The state of empty nest is still a long way off for my husband and me, but recently the first of our three kids did leave the nest.
The mixed feelings of letting go seem similar to how tire dealers must feel upon retirement when they have to let go of a business they've founded and fostered.
Much like nurturing a baby, starting a business is stressful the first few yearssleepless nights, a lot of expenses, lots of worries and likely no tangible profits.
There also is the stress of hiring experienced employees who will care as much for your business as you do and, perhaps at times reluctantly, calling upon relatives to help out.
Then there is the adolescent stage when you can finally take some vacations, have extra time to get involved in volunteering in the community and see the fruits of your labor as you beam with pride at how your baby is growing and succeeding.
You still need to keep a watchful eye every day on the business/child or a small overlooked problem can fester into major trouble that impacts and threatens its long-term survival.
Once your business has maturedand you have, tooyou face the prospects of retirement and handing off your pride-and-joy into the care of others. This is difficult for most owners who care about their business because it's a big, cruel world out therefor kids and tire dealerships.
Most businesseslike grown childreneventually move away from their founder's vision and influence. That can be emotionally traumatic for someone who has raised the business from infancy and invested a major portion of his or her life.
After your retirement (or demise), your business may take a different direction than what you envisioned for it. It may eventually close or join forces with an archrival. Or, as with several lucky dealerships I've reported on, the business may prosper under the care of subsequent generations of the family.
Like kids, businesses that leave the founder's nest can get in trouble, financially or otherwise, due to bad decisions and outside influences. All you can do is hope you set up a solid groundwork and operating philosophy with employees and managersand that they pay attention.
The trauma of letting go is why it's so important to have a succession plan as a set of directions for taking care of baby and all the assets connected with it. Industry experts urge owners to set up that plan five or more years before retirement.
Then they have to let go and hope for the best with the confidence they've done their job as a mentor. Owning an independent business sure sounds a lot like parenthood, doesn't it?
Kathy McCarron is a Tire Business reporter. To reach her: [email protected]; 330-865-6127. Twitter: @kmccarr