The sale of the New York Mets was recently scrubbed because of one owner’s compulsion to retain operational control.  This is a cautionary Business Lesson Found for owners of both family and non-family businesses.

Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen offered $2.6 billion to purchase an 80% stake in the struggling Mets.  This was welcome news to some in the Wilpon family who have shares in the team but have grown increasingly frustrated with the meager results under the eccentric management style of Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon.  However, the deal fell apart when Cohen rejected a provision that would have required Jeff and his father Fred Wilpon to retain their positions and, thus, management control of the team for an additional five years.

This cautionary tale is a critical Lesson Found for family businesses.  Shareholders in family business need to be in agreement on the long-term goals for their business.  “Long-term” are the key words in the last sentence.  Is the business an indispensable part of the family’s legacy and thus requires continuous family ownership?  Or do the goals include its eventual sale? Coming to agreement on both the goals for the business as well as family-specific goals is critical to maintain family relationships.  In addition, documenting and regularly reviewing these goals avoids misunderstandings and conflict.

This Lesson Found can be summarized by one simple rule:  Planning your exit strategy is continuous from the moment you start the business until that exit.  Owners either rarely follow this rule or are easily diverted from it.  Part of the problem is that the concept of life-after-the-exit is so nebulous that even the exit seems unreal.  To overcome this, I ask my clients to close their eyes and visualize their ideal post-exit life. Research shows that using visualization increases the likelihood of achieving goals.  But it’s not enough to visualize their ideal life just that one time.  To keep on track towards their ideal post-exit life, I recommend owners find a picture which best represents that ideal and post it where they will see it daily.

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.