Avoiding Seller's Remorse
Updated: May 17, 2020
Sellers sometimes regret selling their businesses. This is especially true when the seller is the founder. It's hard to let go. You might not realize how good you had it until it's gone. You might not agree with the way the buyer runs the business after the closing. Upon reflection, you might believe the business was worth more to you than the purchase price you received.
Seller's remorse usually results from emotional feelings about the business and post-closing questions about the fairness of the sale. Both the buyer and the seller want to avoid seller's remorse just as strongly as they want to avoid buyer's remorse.
Here are some ideas to help a seller avoid seller's remorse:
Leave the business alone - Stay away from the business, don't pop in, don't drop by, don't call, don't email, don't text, don't contact employees, don't contact clients or customers.
Structure a remote post-closing relationship - Buyers and sellers sometimes need to maintain a post-closing relationship to help the buyer with the transition (e.g., training, employee relationships, and customer relationships) and to contribute to the seller's proceeds from the sale (e.g., with consulting fees). In those circumstances, the relationship should be defined before closing to be as physically remote as possible, such as through email, text, video conferencing, and telephone consultations. If the seller needs to be on site, then arrange on site visits for times when few employees or customers will be on site or the facility will not be operating (e.g., evenings or weekends).
Make the post-closing relationship as short as possible - A seller's post-closing relationship with the buyer and business should be measured in days or weeks, rather than months or years.
Take a long trip - Removing yourself from the business's location helps you leave the business alone and requires a remote post-closing relationship. It also can help you clear your head and transition to post-closing life.
Find something else to do - Volunteer, pursue a hobby, start a new business that doesn't compete with the one you sold, go to school, do something to keep your mind off the business and to fill the void left when you sold your business.
Don't look back - Put your legal documents in a folder and don't look at them again unless a problem arises. Don't re-evaluate the deal. Don't keep track of the business's successes or failures. It's not yours anymore.
Accept the fact that some regret is normal - Your business was your baby. Watching someone else take it over can be difficult, especially when the buyer operates the business differently than you did. Prepare yourself for some regret, but also realize that regret is normal and should pass.