Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Easing Out of the Fast Lane
For the past year, I’ve been phasing out my business. In February, I turned 66, and while my health is pretty good and I enjoy what I’ve done for a living the past quarter century, I want to spend more time on my mystery novels and do more traveling with Linda, now that she’s retired.
At the same time, I don’t want to give it up entirely. Not yet, anyway. So I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to cut back while keeping a hand in it. My recent experience with emergency surgery only served to remind me of the uncertainty of life and the importance of taking steps to make sure I’m doing what I want to for the rest of it.
In retiring, but not really, I have one advantage. I’ve been a consultant with a number of clients, which gives me some leeway in terms of cutting back to just a few and working for them until they or I decide not to do it anymore.
50 Ways to Leave Your Business
The scaling-down process began at the end of 2014, when I decided to stop looking for new clients. If someone specifically sought me out (and, to my surprise, that actually happened a few times), I’d consider it, but I wasn’t going to do any more selling and would concentrate on existing clients.
Within that group, there were a few who were probably on the way out, whether from change in personnel, selling a business, or simply moving in a direction where my services weren’t going to be that important anymore. In a few instances like that, I decided to take the initiative and break it off myself, letting them know I was moving into retirement. I sense that a couple of them seemed relieved that I’d spared them an impending awkwardness.
Finally, I gave some thought to the question of the qualities of a client I’d still like to work for, given that I don’t really need the money, but still want to do a little bit of what I think I’ve done well for a number of years. I came up with three qualities for a retirement, or semi-retirement client.
It Has to Be Interesting
The first is that the work has to be interesting and not unduly stressful. Being of a curious disposition anyway, I’ve found all my work interesting to one degree or another, but clients who have long-term need for someone available at the drop of a hat, who have jobs with short deadlines and a lot of people to work with, are clients I can do without these days.
Second, the people have to be good to work with. I’ve never had clients who were total jerks because I don’t put up with that. But people who can’t make up their minds, who don’t reply to emails or return phone calls, who make a job too cumbersome are people I can do without these days.
And finally, they have to be clients who pay on time. Chasing down unpaid bills is probably the number one drawback of having your own business, and I’m over it. If you can’t get me a check within three weeks of my sending an invoice, find someone else to do your work.
And looking over those last three paragraphs, it just dawned on me. This is how it should have been all along.