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Don’t miss the window of opportunity to secure a future for your business

December 16, 2022 -  By
(Photo: Lpstudio/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: Lpstudio/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Joe started his mowing business when he was 14 years old, working out of his garage until graduating high school. Unlike other kids in his neighborhood, Joe always wanted to run his own business. His parents had instilled in him a work ethic rarely seen in someone his age. Joe treated every lawn like it was his own, and his customers rewarded his dedication with loyalty and referrals.

By the time Joe was 16, he had more work than he could handle himself, so he started hiring classmates as employees. This served him well throughout high school as his business continued to grow. Joe’s mom helped him with the legal side of his business, and Joe’s dad took care of the bookkeeping.

Growth continues

Joe made more than $100,000 while a freshman in college. Graduates at the time received job offers with salaries that were less than half of that amount. He attended a few college classes, but business demands were too great, so Joe poured himself into his business. Before he turned 21, his revenue hit $1 million.

Joe bought his first house that year. Two years later, Joe bought a duplex and continued to invest in real estate, amassing a substantial portfolio of income-producing rental units.

Joe got married and started a family of three boys. Despite constant business demands, Joe maintains a relatively healthy work-life balance.

Joe’s landscape company continued to grow, hitting $2 million in annual revenue, $5 million and then $10 million. All of this occurred while Joe was young and had boundless energy. That was many years ago. His companies have continued to grow, but Joe is tired. Now in his 60s, his perspective has changed.

What Joe longs for at this stage in his life is to spend more time with his family, especially his five young grandchildren. He also wants to travel. Joe is stuck in his business and doesn’t know how to get out.

None of his children are interested in taking over the business. Joe occasionally thinks about selling the business, but every time he does, all that comes to mind are enormous brokerage fees and an endless list of unknowns. His attention turns back to the demands of today. Joe tells himself that he can deal with the unknowns of succession another day. This proposal needs to go out tomorrow.

Too late to plan

Yesterday, Joe’s widow called me for advice. She has no idea what to do with her late husband’s company, customers or anything else with the business. Joe took care of all these details and had all the passwords. He knew where everything was.

She told me about the conversations she and Joe had about putting a plan in place. Joe knew he needed to take action to protect his legacy. But he was afraid to face the inevitable. There were too many unknowns, too many questions and expenses related to dealing with all of this. There was always tomorrow, until there wasn’t.

Window of opportunity

Every business owner has a window of opportunity to protect their legacy. The only question is will they take the first step? Often the first step is to bring on an adviser who can develop and implement a thoughtful plan, taking this burden off the owner’s shoulders.

We have no idea exactly when that window of opportunity opens or closes. For some, it begins the day of founding the company. Some business owners create their companies with a plan for growth and a plan for succession from the beginning. In my experience, these people are rare.

More commonly, the business owner begins to have thoughts about succession after a number of years of running his or her business but is hesitant to act. The owner fully recognizes the need to act while at the same time deciding not to do so. Every day, the window of opportunity shrinks.

Joe’s inaction left behind a mess for his family to clean up. Much of what Joe worked so hard for will be gone. This will be his legacy.

Nobody likes to face their mortality. But maybe this will inspire you to take that first step to protect your legacy.

Now go forth.

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Phil Harwood

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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