Colin Williams, Partner at DWDG

At DWDG over the years we have been privileged enough to work with many business leaders who have managed to grow a business and then benefit from an exit that has left them financially independent.

For most of us the thoughts of financial independence would likely conjure up dreams of endless days in the sun by a pool, long lunches and maybe playing golf or pursuing other interests at leisure.

However, whilst a fair bit of the above does seem to take place with the individuals I am referring to, our experience is that rarely is this the case and in fact they miss the cut and thrust of business life and importantly the relationships that they built with colleagues and advisers with whom they have shared the journey to their exit.

Watching what typically happens next reminds me of a line in one of the best books I have ever read – Money and the Meaning of Life by Jacob Needleman, and that is ‘being rich does not automatically lead to a rich life’ as so often the individuals I am describing enter into new ventures and most often more than one!

As we are lucky enough to travel alongside many such people on their journey of course we explore this with them to identify what is driving this activity after the exit. What may come as a surprise is the phrase that gets used almost all the time it ‘well I want to have some more fun!’

Fun – interesting isn’t it?  After all the hard work, stress, strain and challenge of growing a business the thing that draws folk back is the sense of fun!

So what does this tell us?  What can we learn from this?

I think a number of things:

  1. Money is an enabler to deliver to you what you value in life. Knowing the latter (and of course it does change) embracing it and understanding how much you need to satisfy these things is critical to success.  I remember one individual I worked with answering a question regarding how much he had got from the sale of his business and he answered ‘enough’.  At the time I thought he was being a bit evasive but on reflection I now think I know what he meant!
  2. Work life balance matters. We hear this phrase all the time, but often through lens of ‘I would like to work less and have more time for other things’. But it works the other way too, once someone has more than enough leisure time and enough money they want to get back to work to regain the balance too.
  3. Savour the relationships we build through work. Experience illustrates that through work we make good friends. In my own case I can think of people I have shared 20 or so years of my life with and all the ups and downs, personal and work related with.  These relationships are precious and enduring and extremely valuable.

On reflection this learning would seem relevant to any working life.  Key question for all of us though is do we manage to embrace the fun that those who have managed to engineer an exit refer to and are drawn back to?