11 May The One Thing Every Entrepreneur Needs to Start Planning For Now (Hint: It’s Not Retirement)
Traditional Retirement is being replaced by a Third Act; and it could be the best chapter of your life, but only if you plan for it. Here’s how.
There’s no escaping entrepreneurship, at least not for long; you may get to the point where you no longer need the money, but you’ll never get to the point where you no longer need the passion.
Yes, you may have enough money to head off and live the rest of your life on a tropical island watching the waves roll in, gently lapping against the shoreline. It will be a soothing, tranquil scene for about 30 minutes or until you notice the small cove next to you with 500 yards of abandoned sandy beach and ask yourself, “Hey, wait a minute…why hasn’t anyone developed that yet?”
“…you may get to the point where you no longer need the money, but you’ll never get to the point where you no longer need the passion.”
So, how do you continue fueling your passion after you’ve sold your business, cashed in, or just reached the point where you no longer need the mantle of CEO, ten direct reports, and 16-hour days? I call it your Third Act; it’s what we used to call retirement.
So, what does your Third Act look like? Have you thought about it? Yeah, I thought so; most people haven’t. And yet, I can’t recall speaking with anyone recently who really expects, or wants, to fully retire for their Third Act-I mean completely unplug and bury their toes, and head, in the sand.
In fact it seems that the entrepreneurs I know are terrified by the thought of retirement. It’s not that they fear the loss of income but rather the loss of the intellectual, creative, and social engagement that ignites their entrepreneurial fire.
There are at least four pillars that you have to put in place to support a Third Act that will keep that fire burning.
1) Build Your Brand
Start with a simple question. What’s my brand? Don’t answer that with a generic label, such as, “I’m an entrepreneur.” Instead focus tightly on what differentiates you. I have one colleague I mentor whose brand is being expert in “Conversational Intelligence.” Another is the expert in the “Industrial Internet of Things.” Yet another is the authority on “Socially Sustainability.” Your brand needs to reflect a unique point of view and the value that you bring to each of the other three pillars of your Third Act. Make it specific, concise, and relevant enough to last a long time and then crank out content relentlessly to support it.
2) You are the Authority, so Author!
Authoring is table stakes for your third act. This may mean a traditionally published book (i.e. paper, e-book, or audio book produced by a publisher) or it may be a self-published book. Books still have magic and provide tangible evidence of your personal brand. Nothing is better at attracting attention than the gravitas of a published book. And please don’t even think of uttering that perennial excuse, “But I don’t have time.” Making the excuse that the time is not right is just waiting for another set of excuses to come along.
“Making the excuse that the time is not right is just waiting for another set of excuses to come along.”
3) Build a Virtual Support System
I’m amazed at how many people try to be their own admin for their Third Act. The options available to have someone else do this for you are everywhere, and they cost next to nothing. I’ve seen people in their Third Act build a virtual organization that would otherwise have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a few thousand dollars a year using Elance, oDesk, Fiver, and 99designs. You need to pawn this off so that you do not get mired in the minutia of running another business. Focus on what you love to do; it’s where your greatest value and satisfaction lies.
By the way, many people rely on a spouse to help with this. Can I offer some advice? Don’t! Your spouse may well have his or her own Third Act, but even if they don’t I doubt that while you’re following your passion they will want their Third Act to be answering the phones and playing the role of admin.
4) Get Out There and Speak
Creating a sustainable speaking presence is the third pillar, and, in my view, this is the most important piece of your third act, since when done correctly getting on the speaking circuit not only allows you to further the reach of your knowledge in a very personal way, but it also creates a virtuous cycle that reinforces your brand, feeds back into books, and fuels your passion like nothing else. Having been on the speaking circuit for two decades I understand that it takes time to build paid speaking into a portfolio. (Yes, it has to be paid if you expect to get in front of the right people.) But I also know the impact of the platform and how satisfying and rewarding it is to share ideas and experiences with others in such a personal and powerful way?
By the way, my role model for this was my mentor, Peter Drucker. I once asked Peter if he didn’t get tired of speaking. His response was classic Drucker, “Tom,” he said, with a puzzled look, “it’s the wrong question. The question to ask is, ‘Is the audience tired of me?’ They never did. Peter had the longest Third Act of anyone I’ve known-into his 90s.
Get Planning Now
My advice-unless you really do expect to escape to that tropical island for good-start thinking about your Third Act; don’t let it take you by surprise. In the same way that traditional retirement didn’t afford you the luxury of waiting until you retired to invest in a retirement portfolio, you can’t wait until your second act is over to start investing in your third act!
Hopefully your Third Act is going to last a very long time and provide you with the deep intellectual and emotional satisfaction that we all crave, along with the flexibility for those tropical island getaways. Hey, I never said there was anything wrong with regular visits to paradise, I just don’t want to be marooned there!
This post was originally published on Inc.com.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media LLC.