On this episode Josh speaks with Paul Cronin, Director of Business Development at ThePlatinumYears.com. They talk about the concept of “the platinum years” and the mindset business owners should adopt when considering leaving their business.

Paul Cronin has over 30 years of professional experience in sales, management, consulting and entrepreneurship.  Since 2009, Paul has partnered with STPI’s founder, Jack Beauregard, helping to transform the small consultancy into a leading firm in Transition Planning for Baby Boomers.

Paul’s background includes being part of the team that grew Eden Toys, a small NY-based toy manufacturer, into a $90 million company serving thousands of US retailers including TJX, Macy’s and Nordstrom.  Paul has participated in growing established and start-up businesses, having sold his last company in 2008.

Paul Cronin has also presented at the MIT Enterprise Forum, Northeastern University, Bentley University, Wheaton College MA), Emerson College, Wellesley College and Salem State University (MA) on issues of entrepreneurship, personal and business transition, running a successful business and business networking.  He has a Bachelors of Science from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • How to prepare your mindset when considering leaving your business?
  • How to avoid seller’s remorse?
  • Should you retire for life when retired?
  • How to self‑discover yourself outside of your business?
  • How to you overcome fears on what’s next?


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                 Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.

Today, my guest is Paul Cronin from the Platinum Years. Paul is a repeat offender on our show. We’ve had him on before. It’s always a pleasure to speak with him.

Paul is the expert or one of the experts in the world at what we call seller’s remorse. The Platinum Years deals specifically with this. The reason I wanted Paul on today is, I’ve been struggling, for the last six months to a year, with trying to answer the question, “Can seller’s remorse be avoided?” I have not seen it yet but Paul may have a different answer for that. Let’s bring Paul on and start the conversation.

Hey, Paul. How are you today?

Paul:                 Great. Thanks for having me on.

Josh:                 It’s my pleasure.

Paul, let’s get right into this. My big dilemma these days is for years, and years, and years I thought that if I did proper planning with people and help them think about what happens after they leave their business, before they leave their business, I could help them avoid seller’s remorse. I have to say, I have been 100% unsuccessful at this.

Paul:                 At least you’re batting a thousand [laughs].

Josh:                 Yeah, I’m batting a thousand. That’s a good thing [laughs]. Am I missing something or am I sort of on the track that I can help people get through it but helping them avoid it completely may not be in the cards.

Paul:                 It’s a great question. It’s a big challenge for everyone who’s related to helping private business owners with the biggest transaction of their life and, for many people, the biggest transition of their life. I think it goes back to–

We’re sort of struggling right now. There’s this old paradigm of the golden years. You retire, if it’s golf. It’s gardening. It’s grandkids. And for a lot of our people, our generation, particularly boomers, there’s this mentality of, “I don’t want to just disappear.” And if you think of the root of the word “retire” it’s from an old French term, I believe it’s retract, but what that means is to withdraw. And so, who wants to withdraw?

And so, this integrated mindset is what we talk to people about. So you can do all the business planning, and the financial planning for what your next step is or I like to say, you know, “What’s your what’s next?” But you really have to think deeply about who you are in this next stage of your life. What do you want to accomplish? What are your new personal goals? And so, the idea that my partner, Jack Beauregard came up with is, we need to replace the old paradigm of the golden years with the platinum years which is a framework, as we call it, looking at a variety of aspects of your life.

And so, when people do robust thinking about how they’re going to spend time volunteering, how they’re going to keep themselves physically healthy, how they’re going to keep themselves intellectually stimulated, how they create new social connections, how they experience spirituality – and we’re not religious in any away but the whole concept of spirituality. And then, also, to think about what we call income-producing work. And that is a very purposefully chosen phrase. And the ideas is it could be consulting to the business that you’ve left or sold or your career. It could be starting a small business or a consulting practice to keep you integrated, but the idea is not building up into something that’s going to completely swallow your life. And the other is just to simply work for somebody else.

And what we find is there are people who look at that as their mindset on work changes that because they’re not doing it for all the financial goals that we set in our 20’s and 30’s. Now, it’s a matter of– it’s just this integrated piece. And for some people who are so financially well off, they don’t need to think about that. And so, that sort of aspect, they fill with other activities – whether it’s volunteerism or creative recreational type activities, activities with families.

But now, the framework, it looks so powerful that people often look at this and say, “I can’t wait to get started.” Now, how quickly can I move past the business?” I’ve had people in their 40s, I have explained to. And so, “Can I have this now?” [laughs] And I said, “Well, it kind of depends on how you are financially.”

Josh:                 Well, there are some people in their 40’s who do go for it now.

Here’s my question about this. What you said sounds about right but there still is a transition period in there, in that you lose– and this is not any fault of anybody’s but it’s been my experience. It’s been my personal experience. It’s been the experience I’ve seen with clients that go through this. Is that, when I leave my business, unless I stick around and work with the business, I’m going to lose all of those business connections I had developed in my business. And it’s pretty hard not to have a big hole sitting there while you’re replacing that hole with other things.

In the world I live in, you know, in the world of being a financial transitionist, which is one of my 9 zillion certifications I have, is that that’s where passage occurs, where you’re going from the old normal through passage, to what becomes a new normal. And I would call that seller’s remorse. Yes, it is passage but almost 100% of the time is that when people are going through that passage process, there seems to accompany a feeling that, “Gee, I wish I didn’t sell my business.” Is that your experience also?

Paul:                 Yeah.

So, my true story. I sold my business in June 2008. My timing was very lucky – right before the crash. I lost my identity. This is a big part of me for a number of years and I floundered a little bit doing a little consulting. And then, I met – simply through networking, Jack Beauregard, and he shared his story of building and leaving a company, and his own transition. And I read an interesting book called Transitions by William Bridges. I recommend everybody try to read it. It talks about the ending and the beginning. And so, when you’re leaving a business or career or, for that matter, a marriage, or anything else, something is ending and you know you have to have to do a beginning. But this time in between is what Bridges calls the transition zone or the neutral zone.

Josh:                 Right.

Paul:                 And that’s what you’re talking about.

Josh:                 And we call that passage.

Paul:                 Yeah.

And so, what we say is, if you want to minimize that time – the neutral zone, if you want to minimize not only remorse but decisions that you make in this time that you’ll really regret later, you start by planning ahead of time. So, this framework that I’m talking to, it can be done after the sale. But we prefer that people start working with it six months, two years, three years in advance because you’re researching and thinking about where you’re going to live. How you’re going to make new social connections. And when you give yourself permission to start looking at your life in that way, when you make the switch, when you actually hand in the keys of the car over to somebody else, rather than say, “Well, now, I’m going to start planning, you’ve already done the work.

And now, you’re going to start looking at things and experimenting with things. And each of these areas that you’ve explored, in our framework, you didn’t come up with just one idea. In many cases, you came up with 25 and you have distilled it. And then, you start working through your strategic plan and tactical plan to get it done.

Josh:                 So, to do that, my guess is you really need to make yourself operationally irrelevant in your company?

Paul:                 Absolutely.

Josh:                 Because if you don’t do that, you’re not going to have time to do it.

Paul:                 No.

Josh:                 The truth is, with the 28 million businesses in the United States, I’d be amazed if more than a million business owners are in the position to actually do what you’re recommending.

Paul:                 Oh, I think you’re very optimistic [laughs]. Yeah, I mean, depending on who’s numbers you believe is–

Josh:                 No. I didn’t say they’re doing it. I said that they’re operationally irrelevant in their businesses which means they’ve created a transferable business. It doesn’t mean they’re working on what’s the next chapter in their life.

Paul:                 The vast majority of business owners create a business that is– I call it, me incorporated.

Josh:                 Right.

Paul:                 I’m good at something. I offer these products and services. People pay me money. I pay the mortgage – me incorporated.

Josh:                 Yes.

Paul:                 And so, if you want to move beyond that, just as you talk about in your excellent book and many other things, is you do all those pieces where you have to say, “Somebody else or a group of people can run my business without me.” And then, at that point, you’re ready to launch into something else. You have to define what that is. We call it a framework for purposeful living or the platinum years that whatever that something else, that’s that beginning.

Josh:                 So, what you’re saying is that it’s actually possible that while you’re getting ready to sell your business or transfer your business and if you’ve made yourself operationally irrelevant, which means you’re not involved in the day-to-day operations of your business, that you can take some of that time and start experimenting to say, “Gee, what do I want to do next?” Maybe take a consulting job to see if that floats your boat. Or maybe really start investigating what it might mean to work for somebody else, although I really don’t recommend many business owners try to do that because most of us who own our own businesses have proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we’re unemployable.

Paul:                 There’s a lot of truth to that.

Josh:                 What we’re talking about is that there’s a transitional stage that we have to go through. And with that transitional stage, what kind of things do people need to be doing? Let’s say, “Okay, I’m living in Vermont, where I live, and it seems like everybody who retires in Vermont wants to go live in Florida for two reasons. One is, it’s warmer – although it’s ungodly hot down there. But, more importantly, because there isn’t an income tax – State income tax. I always recommend to people that they do a three-, or four-, or five-month stint in Florida and say “Is this really the right move for them?” Does that make sense?

Paul:                 Yeah. Those are very good advice. But, I would say, if you are operationally irrelevant in your business, go to Florida for a month, before you have to sign the P&S with the buyer. Don’t live in a hotel or resort. Rent a house or whatever and live. Just like, you know, go to Safeway, go to Walmart. Wherever you go, like do the stuff that you do in your normal life because that’s what it’s going to be.

And we tell people, “Florida’s one option but there may be six, or seven, or eight other options that are just as viable. Why don’t you take a bite of those apples first?”

The story I like to share is a fellow who went to Myrtle Beach, ended up buying 15 acres of land. The big problem was – if you’ve been to Myrtle Beach, there’s basically a couple of things to do – water-related stuff and golf.

Josh:                 Yeah, I’m not a big fan.

Paul:                 Yes. He didn’t boat. He actually didn’t like hanging out on the beach very much and he didn’t golf. What do you do with 15 acres of land in Myrtle Beach if you– you know? It took him a long time to figure something out. He made this pretty significant investment of land on a whim. That can be a very expensive mistake to try to undo.

Josh:                 Yeah, it sounds like it.

Another thing which I’ve been thinking about is – and you’ve touched on this, which is building new social connections and relationships. Do you have any best practices around what you recommend people do there? Because, in my experience, that’s what really causes seller’s remorse is you lose that social connection with all the people you’ve spent years, and years, and years in business with. And also, when you find they’re not calling and you’re essentially – you haven’t really developed outside interest and now you’re by yourself. And at 60, 65, 70 years old, that’s a lonely place to be.

Paul:                 Yeah, so we help people just start researching. They can look at religious organizations, if they want to go down that road. Look at civic organizations – places that you can volunteer. We have a variety of web links and stuff in our little workbook that we offer people.

But what people can do now, sort of, on their own is just start searching for things that you’re interested in. If like to walk in nature, “Okay, what are groups that help do trails, and upkeep, and so forth, and protect nature of lands.” If you like to golf and I do, there’s nothing wrong with that, “what are the things through the golf that you can do to create social connections?” Maybe you only join public golf. Maybe you think about joining a club where you get integrated, or you join a golf league. Or you can do a bowling league. When my brother retired, that’s what he did. All right. They can join book clubs.

And so, there’s a whole variety of things that are built out there for people to create social connections that we, business owners, don’t have time for. And all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh, this is how normal people live” [laughs]. Well, isn’t this refreshing? [laughs]. And if you start experimenting and brainstorming that. And then, simply ask questions to people who have already retired, “What do you do?” As long as they’re not telling you they’re going to Safeway and Walmart and all the other stuff then that’s probably a good person to talk to.

Josh:                 Yeah. Unfortunately, a lot of people are retired, sort of also retire for life. It’s been one of my experiences. As a result, their world gets smaller and smaller. For me, that’s kind of a terrifying idea.

Paul:                 I agree. That’s the golden years. You’re on a rocking chair and you’re just sort of watching the sunset. I enjoy sunsets too but I’d rather be walking 5k earlier in the day and relaxing and watching a sunset or spending the day working as a volunteer. So, maybe a cleanup or something I’m involved in.

Or, recently, there was a tragedy here in Massachusetts where gas lines blew up and they needed volunteers to, of all things, help file all the applications – 10,000 applications for aid. I spent half a day just — I do it anyhow on a computer. It wasn’t a big lift for me, but here I am trying to help people out. There’s always more need for help than people who have time to give it. And so, here’s a gift you can make to yourself and to your community, is look for places where you can apply your skills. And successful business owners have a ton of skills to offer. But it doesn’t just happen, you have to go get it.

Josh:                 Yeah. I think that’s the key takeaway I’m getting from today’s conversation is that you’re probably going to have some form of remorse. How fast you get past it is really based on your actions. If you go out and you’re aggressive about forming new associations and meeting new people and getting involved in things that you’re interested in, you’re going to have an easier time of getting past your business than if you don’t.

Paul:                 Yup, absolutely.  

Josh:                 It really comes down to, are you going to be personally responsible for what happens after you leave your business? Or are you going to say, “I wish I didn’t” and the what if’s, could’ve, should’ve that we sometimes live our life with.

Paul:                 Absolutely.

Josh:                 Paul, you guys do great work and I’ve always been impressed with the stuff that you’ve been doing. Talk to us a little bit about what the Platinum Years Program entails and how it might be able to help people who are getting to that stage where they’re thinking about the next part of their life?

Paul:                 Sure. We try to help people walk before they run. Most people who engage with us start with one of our self-discovery programs. One that’s called “What’s Next?”, coincidentally. They start with an online questionnaire. It takes them 30 minutes or so to fill it out. Then, they get a self‑discovery guidebook which they can actually do by themselves. Or, if they want to bring us in for a coaching, we can coach them through the process.

And in that experience, they’re starting to think about themselves outside of the business, like who they are, understanding what transitions they may have been through in the past and what they learned. They were once unmarried. Then, became married. Sometimes, they become unmarried again. Each of those transitions you learn from.

And then, they start thinking about goals and “What kind of goals do I want as I’m transitioning out of the business?” Not just the money. I mean, that’s important but what legacy you’re trying to leave behind.

And so, now you’ve sort of separated yourself from this running the business day-to-day and you’re now sort of looking down at your life. And I like to say is, when your answers – you know they’re truthful because they came from you. They didn’t come from me. We just give the format for people to put thoughts together.

After that, we have a three-part process called Think-Live-Decide, so strategically thinking about your business and personal future, naming your fears – everybody’s got them. How do you overcome them. Getting yourself positioned for what you want to do next.

Decide has to do with strategically decisioning about what to do with your company, creating a tactical plan and then executing it. Now, that, of course, very much depends on people like you as, you know, the financial piece, the business consulting piece. And if you’re selling it, you’ve got to create a team of advisors – collaborative folks.

And the last piece is Live which is that’s when you get into this framework I described earlier – brainstorming ideas, checking things out, writing it down, having heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse or life partner, if you have one, because if they’re not on board with your framework it’s not going to work. So, there you go.

Josh:                 Paul, we are unfortunately out of time. I’m hoping that there are people who are listening to this podcast today that say, “I’m going to leave my business someday and I ought to talk to Paul.” How would people find you?

Paul:                 The best thing to start, go to theplatinumyears.com and send me an email at paul@theplatinumyears.com. I do have a special offer for your listeners. That little “What’s next?” questionnaire, if they send me an email and says, “I like to take this for free. I listened to you on Josh Patrick.” I’ll let them take it for free.

Josh:                 Cool.

I also have an offer for you, too. As Paul mentioned, I wrote a book this year. It’s called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. You can buy it on Amazon. But if you do, you don’t get the bonuses I have, if you go to my site – sustainablethebook.com. If you buy the book there, and it’s $15.95, you get a free 20-minute coaching call with me where I guarantee you’re going to get at least one actionable idea. And I wrote a 37-page how-to book because the book is a novel and I don’t really get into the how-to’s in the book itself. But this companion piece, which is an e-book, does give you the how-to’s.

This is Josh Patrick. We’ve been with Paul Cronin from The Platinum Years. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: retirement, overcoming fears, sustainable business podcast, operationally irrelevant, Sustainable Business, purposeful life, transition, personal identity, selling business

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