How to Successfully Position Your Business for Post-acquisition Integration 

How to Successfully Position Your Business for Post-acquisition Integration 

The acquisition process for your business doesn’t end when the check is signed. Instead, that’s when the hard work of integrating the two businesses starts, and how that plays out is critical for a successful acquisition. By planning ahead and working together through the integration process, the combined companies are better positioned for growth and a stronger market position.

Why Integration Matters for a Successful Acquisition

For businesses looking to position themselves for an acquisition or merger, it’s important to take steps to prepare for integration. This involves integrating systems, personnel, processes, culture, and other areas of the organizations to ensure that they are working together most effectively. It also includes developing standard operating procedures and policies that are consistent across both businesses; creating teams that can manage the process of integration; and setting up systems to ensure proper communication between departments.

Additionally, it’s important to build relationships with the stakeholders of both businesses to ensure that everyone is on board with the integration process. Doing this well is critical for a successful acquisition – it can help ensure smooth operations, reduce costs, and create a stronger unified organization.

Addressing Key Challenges

One challenge companies face is overcoming cultural differences between the two organizations, as this can cause conflict and confusion. Companies must work to ensure that their cultures are compatible, or at least understand each other’s values and practices. Additionally, it may be difficult to merge different systems and processes into one cohesive system – this requires careful planning and coordination. Merging personnel can be a challenge, too, if there are significant differences in compensation or roles between employees of the two companies. To address these issues, companies should look for commonalities between the entities and focus on creating win-win solutions that benefit both businesses.

Integrating two businesses is an important part of any acquisition or merger. Taking steps to properly prepare for integration will help increase the chances of success and ensure that all stakeholders are on board with the process. With careful planning and a thorough understanding of the challenges and opportunities, businesses can position themselves for success in an acquisition or merger.

Preparing for Integration Prior to Acquisition

Prior to an acquisition, companies should prepare for integration by developing a plan that outlines how the two businesses will be merged. This plan should include what processes and systems need to be integrated, who will be responsible for managing the transition, and any other relevant information. Additionally, it is important for both entities to understand each other’s culture and work towards creating a unified environment that works for both parties. Communication should be established between the stakeholders of both businesses, as well, to ensure everyone is on board with the process of integration. Taking these steps prior to an acquisition or merger can help make the transition smoother when it comes time to integrate the two businesses.

Common Integration Mistakes to Avoid

One common mistake companies make when integrating two businesses is mismanaging communication between the stakeholders. It’s important to ensure that all parties are kept informed of any changes or updates pertaining to the integration process, because this can help reduce confusion and conflict. Also, failing to understand the culture of both businesses can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements – it is crucial for companies to have a thorough understanding of each other’s cultures before merging. Finally, not properly planning for integration can result in costly mistakes – like losing key employees or eroding diversification. Having a detailed plan in place prior to an acquisition or merger can help avoid issues down the road.

Effective Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration between the acquiring company and acquired company during integration is essential for a successful acquisition. To facilitate this, both entities should establish clear lines of communication and develop a plan that outlines how they will work together to achieve their goals. Additionally, it’s important to allow time for employees of both companies to get to know one another, since this will reduce the potential for conflict due to cultural differences. Regular meetings between representatives from both businesses can help ensure that everyone is kept informed of any changes or updates related to the integration process.

Build a Shared Vision and Culture

Establishing a shared vision and culture following an acquisition is key for a successful integration. To create a unified culture, both companies should work together to identify their core values and develop shared goals that align with those of the new organization. It’s also important for companies to invest in cultural understanding programs that provide training on cultural differences and how to work effectively with colleagues from different backgrounds. When managing cultural differences it’s important to be mindful of misunderstandings or miscommunications – allowing time for employees to get to know each other can help reduce potential conflicts related to cultural differences.

Integrating Technology Systems and Processes

Merging technology systems and processes is an important part of the integration process. To facilitate this, companies should start by gathering information about the current systems and processes used by both entities. From there, they can assess how compatible the two systems are and develop a plan for integrating them in a way that works best for both businesses. IT plays an important role, too, in coordinating data transfer and ensuring all security protocols are followed when exchanging confidential information between organizations. Finally, companies should be sure to provide proper training to employees on the new integrated system so everyone knows how to use it properly.

Manage Employee Morale and Retention

Managing employee morale and retention during integration is essential for a successful acquisition. Companies should start by providing employees with clear information about the integration process, as well as how their roles may be impacted. Additionally, businesses should communicate any changes to benefits or other aspects of employment that may result from the acquisition.

To retain key talent, companies can provide incentives such as bonuses and additional training opportunities, while also allowing employees to keep their existing job roles if they choose to do so. Finally, offering regular feedback and recognition of accomplishments can help boost employee morale and incentivize them to stay with the company through the transition period.

In summary, businesses can position themselves for success in integrating two businesses by establishing a shared vision and culture, investing in cultural understanding programs, managing technology systems and processes, and retaining key talent. With the right strategies in place, companies can ensure that the acquisition process runs smoothly with minimal disruption to their employees or their operations.

By taking these steps prior to an acquisition or merger, businesses are laying the groundwork for successful integration and positioning themselves for success. Ultimately, this will lead to better outcomes for all involved as both entities become part of a larger organization with greater potential for growth.

From the desk of Natalie: Embracing Change: Navigating the Transition to Life’s Next Chapter Part 2

As a seasoned mergers and acquisitions expert, I’ve had the privilege of helping countless women business owners plan and execute successful exit strategies. This experience has provided me with an intimate understanding of the emotional journey that accompanies such a transition – the exhilaration, the uncertainty, and ultimately, the satisfaction of seeing a new chapter begin to unfold.

Over the past year, I’ve made my own transition to a new phase of life, most recently deciding to follow my heart and move to Hawaii. Like many of my clients who decide to leave their businesses,  I made a decision to change my life and live in paradise.  I am now settled into a temporary rental, but on an island, so nothing is far from the beach—my happy place.

Finding peace in the transition

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” 

For many women over 40, the decision to exit an entrepreneurial venture is not taken lightly. It often represents the culmination of years, perhaps even decades, of passion, hard work, and resilience. As such, the period following the sale or integration of your business can be accompanied by a complex mix of emotions. It’s an end, yes, but also a beginning.

All transitions take time, and finding peace can mean many different things to different people.  

It’s difficult to move from everything you know and love to a whole new you without sitting in it and getting to know yourself again.  There are days when I look in the mirror, and I know the soul looking back at me is me.  I look peaceful, my eyes are peaceful.  Then there are the days when I look and ask myself, “Who the hell is that?”  But I do think I found inner peace with who I am now.  I was a different person then, I grew, and I continue to, now just on a different path.

To find peace in my transition, I followed a few simple steps:

The first is acceptance. It’s perfectly normal to experience a sense of loss when you exit your business. After all, your business likely consumed a significant portion of your life and defined part of your identity. But remember, the end of your business doesn’t equate to the end of your journey. It’s simply the close of one chapter, making way for a new one to begin. This acceptance is the key to unlocking the future that awaits you.

Next, allow yourself time to reflect. After the whirlwind of negotiations and paperwork, take a moment to step back. Revisit your achievements and the challenges you overcame. You’ve proven your ability to create, build, and exit a successful venture. This is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Reflecting provides closure and helps identify the skills and experiences you can carry forward.

Last, take time to reassess your goals and desires. Whether you’re considering another entrepreneurial endeavor, planning to join a corporate role, or even eyeing retirement, this is your chance to realign your priorities. What are the things that truly matter to you now?

Inner peace 

Finding peace inside is also a journey.  It takes awareness and work.  So I committed to doing that during this transition.  To live a more fulfilling and meaningful life in my new surroundings. 

They say “inner peace” is about the contentment of accepting yourself as you are, a sense of calm no matter what comes your way.  Alignment to our own beliefs and values to live that way.  Being aware of our thoughts and emotions.  Really tuning in to who you are, including imperfections, and be OK with it.  I suppose a good way to put it is a sense of inner harmony.  

Transition is a work in progress

They say that the phrase “Flight of the Phoenix” has come to symbolize the concept of rebirth or renewal.  Basically coming alive again but being different.  Rising from the ashes when faced with a seemingly impossible situation and emerging more vital, more resilient and self-aware as a result.  

Reinventing yourself after a business exit can be a daunting prospect. Yet, it’s also an opportunity for exploration. If you’ve always harbored a passion for painting, now might be the time to pick up that brush. Or perhaps you’ve long dreamed of contributing to a social cause – why not explore the non-profit sector? The options are limitless, and the choice is yours.

A crucial aspect often overlooked during this transition is self-care. Amidst the excitement of exploring new opportunities, remember to care for your physical and emotional well-being. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can work wonders in helping you maintain balance during this period of change.

Don’t hesitate to seek support. This could be in the form of a mentor, a coach, or a group of like-minded individuals going through similar transitions. Sharing experiences, fears, and hopes can be incredibly therapeutic. And remember, professional help is always available should you need guidance in this new phase.

Finally, embrace the uncertainty. It’s natural to feel apprehensive about the unknown. However, remember that this uncertainty also comes with endless possibilities. The future is a blank canvas, and you hold the brush.

The journey is the destination

For me personally, this year of transformation was a year of growth too.  I faced many fears, some I didn’t even know existed but showed up right in front of me.  Through it all, I learned that no obstacle is insurmountable, even in the most difficult of circumstances.  

Everyone is capable, and we all have spirit in us, sometimes, you simply need to focus on it and ask the universe for help.  

I understand that this journey can be overwhelming, but remember, you’ve already proven your resilience and adaptability. The same strength that helped you build your business will help you navigate this transition successfully. This new chapter holds promise and opportunity waiting for you to seize them.

Remember, change is the only constant. It is the catalyst for growth, transformation, and new beginnings. So, as you stand at this juncture, poised to embark on the next chapter of your life, do so with an open mind, a willing heart, and the knowledge that you can make the most of whatever comes next.

I am mindful every day in anything I do.  I have made a decision to live this life.  There is another phrase by Ralph Waldo Emerson “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

It is true.  Make a decision on how you want to live your life.  The type of person you want to be, the type of person you want to share your life with, and theirs with you.  The people you want to be surrounded by.  Pray for it and put it out there, see what happens.

Because, after all, life is not about the destination but the journey.

Women Entrepreneurs: Positioning Your Business for Acquisition

Much like launching a successful business, positioning your company for acquisition —maybe you’re retiring, or maybe you’re ready to move on and try something different — involves a lot of planning and strategy. How you go about positioning your business for acquisition can help maximize your chances of a successful sale, and build the foundation for the business to carry on without you.

What is a Business Acquisition?

Acquisitions can be an effective way for women-led businesses to grow their enterprises. By acquiring another business, a business owner can expand their customer base, diversify product or service offerings, and build on the existing skillsets of the employees in the acquired company. This type of growth is beneficial because it enables entrepreneurs to increase their profits while reducing risk since a foundation is already in place from which they can work. Acquisitions are also used as a way to enter new markets and gain access to resources that would otherwise not be available. In short, acquisitions can provide women-led businesses with an effective means of gaining a competitive advantage and positioning themselves for long term success. 

Key Factors for Potential Acquisition Targets

When evaluating whether or not to make an acquisition, there are a few key factors that acquirers should take into consideration. Acquirers look for various factors when considering a potential acquisition target. Some of the key factors include:

  • Financial Performance: Acquirers are interested in companies that have a track record of profitability, positive cash flow, and a healthy balance sheet.
  • Market Position: Companies that have a strong market position and a loyal customer base are more attractive to acquirers.
  • Growth Potential: Acquirers look for companies that have growth potential, either through new products or services, or by entering new markets.
  • Intellectual Property: Companies with valuable patents, trademarks, and copyrights are more attractive to acquirers.
  • Management Team: Acquirers look for a strong management team that can continue to lead the company after the acquisition.
  • Cultural Fit: Cultural fit between employees at both companies is critical, too. If there is a perceived mismatch in values or objectives, that could lead to problems down the line. 

Preparing Your Company to be an Attractive Acquisition

A stable, well managed, and profitable company is much more attractive to potential buyers. The earlier you start developing a solid exit strategy, the smoother the process will be. Positioning your business for acquisition involves several steps:

  • Get Your Finances in Order: Ensure that your financial records are up-to-date and accurate. You may need to hire a financial advisor or accountant to help you with this process.
  • Build a Strong Management Team: Develop a strong management team that can continue to lead the company after the acquisition.
  • Develop a Solid Business Plan: Create a comprehensive business plan that outlines your company’s strategy, market position, and growth potential.
  • Establish Intellectual Property Rights: Ensure that your intellectual property rights are well-protected, and you have a strategy in place to continue to develop and protect your intellectual property.
  • Build Strong Customer Relationships: Develop a loyal customer base and establish strong relationships with your customers.

Common Acquisition Mistakes to Avoid

There are some common mistakes companies make when attempting to position themselves for acquisition. Not having a clear strategy for how the businesses will be integrated post-acquisition, failing to optimize financial systems and processes prior to the transaction, and not properly evaluating potential synergies between the two teams are all problems to avoid. Companies considering buying your business are watching for mistakes, too:

  • Focusing Only on Short-Term Growth: Acquirers are interested in companies with sustainable long-term growth potential. Therefore, focusing only on short-term growth can be a mistake.
  • Ignoring Due Diligence: Failure to prepare for due diligence can be a significant mistake. Due diligence is a critical part of the acquisition process, and failure to prepare adequately can lead to delays or even the loss of a potential acquirer.
  • Overvaluing the Business: Overvaluing the business can be a mistake as it may deter potential acquirers.
  • Ignoring the Importance of Management: Neglecting to develop a strong management team can be a mistake as acquirers look for companies with strong leadership.

When is the Right Time to Sell, and What to Look for in the Acquiring Company

Determining the right time to sell your business is just as critical as knowing when to acquire another company. Factors to consider when evaluating potential acquirers include:

  • Strategic Fit: Evaluate the potential acquirer’s strategic fit with your company. Consider how the acquisition could complement the acquirer’s existing operations and contribute to their long-term growth strategy.
  • Valuation: Consider the potential acquirer’s valuation of your company. It’s essential to get a fair price for your business, but keep in mind that the value of your company is ultimately determined by the market.
  • Cultural Fit: Consider the potential acquirer’s culture and values. An acquisition can be challenging for employees, and a cultural mismatch can lead to problems during integration.
  • Timing: Consider the timing of the acquisition. It’s essential to ensure that the timing is right for your business and that you’re not rushing the sale due to external factors.
  • Reputation: Consider the potential acquirer’s reputation in the industry. You want to be associated with a company that has a good reputation and is known for ethical business practices.
  • Identify Potential Acquirers: Identify potential acquirers in your industry or related industries and establish relationships with them.

How to Negotiate a Successful Acquisition Deal, and what Happens in the Due Diligence Process

Finding the best deal possible for your company during the acquisition process requires negotiating with the potential buyer. Some strategies for negotiating a successful acquisition deal include:

  • Set Clear Objectives: Set clear objectives for the acquisition and negotiate from a position of strength.
  • Be Prepared to Walk Away: Be prepared to walk away if the terms of the acquisition are not favorable to your company.
  • Keep Emotions in Check: Keep emotions in check during negotiations and focus on the best interests of your company.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Seek professional advice from attorneys, accountants, and other advisors to ensure that you understand the terms of the acquisition and the potential implications.

During the due diligence process, potential acquirers will examine your company’s financial records, legal documents, and other critical information. Expect the process to be thorough and lengthy, and be prepared to answer any required questions the potential acquirer may have.

What Challenges Does a Company Face Post-acquisition?

Post-acquisition challenges can include integrating the acquired company into the larger organization, managing cultural differences, and retaining key employees. To address these challenges, it’s essential to have a well-planned integration strategy that includes communication with employees, a clear plan for integration, and a focus on maintaining the acquired company’s culture and values.

How to Continue to Grow and Thrive After an Acquisition

To continue to grow and thrive after an acquisition, it’s essential to focus on maintaining the acquired company’s strengths and incorporating them into the larger organization. With the right approach, acquisitions can be an effective tool for achieving competitive advantage and continued success. Best practices for integrating the acquired company include:

  • Communicate with Employees: Keep employees informed about the acquisition and the integration process.
  • Maintain Company Culture: Focus on maintaining the acquired company’s culture and values to minimize disruptions during integration.
  • Retain Key Employees: Retain key employees by providing them with incentives and opportunities for growth within the larger organization.
  • Evaluate Performance: Evaluate the performance of the integrated company regularly and make adjustments as needed to ensure that the acquisition is contributing to the company’s long-term growth strategy.

Positioning your business for acquisition requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. By following these steps, you can maximize your chances of a successful sale and ensure that your business continues to grow and thrive after the acquisition.

Life and Work Transitions Can Happen in an Instant

As a woman business owner specializing in helping women business owners and executives through transitions in their work lives, I’ve seen my clients put their heart and soul into building their businesses. They’ve spent countless hours pouring over every detail, making tough decisions, and taking risks – spending years making the business a part of them, and the idea of moving on from it is both daunting and emotional.

In truth, it wasn’t always easy for me to understand the depth of emotion that came when it was time to transition to the next phase for my clients. That is until my own life changed in an instant.

I unexpectedly lost my beloved husband, Gene, just over a year ago. He passed away suddenly during a routine surgery. In just 45 minutes, on a fabulous early spring day in Denver, all of the plans he and I had been making, the work I had done to build my business, and my vision, my life changed.

There is a saying, “We do not remember the days; we remember the moments” (Cesare Pavese). It is very accurate. That is all there is to it.  

After Gene’s passing, I had to spend time handling the logistics of death. The funeral, estate planning, and selling the house were just a few of the necessary things to consider. 

These steps were familiar to me, as I have helped people move through business transitions for over two decades. Partnering with my clients as they prepare to transition or exit their business. Watching as they get financial documents in order, reviewing contracts and agreements with them, and making necessary updates to the business’s infrastructure. 

But there are also emotional aspects to consider beyond the logistical aspects of transitioning out of business or your envisioned life. Letting go is not easy, and feeling sadness, grief, and a sense of loss is natural.

In my own life, I moved into a version of “Eat, Pray, Love” (by Elizabeth Gilbert), where I explored my new reality and rented short-term homes in several locations across the U.S.

This year changed me. It changed my vision of what I want to achieve and who I wish to be. We had plans, but now, it is just me re-planning. Including re-planning my business and my bucket list. I never thought I would be doing this alone, without him.

But I’m also trying to focus on the positive aspects of this transition. I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for myself and my business. 

I’m also reminding myself, just as I have reminded my transitioning clients for decades, that my business (or the home I built with Gene)  is not just the physical entity but also the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years. My life before Gene’s passing, like the knowledge and experience my clients have from their work, will always be a part of me, and it’s something that I can carry with me as I move forward.

Of course, there will still be days when the emotions of this transition hit me hard. But I’m also trying to remember that this is a natural part of any transition and that the feelings of sadness and loss will eventually subside.

Read More: Successful Business Succession Planning for Women Entrepreneurs

The One-Way Ticket to Paradise 

As I moved through this past year, learning to live in a new way and deciding where to live physically, I realized I wanted to be in Hawaii.

I realized that living life to the fullest means residing in paradise. For some of my clients, it means buying the dream retirement home they imagined, finally scaling the business, or spending more time with family and friends.

That’s why, two weeks ago, I bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii. First class, of course!

I’ve decided to live a life I only dreamed of in a place that I love, Hawaii. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for anyone.

As I move forward with this transition, I’m keeping a positive mindset and focusing on the opportunities that lie ahead. While it’s hard to let go of something that has been such an essential part of my life, I know that this is the right decision for me. 

What’s Next for You?

Life and Work Transitions

Whether your work transition comes from a sudden event, as mine did, or if it is a long-planned exit, there is no right or wrong answer when deciding what’s next after a business exit or transition. 

It’s essential to keep an open mind when considering your next move. Be willing to explore new ideas and industries and consider taking on a new challenge. It’s natural to feel a bit uncertain or even scared about the future (I know I am), but embracing the idea of change can lead to personal and professional growth.

Finally, remember to take care of yourself during this time of transition. Selling, integrating, or expanding a business can be emotionally and physically draining, and it’s important to prioritize self-care. 

Take time for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether moving to a paradise island, spending time with loved ones, practicing yoga, or taking a long hike in the great outdoors. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being will help you to approach life with clarity and confidence.

When is it time to transition your business?

I want to remind you that this is an exciting time and that you have the opportunity to create the next chapter of your journey. 

While it can be daunting to consider what comes next, many resources and avenues exist to explore as you embark on this new adventure. Take the time to reflect, seek guidance, and embrace new opportunities. I wish you all the best on this next chapter of your journey.

Ready to learn more about how to plan for your next chapter? Schedule a free consultation with me. I’d love to hear your story.

Finding Fulfilment in Passion Projects as a Woman Entrepreneur

Growing, evolving, and finding yourself is a normal parts of who we are. Sometimes that process leads to reinventing yourself, which can be both exciting and frightening — and it might also be the inspiration for exploring a new passion project. For entrepreneurs, that passion can also be the spark for a new business venture packed with opportunities and maybe a few hurdles, especially for women.

Reinventing yourself typically isn’t a flip-of-the-switch to reveal the new you. Instead, it’s a journey as you explore and learns to discover what matters, what doesn’t interest you, and what you want to change. It isn’t a sign that what you did before was a failure because the time leading up to finding the new you is part of your education, whether it takes years or decades.

Embracing a new passion project as a woman entrepreneur is a great opportunity to explore what’s important to you. That said, there are potential hurdles along the way for first-time and experienced entrepreneurs alike. Knowing where those roadblocks are making them much easier to avoid and overcome.

Find Your Passion

The “I need to do something different” feeling about your career is a pretty good indication that you do, in fact, need to do something different. Just exactly what that should be, however, may call for some introspection. Knowing you want to be happy is a start, but also requires discovering what will make you feel happy and fulfilled.

Gretchen Rubin, a well-known author and founder of The Happiness Project, knew her career in law wasn’t making her happy and she needed to make a change. Through introspection she realized writing was her passion, leading her to give up a legal career for the uncertainty of a new business venture as an author. That led to a string of best-selling books including “The Happiness Project,” “Better than Before,” and “The Four Tendencies,” along with an online store selling organizational tools, journals, and more.

Without honest introspection, Rubin wouldn’t have been able to find the passion project she needed to reinvent herself as an author, public speaker, and entrepreneur.

Avoid the Procrastination Trap

“I don’t know…” and “I don’t have…” are powerful phrases that can stop your progress and let opportunities slip by. Feeling like you lack experience or don’t have the resources to pursue your passion project makes it easy to procrastinate or even abandon your dream.

Knowledge gaps don’t need to stop you from progressing. Learning through experience often teaches what you might miss in classes, and bringing people on board who have the expertise you lack rounds out your knowledge pool and helps set the stage for solid leadership.

Since there’s always more to learn, it’s good to have additional resources like mentors and support groups available. Unfortunately, the male-focused business world creates unique challenges for women thanks to social expectations to be caregivers, stereotypes that they aren’t leaders, and other gender bias issues. Mentors who appreciate the issues women entrepreneurs face aren’t always as easy to find, too.

Despite the uneven playing field, resources for women entrepreneurs are growing. Ellevate, for example, built a community for professional women with networking and learning events. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program offers leadership, marketing, and sales business courses, along with mentoring and networking opportunities, and financing for women-owned businesses.

Overcoming the “I don’t have” issue often means money. Investors for women-owned businesses still trail behind their male-owned counterparts. That doesn’t, however, mean funding options aren’t available. Along with Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women program, Portfolio, Pepsi, and Toyota are excellent examples of companies investing in women entrepreneurs.

You can learn more about gender bias, networking, and mentoring options, as well as funding options in our 4 Common Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face as They Age blog post.

Get Over the Fear of Failure

While fear of failure is real and valid, it doesn’t need to be a reason to give up on your passion project and reinvent yourself. The idea that your current career or business is already going well can be an alluring idea, and fear of business failure is higher for women compared to men, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report. That concern leads to risk-based resistance, which can have a negative impact on confidence.

Stereotypes casting women as ill-suited for leadership roles heighten the problem, making women entrepreneurs more sensitive to the notion that a business failure equates to not being good enough. Overcoming generations of the men-first business attitude takes time, and while we’re making progress, the finish line is still somewhere in the future. Instead of focusing on failure, identify the risks and craft a strategy to deal with them.

Passion Project as woman entrepreneur
  • Define Your Business Goal: Do you want to change the world, or make a dent in the universe? Are you filling a need no one else is addressing? Knowing your end goal makes it easier to measure your success and stay focused.
  • Build a Strong Business Plan: A solid business plan is like a compass guiding your company to your goal. Women-led businesses tend to face more scrutiny when seeking funding, and a strong and detailed business plan helps to successfully navigate those concerns.
  • Use Your Support Network: There’s a good chance whatever obstacles you encounter have come up at some point for someone else. The people in your support network can offer guidance from experience, or they know someone who can.
  • Don’t Lose Sight of Your Passion: Once you commit, don’t lose sight of what inspired your desire to reinvent yourself through your passion project. If you lose that, the fulfillment from seeing your business grow and succeed will likely be lost, too.

Be the Mother of Your Own Reinvention

Transitioning from who you are to who you want to be as a woman entrepreneur is an opportunity to pursue happiness and satisfaction that otherwise might be missing from your life. Whether it’s breaking out of an unfulfilling career or starting a new life chapter, our passion projects can be the catalyst to make that change. While there may be challenges along the way, the payoff can be a new and successful business and a sense of fulfillment that wasn’t there before.

Maintaining Equity When You Exit Your Business: Why it Matters for Women

Equity is a key element in DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and a core tenet for many women-owned businesses. Maintaining — or even growing — that equity when women leadership exits the company, however, isn’t guaranteed without the right management mindset and vision. With some clear planning, equity can continue to be a solid part of the business, and an ongoing opportunity to bring marginalized groups into leadership positions.

Equity in business has two meanings. Along with the obvious financial reference, it also applies to fairness within a company. In the latter case, equity is the idea that similar roles in a business are equally available and compensated regardless of gender, ethnic background, or any other factor that leads to marginalizing specific groups of people. Running a business with equity as a core principle fosters diversity and inclusion, which is an important part of breaking the generations-old “men are the leaders” cycle that’s preventing too many people from advancing in the business world.

Women entrepreneurs are in a strong position to guide their business so it operates with equity in mind while they’re at the helm. Ensuring that continues when they exit the business calls for planning in advance and instilling their values and vision into the company culture.

Start Planning Early

Your leadership values start even before your business launches. Building that into the company from the beginning helps make those values part of the company’s lifeblood. Leading by example is part of the equation, but also requires strong business and exit plans.

Building a solid business plan is more common for women entrepreneurs because they often face greater scrutiny when seeking investors and funding, according to Boston Consulting Group data. While strong business plans are useful for raising money, they also set expectations for how the company should run, and by extension, how fairly employees will be treated under your leadership, and the leaders who follow you.

Build an Exit Strategy

While waiting until it’s time to retire before thinking about an exit strategy might be tempting, starting on a plan much earlier increases the likelihood of a successful transition when it is time for you to move on. It also helps foster a mindset where you’re considering who — or what types of people — should be in leadership roles after you leave.

Planning for your exit is also about setting up your legacy. Grooming employees with the intent to craft them into leaders not only instills your vision for the company but also helps reinforce equity at all levels of your business. In essence, training with DEI in mind breaks through the barriers that have historically held back marginalized groups such as women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities.

Read More: Finding Fulfilment in Passion Projects as a Woman Entrepreneur

Make a Fair Playing Field

Don’t just assume leadership will continue to assert your values after you leave. Set rules and guidelines to ensure employees are treated fairly, define compensation packages that prevent underpaying people in similar roles, and endorse transparency. Including those guidelines, and even explicitly stating discussing compensation is not forbidden, in company policy goes a long way towards ensuring transparency and equity.

The idea that employees shouldn’t talk about compensation with each other is losing popularity, and it’s taking one obstacle to equal pay with it. Employees who know they’re being paid fairly compared to their coworkers are less likely to leave and have a greater sense of trust in the company. At least some of those people will be key employees and leaders — the very people you want to make sure are still there to keep your vision and company culture alive after you move on.

California, Colorado, Washington, and a few other states already have pay transparency laws. The federal government also passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 prohibiting discriminatory pay practices. Despite any legal requirements that may impact your company, it’s just good business to promote equity for your employees.

Closing the Door on the Good Old Boys Club

According to a Harvard Business School alumni survey, 76% of senior executives feel “a more diverse workforce improves the organization’s financial performance.” They found more diversity leads to higher team satisfaction, along with higher quality work and better decision-making. Looking at diversity from employees outside of the leadership team, a study conducted by Indeed revealed DEI in the workplace is important to 55% of job applicants.

Equity in the office clearly matters to the leadership and rank-and-file levels in a growing number of companies. That’s creating a great opportunity for women business owners to act as a catalyst to increase equity in the wider business community. The historical reality of white males domineering in the business world created an environment with limited equity where the people who look and act just like they do get promotions and serve as business leaders, perpetuating the “good old boys club.” That mindset is increasingly leaving employees frustrated, unhappy, and more likely to leave for a different job.

When a man exits a leadership role, the chances he would be replaced by another man have been historically high because that’s how businesses worked. When a woman leaves a leadership role, however, that’s an opportunity to break the cycle in favor of equity. Exiting a leadership role as a woman can open the door for an otherwise marginalized person to take on that responsibility and help build the diverse and equity-focused businesses leaders and employees alike want.

Successful Business Succession Planning for Women Entrepreneurs

As a woman entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter if you’re retiring or taking a year-long sabbatical, finding the right successor for your business is critical. That means making a plan to ensure a smooth transition and a healthy company under new leadership. It’s about more than ensuring the company’s long-term success. It’s also about making sure you’re well-prepared to move into the next phase of your life.

Women business owners already have a head start because, as a rule, they tend to consider long-term planning more often than their male counterparts. That said, the majority of entrepreneurs don’t plan adequately for their retirement or selling the business, greatly increasing the likelihood it’ll fail when they’re out of the picture. Preparing your business to thrive well after you hand over the reins involves planning ahead, and the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.

Choosing a Short-Term or Temporary Successor

Women entrepreneurs leave their businesses for personal reasons at a higher rate than men — often to care for family members, have a baby, or further their education — according to research from Harvard Business Review. The group’s study found women business owners are 15% more likely to leave for personal reasons compared to their male counterparts.

Instead of exiting the business permanently, however, temporary leadership responsibilities can be assigned to a trusted key employee. The interim leader can manage day-to-day operations for up to several months, and it’s an opportunity to groom a permanent successor. The experience they gain during your absence is invaluable.

Knowing who will take over is only part of the equation. You also need to know when. Setting well-defined guidelines for handing off leadership responsibilities takes the guesswork out of which events trigger temporary leadership changes. For example, a sabbatical could activate the short-term succession plan or an illness that exceeds a predetermined amount of time. The plan also needs to clearly state each leader’s responsibilities, and what triggers relinquishing those duties to the long-term leader.

Women entrepreneurs are often in a better position to adapt to short-term succession situations. Because of the strong pushback, they can face from investors, women-owned companies often have much more robust business plans, according to research from Boston Consulting Group. That attention to detail and forward thinking helps keep the company running smoothly even during a temporary succession event.

Choosing a Permanent Successor

When you own the business, retiring or permanently leaving isn’t as simple as submitting a resignation letter. Who will take ownership and control needs to be set well in advance so there’s time to prepare for a smooth transition. Typically, that could involve transitioning the business to a family member, selling to a co-owner or employee, or selling to a third party. Regardless of who is taking over, deciding if the business should remain women-owned, and under women’s leadership, is an important decision.

You also need to consider if the new leader fits with your company’s vision and can foster the culture you want. For many women entrepreneurs, choosing a successor is about leaving a legacy, and not simply finding someone who can take over.

Succession From Inside

If the successor is within the business, or a family member, grooming them for their eventual role and responsibilities increases the likelihood the company will remain successful and run smoothly after the transition is complete. Including them in decision-making processes, as well as business planning, builds experience and confidence in running day-to-day along with long-term operations.

Planning for a successor from within the company doesn’t mean you have to choose that person today if you’re still several years away from retiring. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to start a mentoring program to help female and marginalized employees build the skills and experience to be future leaders in your business, and possibly your successor, too.

Read More: Maintaining Equity When You Exit Your Business: Why it Matters for Women

Selling to the Successor

Whether you’re selling out to a co-owner, an employee is buying the business, or a third party is making the purchase, they need to know what the company is worth. Working with a valuations expert is a smart move because they can offer a holistic overview of what your business is worth that goes beyond assets and revenue into the overall industry, the market, future opportunities, and more. Your certified public accountant (CPA) helps, too, by providing important context to financial reporting. All of that, the buyer raises funds or gets a loan to complete the purchase.

Including a lawyer in the process is critical, too. Regardless of who is taking over the business, there will be legal documents to guide the process as well as protect the business and everyone involved in the transition. This isn’t something to leave to online legal templates. Instead, it requires a professional to ensure the documents are correct and accurate.

CPAs and attorneys are important, but they aren’t the only players who can bring value to the process. Your leadership team is already helping craft the company’s vision and goals, and their insight is a key part of the business’s success. Including them in the planning process makes sense because they have a vested interest in ensuring the company’s long-term health. They’re also the people who keep operations running in your absence, any may be part of the leadership team after you retire, too.

Don’t Procrastinate

Business is going well, revenue is growing, and retirement is in the distant future. This is exactly when succession planning needs to be happening. Defining the end goal for your succession makes it easier to build a plan that fits with your long-term business vision. If you aren’t sure what the right path is for exiting your business, your business attorney and CPA may be able to offer some guidance, and the Small Business Administration offers some resources, too.

Taking a proactive approach to succession planning sets everyone on a path for a smooth transition, whether it’s a short-term leadership change or a permanent exit from the company. It also prepares the business to continue operating in the event of an unexpected death or serious illness — situations we don’t want to think about but need to consider for the well-being of the business and employees.

It’s never too early to start working on your succession plan. In fact, it should be part of the startup process. Starting when you’re ready to permanently step away, however, can be a recipe for disaster. As a general guide, a solid plan should be in a place far enough in advance so you can work with your successor and start transitioning responsibilities at least three years before you retire. Without a plan in place much earlier, however, the business won’t be prepared for an unexpected exit, and the remaining leadership team won’t have the resources — and possibly the authority — they need to keep the company running.

Time to Move On

As a woman entrepreneur, you run your business on your terms. When it’s time to exit, that should be on your terms, too. Investing the time and effort to craft a succession plan is an important part of ensuring your company’s success under your leadership and for those who follow in your footsteps, as well as your success and growth after moving on to the next part of your life.

4 Common Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face as They Age

Starting your own business isn’t easy for anyone, and it comes with extra challenges for women. It’s even more difficult when you don’t fit society’s definition of “young.” But that doesn’t mean being an entrepreneur is off the table for aging women. Knowing what challenges may be in store makes it easier to plan ahead for success.

Women over 50, for example, decide to become entrepreneurs for many reasons, according to a study on female entrepreneurship. In some cases, they’re tired of being limited by their current employer. For others, they want a business that aligns with their personal values, they feel overqualified for their current role, or they see an opportunity to improve their financial situation. Regardless, the number of women who want to launch their own business later in life is on the rise and they’re facing common problems such as stereotypes, finding investors, resistance to their leadership and experience, and finding mentors and networking opportunities.

1. Age and Gender Stereotypes

In the entrepreneurial world, younger men are often seen as innovators and driven, whereas same-age women are categorized as inexperienced. As we age, men are perceived as having an experience while women are seen as too old. It’s a stereotype where men are given the opportunity to succeed, and women are expected to fail. Women are also stereotyped as caregivers, raising questions about their ability to balance launching and running a successful business with managing family home life.

Stereotypes aside, there’s a place for women entrepreneurs, regardless of age. In fact, it’s an excellent time for women to become entrepreneurs. The number of women-owned businesses increased by 21% from 2014 to 2019, according to data from the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report. The 2022 National Women’s Business Council Annual Report notes that women-owned 20.9% of employer businesses in the US, and 41% of non-employer businesses. The number of women entrepreneurs, regardless of age, is on the rise.

2. Finding Investors

The same stereotypes aging women face as entrepreneurs are obstacles to finding investors and raising capital, too. VC firms, for example, tend to invest in companies where they can relate to the founders most easily. In other words, they’re interested in companies run by people who are just like them. Considering the venture capital market has more than its fair share of 35 and younger white males, that puts most people who don’t fit their demographic at a disadvantage. There’s some irony in that considering the 45 to 54 age group makes up just over 26% of new entrepreneurs, and over 25% are aged 55 to 64, according to data from the Kauffman Foundation.

High-growth businesses are also seeing an increase in women owners. Unfortunately, that isn’t translating into a corresponding increase in investments. Only 2.4% of venture capital went to women-owned startups in the first half of 2022. That number climbed to 17.2% for founder teams with a mix of women and men.

Since investors tend to favor their own, so to speak, seeking out firms specializing in women-run businesses increases the likelihood of receiving funding. Portfolia, for example, is a women-founded investment firm specializing in supporting women, LGBTQ+, and other minority-owned businesses. Golden Seeds is another example, focusing on investing in women entrepreneurs. Currently, there are more than 60 venture capital firms funding women-owned businesses in the US, and even big-name companies like Pepsi and Toyota are offering to fund, too.

A lot of potential investors assume aging women are closer to leaving the business world than their male counterparts. That means they’re likely to face more intense scrutiny when looking for funding. A strong business plan is important for overcoming those concerns, along with plenty of research: Firms with less faith in women entrepreneurs will have more questions, and you need to be prepared for them. They also, however, have years of experience and a lot of contacts — both of which they can leverage more easily to get funding.

Read More: Finding Fulfilment in Passion Projects as a Woman Entrepreneur

3. Acceptance as a Leader and Imposter Syndrome

Women in their 40s and 50s are often written off as entrepreneurs and leaders by their male counterparts, regardless of their skills and experience. Even worse, they can be dismissed as unsuitable business owners by younger men who don’t want to work with, or invest in, someone who “reminds them of their mom.” That can be a big self-confidence blow, and feed into imposter syndrome.

Feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome are surprisingly common in women’s businesses and have a negative impact on their leadership abilities. 75% of women in business report experiencing imposter syndrome at some point in their career, according to KPMG’s Advancing the Future of Women in Business: The 2020 KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report.

The majority of the women in the report who experienced imposter syndrome said turning to mentors and trusted advisors was helpful. Those may come in the form of colleagues and friends, along with resources from mentoring and networking programs.

4. Limited Networking and Mentor Options

Just because you have years of experience in the business world doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the skills — or connections — you want to start your own company. That’s where mentors and networking come in, and it’s a place where women often see a lack of options. But that doesn’t mean resources aren’t available.

Bizwomen from The Business Journals hosts mentoring and networking events for women in cities across the US, for example. eWomenNetwork offers networking and learning events, as well as conferences. Ellevate Network also supports women in business with their networking and other events, plus their annual Mobilize Women Summit conference. The WinConference focuses on women leaders and entrepreneurs with a different theme each year. And Hera Hub offers women-focused mentoring, education, networking, and workspaces in several US cities.

Finding women-focused networking and mentoring options can make a big difference in your personal and entrepreneurial success. The knowledge and empathy from people who have shared similar experiences is an invaluable resources, and offer personal validation, too.

Despite the potential hurdles, the number of women taking up the entrepreneurial mantle and starting their own businesses later in life is on the rise. Their successes are showing that ambition isn’t limited to just 20- and 30-somethings, and women can launch winning ventures in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.