EPMEPM: Leadership

Sliding Doors: Do You Have an Exit Strategy?

What would you do if your life changed overnight? Have you planned an exit strategy for yourself or your business? Fiona Blayney finds out that sickness, retirement or other developments could mean that the end of the road comes sooner than we imagine.

I’VE THOUGHT A lot about a new friend I made recently. I’ll call them a friend, perhaps because as friends we do get on well, share common interests and spend more time than either of us had envisaged we would when we had that first get-together. Although we first met to talk about business, I wasn’t being paid for my time and in hindsight felt like I should have been paying him.

My new friend was unknowingly providing me advice; advice in the form of lessons from his life. As I assisted him to unpack his journey, I could see the moments in time, the sliding-door moments, when had another door been chosen his position today would be different. Not necessarily better or worse, but merely different.

We had yet to identify where his journey was to take him. That is what he was here to do: seek my counsel in making decisions about what’s next in the twilight of his life, to seek a plan for exiting his business and leaving his industry, the one he had been in for almost 40 years.

There is something quite amazing about unpacking the life of someone who is slightly shy of double your age, a man sitting before you reminding you of your father, watching him consider life after business, recounting the accomplishments, feats and defeats along his journey. My new friend was, like many of us, engrossed in his business on a daily basis. It was a living, breathing part of his family; and not only did he not want to leave, but I could see he didn’t know what to do if he did.

No doubt you may relate, or see how I, as someone who lives and breathes her business on a daily basis, became increasingly aware that life’s mirror may be right before me. I listened intently, asked probing questions and we discussed what could be, and what was not.

My new friend is at the end of his life in business; he has certainly had a good innings, but ill health has seen the tables turn in recent times and the result was an immediate change in his ability to operate the business day to day. Unfortunately here came the first lesson: he had, and still has, no exit plan. In reality he never did; he never saw himself doing anything else and didn’t want to think about it, didn’t think he needed to. Thought it would all work out.

Every day there is the potential that you may need to call on your exit plan, either as an employee or a business owner. You never know what the morning, afternoon or evening may bring, and being financially and mentally prepared is paramount to make a transition to your next part of life. My friend had done little planning for any of it.

The mental element of the exit was of more interest to me than the financial one. As we chatted, I could see clearly that the greatest obstacle was ‘what would I do with my day?’. I wonder who of us has considered, even started planning for, what you would do if you could no longer do what you do.

Our recruitment team regularly meet people whose lives create a moment that dictates they can no longer be an agent. Perhaps they lose their licence or have a medical matter; whatever the reason, without notice life changes. You don’t have to be at retirement for change to come, and for some of us technology may be the reason we need to change. What would be your next life if you needed one?

It was pretty emotional getting to know my new friend that day and I felt honoured to be supporting him at this life junction. I’m looking forward to sharing with him the results of my homework that he didn’t realise I’d taken away; my own exit strategy. Never mind that I am half his age!

Perhaps he will see my exit, re-education and personal financial plans have been influenced by his story that started with a skinny flat white and a gallon of water on a 40-degree day.

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Fiona Blayney

Fiona Blayney is the founder and director of Real+, an industry first Property Management learning platform. For more info visit realplusonline.com.au.