A good definition of retirement is working because you want to work, not because you have to work. A well planned “retirement” gives you options. The goal should be to have choice and control.
Asking the question “Would I like to retire at some point?” starts you thinking about the answers and planning to achieve the goals the answers infer.
Business owners often view retirement as a bad idea. They are builders, they love the action of being in business. If you look up the definition of “retirement” you get: to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.
These are not concepts that sit well with your typical business owner, who likes the control and the accomplishment that comes with being the boss.
In a family business these questions are important for everyone, not just the “boss.” Spouses are interested in the answer, particularly if they are not as involved in the business as the “boss.” And children who are being groomed (or assumed) to take a leadership role cannot make their own plans if they don’t know the plan of the “boss”. This can have a ripple effect to the children’s spouse and family.
When you ask the question: Would I like to retire at some point? there are logical next questions such as: what will I retire too? what would retirement look like? could I stay involved with the business in some capacity?
As you answer these questions you start to build a picture, a vision of your future, it does not have to mean “withdrawal” or “going away”, it does not even have to mean loss of control.
What will I retire too? It could be to devote more time to a hobby, or start a new business from a hobby (part-time perhaps to keep the spouse happy). It could be to devote more time to community service or to grandchildren. Whatever it is write it down to make it concrete.
What would retirement look like, remember the definition, you are working because you want to work, not because you have to work. With foresight and planning retirement can look like anything the “boss” and his/her spouse want. They have options and flexibility. This feature has also been associated with good health and longer life expectancy.
Could I stay involved with the business? This is where the business owner can decide what role he/she would like to have in the business. I often counsel moving to a strategic role, which means out of day-to-day operations but thinking about long term plans. Where could the company be in 3 years, 5 years? What resources will the company need to fulfil those goals?
One of the great things about the strategic role is that it keeps the knowledge the “boss” has about the industry and the business, the customers and suppliers in the organization; and it can be accomplished from a beach in the Caribbean or the deck of a cruise ship.
Becoming a mentor, or at least a resource for the incoming leadership is an important role too, as the new leaders take up the responsibility for day-to-day operations.
Asking the question is a great start, writing down the thoughts the questions stirs up is critical and then sharing these thoughts with family members and key people in the business is progress.