Climbing Your Second Mountain

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As M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) specialists in the lower-middle market ($10 million to $200 million in annual sales), we always counsel our clients to plan ahead for an exit from their business or medical practice. Whether you are looking ten years down the road–or next year–there are many areas we can recommend you can develop to help you get maximum value out of a sale or merger of your business. No matter the timing.

“Sprucing up” a company for a long-term sale can often help improve operations quickly, long before any negotiations.

Imagine if you were buying your own company, only to discover that the medical practice manager is the wife of the practice owner and is leaving with him, or you found a snake pit of disgruntled employees ready to jump ship, or partners in the business have differing views on when to exit. Yikes!

We also emphasize to sellers that proper planning (and execution!) can have a positive multiplier effect for your leadership team, your staff, your family, and you. After all, one might say, “A happy company (and family)” is a more valuable company. Employee retention may well be a top-five item on an acquirer’s punch list.

Retirement as a Lifelong Journey

Before we embark on the journey of the second mountain, let’s reflect on the first. Your career, whether as a business owner or a medical professional, was undoubtedly a challenging but rewarding ascent. It required dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to your craft. You worked tirelessly to achieve your goals, build your business, or provide exceptional care to your patients.

It’s a symbol of success and accomplishment that should be celebrated. However, as the journey comes to an end, it’s natural to wonder what lies beyond this peak. For many, this achievement can be followed by a sense of emptiness or a desire for something more. This is where the concept of “climbing your second mountain” comes into play, offering a path to discover new heights in retirement.

This concept, popularized by author David Brooks in his book, “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life,” is about finding deeper purpose and fulfillment in life after achieving career success.

M&A sales can often serve as a significant pivot point in one’s career, and understanding how it fits into the broader journey of the second mountain can be thought provoking, if not enlightening.

The Unexpected Turn: M&A Sales & the First Mountain

These transactions, while financially rewarding, can also be emotionally charged. Owners may grapple with questions like, “What’s next?” and “Who am I without my business or practice?” The initial response might be to embrace newfound freedom, leisure, and personal pursuits, which align with the first mountain’s idea of personal happiness and success.

The Second Mountain in the M&A Sale

However, for some, the sale of a business or medical practice can trigger a profound realization, similar to what David Brooks describes as the transition from the first mountain to the second. They might find themselves at the peak of the first mountain, surrounded by material success, but still yearning for something more profound and meaningful.

1. Reevaluating Life Priorities: An M&A sale often brings a windfall of financial resources. Rather than pursuing more personal wealth or indulging in lavish retirement, individuals on the second mountain may start to reevaluate their life priorities. They may realize that their true fulfillment lies in making a difference in the lives of others and the community.

2. Commitment to a Greater Purpose: Just as Brooks emphasizes the importance of commitments to a spouse, vocation, philosophy, and community, those who’ve sold their businesses or practices can commit to a new purpose. This could involve philanthropy, mentorship, or active involvement in community organizations.

3. Balancing Independence & Interdependence: In the M&A process, business owners often experience a shift from complete independence to interdependence with the acquiring entity or community. This shift mirrors the second mountain’s emphasis on embracing interdependence and the beauty of dependence. It’s about finding a harmonious balance between personal freedom and commitment to a greater cause.

4. Legacy and Impact: Business owners who’ve gone through an M&A sale have an opportunity to shape their legacy beyond financial success. They can leave a lasting impact on their industry, employees, and the broader community through philanthropic endeavors or mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs or medical professionals.

The Role of Commitment in M&A Success

In the context of M&A sales, commitment plays a vital role in achieving success and ensuring a smooth transition. Commitment to the integrity of the business or practice, commitment to the well-being of employees, and commitment to maintaining the values and principles that have guided the organization are essential components of a successful sale.

The sale process itself often involves a commitment to due diligence, negotiations, and a clear vision for the future, both for the seller and the acquiring entity. Just as the second mountain is about embracing commitments, M&A sales necessitate a commitment to the process and the outcomes that follow.

M&A Sales as a Gateway to the Second Mountain

In the journey of retirement for business owners and medical practitioners, an M&A sale can be a transformative experience that leads them from the peak of their first mountain to the uncharted territory of the second. It’s a moment of reflection, reevaluation, and a renewed sense of purpose. While the financial rewards are significant, the emotional and spiritual rewards of embracing a life of commitment and interdependence can be even more profound.

Ultimately, the second mountain calls individuals to a higher purpose, one that extends beyond personal success and wealth. It’s about making meaningful commitments to family, community, and the world, leaving a legacy that transcends financial transactions. In this context, the M&A sale becomes not just a financial transaction but a pivotal moment in the journey of a purpose-driven retirement, where the second mountain’s view is more fulfilling than ever before.