Channel your inner control freak

March 1, 2017

By Martha Sullivan, CPA, CVA/ABV, CM&AA, CEPA
Partner, Succession Planning Practice Leader

I believe we are all control freaks. You may be card-carrying, or you may in the control-freak closet, but you crave control. I’m not talking about the need for control in the sense of “I’m the boss” or “Because I said so.” That type of control is a born out of a desire for power. The need for control I am referring to is the desire to have a sense of control – an idea of what the situation is, knowing how things work, a certainty about what could and should be done. The sense of control that comes with predictability. There are a multitude of research studies on the positive impact of feeling like you have an ability to exert control in your world. Even Doctor Seuss professed it in “Oh the Places You Will Go:”

“You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
In any direction you choose.
You’re on your own,
And you know what you know
And you are the one who’ll
Decide where you go…”

There are times when this tendency can get in the way and we become our own worst enemy, such as when we believe if you want something done right, do it yourself. Entrepreneurs can be particularly susceptible to this and, before long, find themselves mired so deep down in the details and day-to-day operations they no longer have the strength to consider the important elements allowing them to truly maintain control of their business destiny. There’s no time or, more importantly, psychic energy for strategic planning let alone think about exit planning.

Planning, particularly exit planning, is often pushed so far to the back burner it is in the neighbor’s kitchen, not ours. Why?

In “The $10 Trillion Opportunity,” Richard Jackim, articulates several reasons business owners delay exit planning, including:

  • Don’t want to think about the end – of the business or of life
  • Fearful of losing one’s identity
  • Awkwardness of the conversations
  • Don’t understand how to go about it or what it even means
  • Fear of letting go and of letting people down.

That sounds a lot like someone feeling out of control.

Science has shown reclaiming a sense of control is possible through planning. In the article “The Financial Life Well-Lived: Psychological Benefits of Financial Planning” by Dr. Kym Irving, Queensland University of Technology, Dr. Irving demonstrates a direct link between the act of planning and an enhanced sense of personal control. Studies show planning for the future implies the individual is engaged with their life, which is an important factor contributing to psychological well-being (MacLeod, Coates & Hetherton, 2008). The process of planning reveals the individual’s desire to be able to predict or control their future while the process of executing those plans is empowering, reflecting competency and capability (Prenda & Lachman 2001). This sense of control or mastery over one’s life leads to improved mental health, including reduced anxiety and depression, and enhanced life satisfaction and well-being (Nezlek 2001; Ryff & Singer 2008).

With such clear benefits, it’s a wonder so many people avoid planning.

So, I challenge you to channel your inner control freak. Embrace and commit to embarking on the development of your exit plan. Even if it is a long way away, remember, by beginning with the end in mind, the path there is clearer and more fun when we know where we are going.

If you’re not sure where to start or what the process entails, contact your advisor. If you are concerned about what others might think, those closest to you will likely be relieved to start having the conversation. Rather than focusing on the end, embrace it as the opportunity to create your new beginning. Take control of it.

For more information or assistance on business transition strategy, call 888-556-0123, email or submit our online form.

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