Denise Logan - Work, Money & Meaning: How to Let Go When the Time Comes


29 March 2021

1 hr 2 mins 47 secs

Season 1

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About this Episode

An award-winning professional speaker and author of The Seller’s Journey: A Business Fable about Navigating the Emotional Obstacles to Selling Your Business, Denise Logan has addressed audiences on three continents about the psychology of business owners and how to make it easier when the time comes to let go. Known as The Seller Whisperer, she draws upon a twenty year body of work focused on the intersection of work, money, and meaning and how it is reflected in the legacies of today’s business leaders.

She has rightly observed that while work is where we spend the majority of our time, much of it is spent wishing we were somewhere else, doing something else. Divorcing meaning from our work too often leaves us blindly trudging through a mediocre life using money as the miserly arbiter of success in matters of soul and meaning. It leads to an endless chase for more, hoping to outsmart death and desperately prove that our life somehow mattered. Even worse, when work is how we define ourselves and we are faced with job loss or impending retirement, it can seem terrifying.

What happens when your old answer to the question “What Do You Do?” no longer fits? If you thought you are what you do, and suddenly you don’t do it anymore, do you not exist?

Standout Quotes:

  • "Every family's dynamic is slightly different and always the same" - [Denise]
  • "So as fear starts to escalate, our thinking is disrupted" - [Denise]
  • "The best transitions happen 5 years before someone is ready" - [Denise]
  • "The reality is that every owner will exit their business, voluntarily or involuntarily... so you will either transition to someone or you will leave your business with it being unprepared" - [Denise]
  • "if we look at mortality issues, often the more mortality resistance that someone has , the higher the likelihood is that they will also be avoiding succession planning"
  • One of the questions I start early on with an owner is ''what does work provide for you, beyond the money?... where will you get those needs met outside the business?" - [Denise]
  • "Succession happens at all different ages" - [Denise]
  • "Are we simply creating roles in the business so family members have work to do, as opposed to are they the right people in the business?" - [Denise]
  • "Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end" - [Mike]
  • "Transparency always works, it is always better" - [Denise]
  • "The arc of the journey for an owner is the same, whether we're talking about a $50000 hair salon or 500 million-dollar company, the arc of transition that's happening for someone is the same"
  • "Transition will happen no matter what, so the question is 'what kind of transition do you want to have as a business owner?'"
  • "Success is often determined by how prepared you are rather than just letting it be" - [Mike]
  • "Our legacy comes from our daily actions, it is not just the amount of money that we leave behind or the money that we have accumulated" - [Denise]
  • "We can often get completely spun up on what our number is, the number is not the number in the bank account, the number is the number of memories that we have left behind because that is truly how we will be remembered" - [Denise]

Key Takeaways:

  • Denise started as a mental health professional and then moved into practicing Law where she started her firm but sold because she lost interest in the business. This prompted her to start a road trip till she was invited to help build a friend's business before the sale, an experience that kick-started her work of helping owners transition during the sale of their businesses. It also inspired her book, "The Seller's Journey".
  • Using the analogy of a fist, Denise likens the fear center in the brain, 'the Amygdala' to the thumb of the hand, pointing out that while the other fingers could restrict the thumb's movements the same way the frontal cortex can restrict the Amygdala, excessive pressure from the thumb or the Amygdala, in this case, can break free of the restraint, leaving the fear to roam free. This explains the chaotic nature exhibited by people, typical of family dynamics.
  • Another description using the hand involves the 5 ways through which fear shows up, the 5 fingers are used to represent them; Fight Flight Freeze Fawn, and Submit. Individually, there are often 2 or 3 of them that function more as natural go-to responses when facing fear, anger, or stress.
  • The anchor, Wave, and Island styles of attachment: An Anchor attachment is someone who can tolerate too close or too far. An Island attachment is the type of person who pulls away or isolates themselves when things get rough. A wave attachment describes a person who reacts to disruption by continually checking on others.
  • It is necessary to identify needs that are met by the business beyond the money because there is concern about how these needs will be met outside the business, and this could often form the basis for the continuous attachment to the business.
  • Addressing the handling of messy parts of the conversation, Denise emphasizes the importance of honesty and transparency in allaying the fears that may misguide people's actions in the family.
  • The 'O-MY' syndrome (One More Year) occurs where a seller repeatedly creates reasons to delay their exit from the business whenever they get closer to the agreed time of sale. This is a signal that something else is going on, a different existential crisis and there are needs to be met.
  • The moment that you cease to exist is when the last person who has a story to tell about you passes.
  • Money matters, but it's not the only thing that matters.
  • There will always be a story that is told about you, the question is "is it the story that you would like to have told about you?"
  • From Denise to her kids: The way you will know that you were loved was by how you were held and how you were cared for, not by what I left you.

Episode Timeline:

  • [00:49] Meet today's guest, "Denise Logan" a.k.a 'the Seller Whisperer'.
  • [01:45] An overview of the journey to becoming "the Seller Whisperer".
  • [08:52] Denise's 'fist' analogy in describing the role of fear in the brain.
  • [11:30] The 5 Appearances of Fear.
  • [14:10] The anchor, Wave, and Island styles of attachment.
  • [18:10] Do families typically find you when a transition is already underway or as they're contemplating a transition or an exit?
  • [33:23] How do you handle the messy aspects of the discussion?
  • [45:30] How often do sellers get caught up on a particular figure that they will only sell at?
  • [50:39] Discussing the success of transitions generally.
  • [01:00:56] A letter from Denise

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Episode Links

  • Denise Logan | Speaker, Author, Consultant — Weaving together her background as a lawyer, social worker and business owner has enabled Denise Logan to deftly guide hundreds of business owners and their professional teams as they navigate the complex emotional journey of selling their business and letting go into their own version of what’s next.
  • New Book: "The Seller’s Journey" | Denise Logan — A new book by Denise Logan Fewer than 30% of all businesses for sale successfully transition to a new owner and those that do typically take more than nine agonizing months filled with uncertainty. The longer a sale process takes, the more stressful it becomes for the owner & the deal team and the lower the probability of success.