retired father. He accepted it as a "hobby" business and long story short, has almost single handedly turn it into a seven digit valued company in only 5-6 years. I relinquished half +1% of the company to him when it was clear what he was worth to it and me.

    We have become "the benchmark" in the field in town and have become highly respected by our peers. We are probably the most expensive at what we do, and against my father's wishes I held firm to wanting to cater to and be the "Cadillac" as apposed to the competitors who were the "Hyundai" (no offense to any Hyundai drivers :D.....just use for comparison.
    We offer somewhat of a niche product, and if we decided to stick it out, could one day (many, many from now) own the market.
    The cross road we are at is: A) a possible major investment to secure our position and to prepare for future growth (how to structure that investment). B) Parents want out, so it would all fall to me and I am an RE guy not a gas man (although I do hold the state license).
    I agree with my wife's opinion about the "perks", they offer a huge value to our lives at this moment, but all that works against the near future of this business has me just wanting to get out while on top.
    Deep down, and even though I love what the money in perks represents, I feel like I should cut bait. What would I do you ask?........whatever I want :D which is what I've come accustom to doing. I have the uncanny ability (as Mother says) to be able to step in S**T and come out smelling like a rose. I tend to just land in things, some I have intentions of being a part of, and others (like this business I'm in now) I just fall into. I have a friend who I have my own other "hobby" business with, that is in need of buying his other partner out of his regular business that I could buy with the proceeds, just to ride that coattail for a while......see what happens. I could buy more RE in time. I could spend a lot more time at the race track ( I instruct with the Porsche Club). I have actually had a deep itch to attempt to go after a law degree! I'll find something to do......trust me :D

    Keep it coming, I appreciate what you have to say
     
  4. Allthingznew
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    Allthingznew Contributor

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    What is your "gut" track record? You've said twice now your gut says get out. Dad ran the business and wants to retire and he's telling you to sell. Why? What does he know? Wife likes the perks but they may not be worth the trade off of your time. You could get perks starting something else, no?

    Sometimes you just know things even though you don't know you know them and that tends to show up in your gut feelings. I'd say go with your gut.
     
  5. JScott
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    JScott Legendary Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Sounds like your dad is bringing a lot of value to the business, and in some respect is the reason it has been successful. That said, it also sounds like he is getting ready to retire, and move on, meaning you'd likely have to either pick up the slack yourself or hire someone else to do it.

    Is the value the business is bringing to you the same if you'd have to pick up all the work (and knowledge) that your father had? Or would all the extra time/effort reduce the overall value of the company to you and the rest of your family?

    What is the opportunity cost of keeping the business? In other words, if you need to spend more time actively participating in the business now that your dad is retiring, what *won't* you be able to do? And whatever it is that you won't be able to do because your spending more time on the business, what would that have brought in terms of perks and $$$?

    In general, it sounds as if you'd be going from a passive investor in the business (I'm sure you did plenty of work, but probably had the luxury of doing other things when you wanted to) to becoming a much more active participant.

    Is being (the major) active participant in this business what you want to be doing? Is that what you're good at? Do you think you can provide additional value (or at least the same value) than your dad? Are you willing to hold onto the business through a down RE cycle? If the answers to these questions are "yes," hold on to the business. If the answers are "no," consider selling.

    Just some things to consider...
     
  6. Yankees338
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    Yankees338 Bronze Contributor

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    I agree with the posts above. Do what you want, not what others want you to do. It sounds like you yourself don't want to keep on going at this. It also appears that you'll be fine without the extra income, at least for some time. If you don't absolutely need this business and you don't want to be a part of it, I think it's time to move on.

    Just my humble opinion, though. :)
     
  7. phlgirl
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    phlgirl Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    If this is not the type of business you would be excited about running and/or more importantly growing, then I would think the only way you might want to consider keeping the business would be if it made sense financially, even if you had to pay someone (and could find someone) to replace your father. There is nothing wrong with your not being a ‘propane guy’ but having admitted that, I think it would be very difficult to do a good job at continuing to grow the business if you weren’t at least somewhat enthused about the prospect. You would just need to hire-in someone who would be fired up about the opportunity and you would have to willing to manage them, as needed.

    I would run some numbers. Figure out how much you would need to pay someone with the skills necessary to replace your father (I always overestimate). Then I would calculate how much the business would generate, profit wise, if it were to produce the same as the average sales over say the past 3 years. Do another calculation, which assumes that the revenue drops 10-15%, due to the transition from your father? Does it still make money?

    How much is it going to cost to buy your father out? How would he be paid? Would it be a cash-out situation or will it require a business loan and thus a monthly payment (which would decrease your existing income). Is it still worthwhile?

    I suppose my thought is why would you give up an asset, if you can keep it working for you, without too much hands-on support? If the numbers work, you might be able to do both - keep your asset generating for you & your family and work on additional income streams, based on the equity of your business.

    One final calculation I would do…. based on your portion of the equity in the business, what would your return (ROI) be? Could you do better elsewhere?

    Hope this makes sense. Best of luck!
     
  8. Diane Kennedy
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    Diane Kennedy Bronze Contributor

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    Easy, I know this is a dilemma for you, but I think it's a great learning/discussion topic for everyone on the forum.

    My instinct says to go with your gut, especially now that I've heard more about the business set-up.

    You don't love the business nor do you love the day-to-day operations. The risk is that you hire a manager who won't love and care for the business like your dad did. The alternative would be even more risky - you bring in a manager and give him part of the business in order to try to make him care about the business. (I've made that mistake in the past and it never works out.) I'm not a huge TV fan, but I do have one guilty pleasure "King of the Hill". If you've ever seen the show, I was thinking "keep the business if you can find someone like Hank Hill" (nevermind the reference if you don't know the show - just someone who really cares about propane) otherwise, without the right person it's going to suck your time and energy and you'll end up resenting it.

    Change is inevitable and as much as I fight against it sometimes, especially in business when things have been working so well, it always works out for the best in the end. I'm struck by how you mentioned that the RE increase helped this business. I'm going to guess the reverse is true as well, which means there might be tougher times ahead. Get out while you're on top.

    Easy - one more thing. Keep talking about it on the forum. I think there are some great comments and perspectives here. With anyone else I might be a little less forthright because I'd be afraid they'd just take my word and just go do it. Obviously I don't have a fraction of the information I'd need to make a fullly informed decision. I know you weigh opinions, think things through and always make your own mind up, taking full responsibility for your own actions. So that makes it safer for the rest of us to give our opinions.
     
  9. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    Ding.....ding.....ding.....ding.....ding! We have a winner! You hit the nail on the head! Father built this thing and has had the drive and passion for it, I bought it, turned it over to hit and have worked it only as a second set of hands when it got out of is control (last couple of seasons).

    I would be stepping in as full time, active manager, professional license and owner. I have enjoyed the perks without the efforts (spoiled :D ) and now am looking at having to run something I have little actual interest/passion for.
    I am becoming a believer in Warren Buffet's idea of "I've made a lot of money selling things to cheap". I have someone who wants my business, based on being at the top of the market with its gross #'s. First, that may not come along again and if it does, it won't be any time soon I'm guessing. And second, he at this point, is willing to pay our price. Not sure this opportunity will present itself at such a high point, basically the planet are aligned just right and this may be the time to move out of the business....?
     
  10. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    I do know the show, although I watched more years ago when it first came out as a spin off from the Beavis & Butthead cartoon. And how rare is it that I'd be able to find someone who knows, loves and would take care of such a business. Father had the passion for it only because he saw the forest through the trees. He's no propane guy either, just saw and rode the momentum and ran it like any other business......do what makes sense, control costs, etc.......shrewd business practice.

    My opinion is that it will be directly linked to new construction (a vast majority of who becomes my current customer base - new home homeowners). Would it continue to pay with a down turn? possibly. I have rudely calculated that I will end up working more and for less money having to buy Dad out (over time) and support a business that stops growing or losses growth over the next few years.
    He and I are so different too. If he was younger, he'd have stayed in this and rode it out. But my attention span is much shorter. Although I hate to give up the perks, I don't look forward to the future. My screen name pretty much says it all. Lazy, maybe, but I've found the way I survive and like it. Guess I may need to find another avenue for making "easy money" :D
     
  11. andviv
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    andviv Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    There is not much I can bring to this discussion, but your situation does remind me of the Norm Brodsky story that ran in the Inc magazine a year ago... He got an offer for his business and detailed the whole transaction in his article in the magazine. A truly interesting read for you as the situation is kind of similar. As Diane mentioned, it is great that you have options.
     
  12. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    Interesting read, thanks. His dollar values are clearly MUCH higher than mine, but it seems I'm not the only one :)
    The kicker is, we decided early on that we would build it and sell it in 3-5 years. Now that we are here (6 years in Feb 08) and someone is knocking at the door, we take a look at its true value to us, and wonder, if selling is the right thing to do or not. It is and it isn't, I just need to decide which side of the fence Humpty wants to fall on......its really tough.

    Thanks for the article.
     
  13. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Easy-

    Have you tried "Ben Franklin-ing" the situation?

    That's what I often do, esp when I have a hard time making up my mind.

    The technique:

    When Ben Franklin was having a hard time deciding on a course of action, he'd take a piece of paper, draw a line from top to bottom (down the middle), and label the two sides (plus and minus).

    He'd then list all the advantages and disadvantages, on each respective side.

    Sometimes he'd get a very long list on one side, and that was a compelling reason to choose in that direction.

    Other times, the list would be more equal (in number of items).

    Here's the thing: Even when he had more items on one side, sometimes he'd choose the other. Why? Because he realized that while he may have lots of reasons for doing --or not doing--something, not all of these reasons were equally important. He'd choose the side with the greatest number of important reasons.

    Note that all of this is personal. Your reasons will not be the same as your dad's, or your wife's.

    If you really *are* interested in getting input, ask your wife and mom/dad to do this list as well-- I've found that I often learn as much or more from partner's Ben Franklin lists-- sometimes changing my own as a result.

    Example: Suppose you found out on your wife's list that her biggest motivator was the money, but on your mom/dad's list it was peace of mind/health/being able to do more things with the family. Mom/dad's list would be more compelling for me (not that the wife's is not important!), since I can make money lots of different ways-- but it's harder to get the things listed (peace of mind, etc) in the other list.

    Make sense?

    -Russ H.
     
  14. MJ DeMarco
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    MJ DeMarco Raving Lunatic Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    There are really some great comments here and I think everyone is steering you in the right direction. Personally, your situation sounds eerily similar to the situation I just endured. I wanted to sell at the top but failed to do so and it cost me about $3 million. That $3 million was lost due to lower valuation due to lower revenues and profitability. Why did lower profitability happen? I, like you, wasn't passionate about the business. I tried to hire "managers" who had no vested interest. I tried to convince myself that the fun of making $xxx,xxx/mo was good enough to be motivated to keep the business. None of it worked and my passions for the business went from being an entrepreneur and innovator, to a manager.

    You have to follow your passion -- and if management of the propane business isn't it, you won't be happy - no matter how much bread you are making.

    1) If someone isn't passionate about the business 100% (like Dad) your business will start to stagnate and recede - hence, the valuation will begin to slide.

    2) If you aren't passionate about the business, no amount of profits from the business will change that.

    3) Even if you hire a "manager" -- the manager requires management.

    Since Dad is the oil of the engine and he wants to retire AND you have no passion for the business, I think you've somewhat already answered your question.

    Money is infinite; you can always make more. Time is finite ... you don't want to waste time doing something you aren't 100% invested in ... if you are, you're just buying-into a job.

    Good luck and please keep us posted on what you decide!
     
  15. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    Russ, I understand completely and have mentally done the exercise, maybe I should physically do it for peace of mind and make sure I'm not missing anything. My wife's motivation is the $$, the support the "benefits" the company provides my family. She has told me to do what I want with it but her vote is keep it. Dad's ready to get out, although he would hang out with me and "assist" my now running the business, but he wants out of the day to day grind as does Mother.....she is the driving force on his side.
    Dad has mentioned the "peace of mind" of not having the liability hanging over us and I agree to some degree that reducing the liability is a good thing. Is the money worth more than that POM? Not sure yet.

    MJ, you couldn't be more correct. I could hire a manager but would still have to manage them......not a bad thing and is what I sort of do now.....manage the front office.

    Passion, no none, I do it because I want to reduce my father's load and during the seasons it is a money maker so why not be a part of it. I think I have answered my own question, but I am SOOOO on the fence and am looking for the wisdom from unbiased peers (you all). I am also looking for the strength to do what I am unsure is the right thing. I have a beach lot that we bought a few years back.....2 years in I got an offer for 500% more than I paid for it........turned it down, thought there was money on the table being left. Guess what no longer worth that 500%, be lucky for 400% now and it will be years before I see it come back. Hence the reason for my being gun shy. I could sell, cash out and move on to something new down the line. Or stick it out and see what happens. I have a fish on the hook to buy NOW (a rare find IMO) and although the sale was the original plan when we first got in.....pulling the trigger is looking to be the hardest decision to make.

    I'm guessing your opinion is to sell and be done with it......yes?
     
  16. AroundTheWorld
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    AroundTheWorld Be in the Moment Speedway Pass

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    Funny that MJ posted this, as I was going to post something similar.

    I had a business that was at or just past it's peak.
    I no longer had a passion for the business.
    The choice was to milk it for what it was worth (it provided a nice residual income) or sell while it actually had some cash value and use my time/resources on something I cared about.

    At the time, we worried - thought that if we sold, we would later regret the decision.

    We did sell, and have never looked back. I am thrilled with the decision to sell. I was emotionally done with the business. It is my understanding that the new owner is doing well and I am happy for him. He has a passion for it that I did not.
     
  17. Allthingznew
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    Allthingznew Contributor

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    Yes.

    Easy, this is my 2 cents of "tough love" and you can take it for that, but it's my effort to help you off the fence.

    Your greed cost you once, don't let it cost you again. Sorry to be so blunt but I hope you can appreciate the honesty.

    You know it your gut it's time and you have had great logical thought processes from some great minds given here to support it.

    Your fear to "pull the trigger" appears to an effort to hang on to something that's time has ended, and maybe leaving something on the table again or just plain left behind.

    What can you do that you are passionate about and make as much or more than this already did for you? (I say already cuz it really sounds downhill from here.)

    Don't let yourself become a slave to something you don't love to do for the money. You will, at some point, resent it. :(

    Hope this helps, I'd rather see you back writing 6 mo to a year from now asking for input on your new venture and excited about it than asking for advice because you missed your opportunity and what was once a blessing has become a burden.
     
  18. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    No you're right ATN (no offense taken), I'm trying not to follow the same path. Having said that, I'm also trying to assess whether or not it is the same path or not. Our RE market at the beach went NUTS and we got caught up in the frey of highly increasing values at a mind blowing pace. I got greedy figuring we had more to go.
    This business is a nice little deal that provides (up to this point) about a 30% profit margin. Thats hard to give up, on the flip side it will have it down sides and I'm trying to figure out whether or not its worth the investment in time and $$ or should I just real my fish in and find a new pond.

    I appreciate your comments :) tough love is what I need :D
     
  19. kurtyordy
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    kurtyordy Bronze Contributor

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    Third option- sell your dads share and a portion of yours while retaining a portion. Allows you to still generate income, and gets you some cash as well.
     
  20. andviv
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    andviv Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    Well, I think you have always known what to do. I think you are looking for the explanation or justification (i.e. the 'excuse') to explain others when they ask you 'why'. It is clear since the first post that you knew what you wanted to do... now it is about making that 'feeling' sound reasonable for you and others. You are following your instinct and are sure of what you want.

    By the way, great thread and very interesting topic.
     
  21. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    I think the word I'm looking for is validation! There are positives to both sides (keep/sell). I'm just not sure which is the right decision to be honest. I've not been to this point in my life before and just want unbiased opinions. There seem to be a core group here that have a vast array of experiences and I am looking for a greater wisdom than I can muster up myself.
     
  22. Yankees338
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    Yankees338 Bronze Contributor

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    I think MJ hit the nail on the head. If you're not passionate about it, things will only go south. The statement that I bolded strongly exemplifies that. It seems like in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to have the passion. Once that passion is gone and you've become content with what you have, you're pushing your luck. Passion is the driving force behind innovation and entrepreneurial success; once that is gone, you really do become just a manager. Is that really worth your time?
     
  23. andviv
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    andviv Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    Interesting... from your way of presenting things I got the feeling that you were pretty much decided for sale instead of keep. Like I mentioned before, this is a very interesting thread.
     
  24. EasyMoney_in_NC
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    EasyMoney_in_NC Contributor

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    Well like I said, this is a tough one. The passion thing is definitely true, and thats part of the problem. Should I suffer (all things be relative) thru it for a greater good (suck it up), or bail out while on top and try something new?

    Tough, tough, tough.......I could just do nothing and see where fate takes me. Then there is nothing to lay blame on :)
     
  25. liv42dy
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    liv42dy New Contributor

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    Easy:

    I am hesitant to post this as I really don't know you....and only a handful of people on this forum know bits and pieces about me; but I have noticed something about your posts that you may not be aware of.

    There have been a lot of great reponses validating your decision to sell the business, and they have all made excellent points. But it seems that the validation you are looking for is from your spouse, who is the person whose opinion you care about the most.

    I understand how difficult it is to make a decision like this when the loved ones in your life are pulling you in different directions....one says to sell and the other says to keep. So you look to outside sources to help you make the decision by compiling "evidence" to present to one or the other to convince them to change their minds and agree with you....without a fuss.

    It seems like you already know you want to sell, but the opinions and feelings of your spouse are weighing heavily on your decision-making process. And until you and your wife are on the same page, you will continue to sit on the fence.

    She must really mean a lot to you for you to be so conflicted. :love1:

    Maybe I'm wrong, but this is just my observation.
     

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