Last week, I got an interesting email from my M&A guy. At Legion, we are planning to possibly acquire another company this year, so he has been sending us information on potential targets, etc. He’ll usually send a link to a website and ask us our first impressions of the company, and then go from there.
The twist to this email was that after I said that I wasn’t interested in buying the company he sent over because they were too large, and asset-based, he said THEY wanted to buy US.
Cue screeching brakes.
(Some backstory is necessary here. Two years ago, as one of my friends said, I’d have started packing my desk the minute I got that email. I was fried, frustrated, done. I didn’t want to come back to Legion every day and continue to fight with my business partner, deal with employee issues, lose money, any of it. I was #overit. If someone had offered me so much as $150 for Legion, I’d probably have taken it, and skipped gleefully off into the sunset. But no one did, so I stayed.) Back to the current situation.
When I read that sentence – “They want to buy you” – a cascade of thoughts went through my mind. Here they are, in no particular order:
Someone thinks I’m awesome enough to want to buy my company!
How did they find out about us?
How much do they want to pay?
What would that even look like? What would my job be? Would I have a boss?!?!?!?!
Who am I without Legion?
The most important thought, though, was the one that flashed first. “I don’t want to sell!”
A lot of life is about trusting your gut reaction to situations, and that reaction was telling for me. Faced with *potential* of selling Legion, my first impulse was, frankly, “Nah. I’m good.”
But, me being me, I had to dig deeper and parse this out a bit. WHY was I good? WHY didn’t I want to sell Legion? There were a few options I thought over and discarded before I arrived at one that felt true.
First, I had to consider fear. Was I afraid of what would come next? Legion is the devil I know, and was I just saying that it was better than the devil I didn’t? Was I afraid of never being as successful again with another venture? I’m too young to just retire on what a sale of Legion (at current market rates) would bring me, so there has to be a second act in my work life. Was I afraid of trying to figure that out?
Second, was I simply resistant to the idea of working for someone else? I’ve been my own boss for nearly 10 years now. That’s a long time to not have to answer to someone higher up….I’m not sure I’d be great at it.
Third, was I concerned with the loss of status? Legion is a $29 million company. That means something. Anything else I did would be smaller, certainly at first, possibly forever. I like having a company this size – it gives me legitimacy and pride. People listen when I talk, something a farm girl from Ohio never expected.
But none of those felt like the right answer. I could overcome fear, or a boss, or status questions pretty easily if I really wasn’t happy at Legion. And that was the answer. Right now, at Legion, I’m happy. I make good money. I have job responsibilities I enjoy. I have flexibility to go to the gym and take vacations and I know that the company is still running, and running well. I have great employees and I enjoy seeing them every day. I wake up and look forward to going to work. Life, and life at Legion, is good.
So, I had my answer. But then this dragged up something else. A new thing to think about. Was I just being lazy? Shouldn’t I be out there, starting a new thing, leaving Legion in the dust, striving and pushing and forcing myself out of my comfort zone? Isn’t that what entrepreneurs do? Isn’t nine years too long to do one thing? Where had my ambition gone? Who was I if I wasn’t struggling and busy and giving myself over completely to my work? Shouldn’t I be like that one Facebook friend we all have who makes sure to check in at the office at 5 a.m. on Saturdays and 9 p.m. on Sundays, humblebragging about “getting after it?” These questions concern me, because in my family, laziness is the path to hell and ruin and despair. One must work, and work hard, all the time, or you are a burden on the world.
I like having leisure time. I like spending weekends with my family, not in the office. I love traveling, and having the time and money to do it. I like teaching at UC, and belonging to boards or workgroups, working on the social issues that are important to me. I like reading for pleasure and hiking and crocheting and playing Mario Kart. And I just refuse to feel bad about that, or think that I need to upend my entire life just because I’m not working 90 hours a week and sleeping under my desk anymore. I work hard at Legion. I am engaged and interested and curious and improving myself and the company every day. Yes, I go to the gym three days a week. But I also still audit the financials, and run the staff meetings and write the marketing materials. I’m still 100% in. I just also have a personal life now. And that makes me a better human, which makes me a better owner.
So. I don’t want to sell Legion. And I don’t need to feel bad about that. In fact, the realization that I’m still happy and 100% in makes me re-engage with the company in an even more enthusiastic way. I’m here because I want to be here, not because I don’t have any other options. And that’s pretty exciting.
by Lacy Starling, President & Fearless Leader