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10 things to do after you sell

Learn the ins and outs of how to manage your financial and personal life after selling your business

September 24, 2013
By Mark Borkowski


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sell your business? To gather some perspective for you,

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sell your business? To gather some perspective for you, I spoke to Peter Churchill-Smith, managing director of Newport Private Wealth, one of Canada’s largest independent wealth managers.  He, along with his partners, decided to conduct a survey of entrepreneurs who had sold a business to provide some insight on what the experience is like.

One significant finding was the admission by entrepreneurs that fewer than 25 per cent of them had preplanned the sale of their business. With the majority describing the selling process as distracting and exhausting, it should not be a surprise that many of them need considerable time to re-engineer themselves and their money after the sale.

Here are 10 practical suggestions that were developed based on the results of the survey.


Take a deep breath 

The sale of one’s business often creates a void that will take time to replace. This transition period can take a year or more before you declare yourself ready for the next challenge. 

Your new reality

You are not any wealthier than you were prior to the sale. However, your balance sheet has changed dramatically. If you are working for the new owner, your wealth is no longer lodged at your place of work. It is at the bank. Also, it is not getting the same 24/7 level of attention that it received before the sale.

Manage your cash

The survey confirmed that a large proportion of business sellers park their funds in cash for three months to a year. For a large amount of money, you should have access to wholesale rates. Be like the majority of our surveyed sellers and ensure that you are dealing with someone with direct access to the money market that can ensure that you are receiving the rates you deserve. 

Revised balance sheet

There’s no better time than now for you to take stock. Your affairs are probably more complex than you would like. You need funds to live and you need to understand which funds are best accessed, from a tax perspective. You may be surprised to learn that the funds in the family trust belong to the beneficiaries (such as your spouse and kids). A detailed balance sheet will give you an accurate overview and help you identify issues that require immediate attention.

Get organized

Your money may be in several places such as a family trust, a holding company and several family accounts. Many business sellers tell us that they are overwhelmed with the paperwork and it is very difficult to “keep score.” You might want to consider hiring a part-time bookkeeper. They will more than pay for themselves at tax time.

Many business sellers have emphasized the importance of communicating their new reality with key family members. So much has changed and misunderstandings can easily arise.


You need to obtain an estimate of your tax liability. It may be due over several years and some may be deferred indefinitely. There are many strategies available, including insurance and philanthropy. Focusing on these issues may be the best way to increase your net worth in the short term.

New estate plan

It is very likely that your estate plan, including your will and insurance, do not match your new circumstances. Does your will include provisions for dealing with shares of a private company now sold? Are your current executors capable of handling the complexity of your new affairs? These are immediate concerns. Make the necessary changes so that your current plans work.

Yes, they know you’ve sold (and they may even know the sale price). You have moved up their list and they will now be soliciting you for a large commitment. Again, recognize your new reality and be prepared. Many entrepreneurs find it helpful to have a gatekeeper who will handle these requests.

Family loans
Sooner than you think, a family member or friend may ask you for a loan. They may think that the loan is trivial to you. Sadly, they may feel the same way about repayment. Do you take security? Or document the loan? Will it set a precedent? These are sensitive issues. So, what is a simple solution? Buy yourself time by telling them that your money is tied up with your advisors.

There are many unexpected realities that entrepreneurs face after selling their business. Use these suggestions to help you in the aftermath. o

Mark Borkowski is the president of Mercantile Mergers and Acquisitions in Toronto. The company specializes in the sale of privately owned Canadian companies. Mark can be contacted at or visit his website for more information,