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Leaving the
Family Business
to Become An
Entrepreneur
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
BY MICHAEL ZARANSKY
Strike out on one’s own, or stick with the status quo?
That was the question facing Cobus Visser, a South
African and self-described mental strength sports coach
and master firewalker. For a very long time, he wasn’t
sure.
He had moved on from the family business — going on
what he called a “hero’s journey” — and discovered that
his new path was not without peril. There was the time
commitment, the financial hardship, and the questions,
from others and from within: Was this the right move?
Always that. Always so much second-guessing.
In the end Visser concluded that the move had been well
worth it — that life is too short not to take chances, not
to pursue one’s dreams. (He also drew solace from the
experiences of a man named Ali Mese, who had also
transitioned out of his family business into content
marketing.)
The point is... 
The point is that moving from the family business into private entrepreneurship is far
different than any other career move. Emotions tend to enter into the equation — how could
they not? — and flesh-and-blood relationships can be adversely affected.
For that and other reasons, it is essential to consider such a move carefully — to weigh all
your options, seek advice, see the big picture and understand all the ramifications. It is
particularly important not to act in haste, given the far-reaching implications of such a move.
A career coach named Pete Walsh writes that in his
experience few people regret leaving the family business,
as he himself did. His reasoning is much like that of Visser:
Just as it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have
loved at all, it is better to venture out and fail than to never
venture out at all.
Walsh also mentions an AARP poll in which elderly
respondents said that one of their great regrets late in life
was not having “the courage to live a life true to myself” as
opposed to one “others expected of me.”
But again, Walsh writes, this is a decision that needs to be
carefully considered. He lists several questions, in fact, that
those mulling such a move should ask themselves before
making the leap:
CLIMATE CHANGE - 3
Does the thought of leaving the
family business excite you,
scare you, frustrate you? 
As you look deeper, what are your beliefs underlying those
emotions? This is something also mentioned by Stephanie
Brun de Pontet and Chris Eckrich: Are you running away
from something, or running toward something? If the
former, it could be a recipe for disaster.
Can you clearly articulate the
No. 1 reason you want to leave?
Closely tied to the first question, and something Brun de
Pontet and Eckrich also discuss. Some of the common
responses they see are, “He’s never gonna retire,” “I just
want to get away from this conflict,” and “If only he would
change.” They point out that in cases such as these,
departure might not be the most advisable course — that,
instead, it might be more prudent to air your grievances
with the powers that be.
Do you believe you’ve done
everything in your power to
bring forth needed change that
would have changed your
decision?
Again, an offshoot of the previous question. In your present
circumstances, you are dealing with family members, who at
least in theory should be receptive to your thoughts and
ideas. It’s a matter of sharing them.
Is there anything else you could do? Are there any
other resources you could bring to the table to try
to bring an objective set of eyes to the situation?
Make a list of the pluses and minuses of such a move. Or better yet, use the
Pugh Matrix Analysis, where the factors on your list are weighted.
Have you considered any sort of
middle-ground solution? 
Perhaps you could spend time getting retrained or retooled
while still working in the family business. Walsh, for instance,
points out that he attended school at night and on weekends
to prepare himself to venture out on his own.
One device that can be used to determine this is the Futures
Wheel, a visual tool that enables you to see the positive and
negative consequences of a decision. The desired change is written
in the middle of the wheel, with second-, third- and fourth-level
consequences of the decision added in the concentric circles
around it.
If you fast-forward your life 20 years and look
at the two roads — leaving the family business
and not leaving the family business — what
comes to mind?
Do you have another job you feel excited about?
If not, have you considered spending more time
contemplating that before you leave? Have you
considered adjusting your own expectations so
as to make your current situation more
tolerable?
Most people like to believe they have a calling; determining what
that might be is another story entirely. Forbes.com offers 20
ways that someone might reach a conclusion, at least one of
which reflects the ideas mentioned earlier: Do not follow
someone else’s dream.
Again, this is something Visser mentioned. As he was venturing out on his own, he very much
needed the advice and support of his wife, especially as the money got tight in the early
stages of the process and others (including his parents) questioned his direction.
Have you solicited the input of family
members, your significant other or closest
advisers outside the business?
Bottom Line:
This decision is not one to be taken
lightly. It is not one to be made,
Brun de Pontet and Eckrich point
out, on a rainy day. And while
emotion will certainly enter into it, it
is best to be as logical and
dispassionate as possible.
For More
Information
VISIT MICHAEL ZARANSKY ONLINE
MICHAELZARANSKY.COM

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Leaving the Family Business to Become An Entrepreneur

  • 1. Leaving the Family Business to Become An Entrepreneur WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BY MICHAEL ZARANSKY
  • 2. Strike out on one’s own, or stick with the status quo? That was the question facing Cobus Visser, a South African and self-described mental strength sports coach and master firewalker. For a very long time, he wasn’t sure. He had moved on from the family business — going on what he called a “hero’s journey” — and discovered that his new path was not without peril. There was the time commitment, the financial hardship, and the questions, from others and from within: Was this the right move? Always that. Always so much second-guessing. In the end Visser concluded that the move had been well worth it — that life is too short not to take chances, not to pursue one’s dreams. (He also drew solace from the experiences of a man named Ali Mese, who had also transitioned out of his family business into content marketing.)
  • 3. The point is...  The point is that moving from the family business into private entrepreneurship is far different than any other career move. Emotions tend to enter into the equation — how could they not? — and flesh-and-blood relationships can be adversely affected. For that and other reasons, it is essential to consider such a move carefully — to weigh all your options, seek advice, see the big picture and understand all the ramifications. It is particularly important not to act in haste, given the far-reaching implications of such a move.
  • 4. A career coach named Pete Walsh writes that in his experience few people regret leaving the family business, as he himself did. His reasoning is much like that of Visser: Just as it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, it is better to venture out and fail than to never venture out at all. Walsh also mentions an AARP poll in which elderly respondents said that one of their great regrets late in life was not having “the courage to live a life true to myself” as opposed to one “others expected of me.” But again, Walsh writes, this is a decision that needs to be carefully considered. He lists several questions, in fact, that those mulling such a move should ask themselves before making the leap: CLIMATE CHANGE - 3
  • 5. Does the thought of leaving the family business excite you, scare you, frustrate you?  As you look deeper, what are your beliefs underlying those emotions? This is something also mentioned by Stephanie Brun de Pontet and Chris Eckrich: Are you running away from something, or running toward something? If the former, it could be a recipe for disaster. Can you clearly articulate the No. 1 reason you want to leave? Closely tied to the first question, and something Brun de Pontet and Eckrich also discuss. Some of the common responses they see are, “He’s never gonna retire,” “I just want to get away from this conflict,” and “If only he would change.” They point out that in cases such as these, departure might not be the most advisable course — that, instead, it might be more prudent to air your grievances with the powers that be.
  • 6. Do you believe you’ve done everything in your power to bring forth needed change that would have changed your decision? Again, an offshoot of the previous question. In your present circumstances, you are dealing with family members, who at least in theory should be receptive to your thoughts and ideas. It’s a matter of sharing them. Is there anything else you could do? Are there any other resources you could bring to the table to try to bring an objective set of eyes to the situation? Make a list of the pluses and minuses of such a move. Or better yet, use the Pugh Matrix Analysis, where the factors on your list are weighted.
  • 7. Have you considered any sort of middle-ground solution?  Perhaps you could spend time getting retrained or retooled while still working in the family business. Walsh, for instance, points out that he attended school at night and on weekends to prepare himself to venture out on his own. One device that can be used to determine this is the Futures Wheel, a visual tool that enables you to see the positive and negative consequences of a decision. The desired change is written in the middle of the wheel, with second-, third- and fourth-level consequences of the decision added in the concentric circles around it. If you fast-forward your life 20 years and look at the two roads — leaving the family business and not leaving the family business — what comes to mind?
  • 8. Do you have another job you feel excited about? If not, have you considered spending more time contemplating that before you leave? Have you considered adjusting your own expectations so as to make your current situation more tolerable? Most people like to believe they have a calling; determining what that might be is another story entirely. Forbes.com offers 20 ways that someone might reach a conclusion, at least one of which reflects the ideas mentioned earlier: Do not follow someone else’s dream.
  • 9. Again, this is something Visser mentioned. As he was venturing out on his own, he very much needed the advice and support of his wife, especially as the money got tight in the early stages of the process and others (including his parents) questioned his direction. Have you solicited the input of family members, your significant other or closest advisers outside the business?
  • 10. Bottom Line: This decision is not one to be taken lightly. It is not one to be made, Brun de Pontet and Eckrich point out, on a rainy day. And while emotion will certainly enter into it, it is best to be as logical and dispassionate as possible.
  • 11. For More Information VISIT MICHAEL ZARANSKY ONLINE MICHAELZARANSKY.COM