July 7, 2024

The Impostor Syndrome After Selling Your Company

The Impostor Syndrome After Selling Your Company

This is an article I've been thinking of writing for a long time, but it means facing some personal insecurities, so I have been constantly procrastinating.

But not today! Today is the day! Let's do it ✊

Spoiler alert: I know about my privileges and how lucky I am. The idea of an Exit is constantly linked to success, and I acknowledge my tremendous percentage of luck. After more than 13 years of hard work, we succeeded in selling the company to a big consulting firm. Cool, eh? Yes, it's fantastic, and many things are related to that beyond what I could dream of. But honestly, I was not ready for the emotional turbulence that came after.

I find it interesting to discuss and share my experience here, just in case I can help others, as it is all about the emotional side of it and how a Founder faces their new reality.

So, yes, we sold the company. And after the honeymoon period, where you don't fully believe what happened (you need to understand that the due diligence-selling season is long and tedious), you start to wonder about the new reality you are part of. That's when the curiosity about your new self begins.

Now is when all the showers of insecurities come pouring down. In your company, you are the person to solve (and also, in many cases, create 😝) many of the issues. Everyone knows you, and you don't need to express what you do; you transmit your purpose, your vision, and what your team does. But now, it's a new environment. You are afraid of the expectations of the people who acquired your company. You are so scared (and intimidated) by this new leadership you are now part of.

To sum up, you were the king-queen of mambo, but right now, everyone is tap dancing, and you are alone in a corner waiting for your turn.

Yes, it can be challenging to understand. You achieved one of the things most entrepreneurs seek in their life, and you feel tiny. You feel like an octopus in a garage.

And now is when impostor syndrome hits you hard.

During that period, my insecurities intensified, making me act like a junior. Burnout came to me pretty fast, waking me up in the middle of the night, worrying about things that, with the perspective of time, I now realize were just nonsense. Things that did not happen when I managed a +100 people environment occurred to me as an employee of a company.

What happened?

The lack of ownership and accountability.

After seeing the different phases I went through in my process and also talking to a few friends with similar experiences, I identified the root of where everything starts.

In big companies, finding ownership and accountability is often complicated, and that, for a former founder, is devastating. You cannot see something broken and not try to solve it. It's who you are!

When you ask something and no one replies (or worse, many people reply with different things), you have an issue there.

How to try to solve it?

Find your place.

Big companies are like villages; you cannot generally talk when it's a big structure of thousands of people. So let me tell you that this accountability and ownership place you are looking for exist in the structure, but you need to find it (And maybe it is not going to be an easy path)

Also, part of the deal is the need of deconstructing your professional self and find your "new" purpose. Identifying what you are good at, and find where you can help the most.

Pro tip: The areas of ownership are a logical result of good leadership, so identify who is creating those in the organization. Your place should probably be next to them.

If you find that, you will succeed in this new world, and not only that. It's going to bring you new experiences, and a learning path.

You need to find a place in the organization with solid accountability and ownership and create an impact by being a (former) Founder. Do what you do the best, allocate a team to you, create your "own" company inside this one, and apply everything that made you different.

As founders, we go through experiences that make us specific and suitable in cases and situations of change. And in a big structure, these skills could be incredibly needed. Take advantage of that.

PS: This is based on my own experience, but there are different ways to acquire a company and integrate that and its founders into the structure. In my case, it was a larger consulting company integrating a smaller one.

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