90: Exit Your Business and Launch Your Future Self, Jerry Cahn Ph. D

by | May 1, 2022

Succession
Stories
Podcast

90: Exit Your Business and Launch Your Future Self, Jerry Cahn Ph. D

by | May 1, 2022

Many business owners and entrepreneurs face the challenge of wondering what they will do after they leave the business. Often our personal identity is intertwined with our business identity. When you leave, and eventually you will, you may face this critical challenge. Jerry Cahn believes in leading a fulfilling life throughout different life stages.

As Chair of Vistage Boards in New York, Jerry works with CEOs to find more success in their business and personal lives. He founded AgeBrilliantly.org to help people focus on opportunities for a fulfilling life while working in their company and afterwards.

Listen in as Jerry talks with host Laurie Barkman how thinking about life stages, rather than age stages, creates a positive mindset for exiting your business and launching your future self.

Learn more about:

  • Rethinking retirement amidst a higher life expectancy
  • Figuring out your ‘next self’
  • Blockers holding back business leaders from planning their exit
  • Planning the personal aspect of what comes after you exit your business
  • Cultivating a mindset of readiness

 

Show Links:

jcahn@agebrilliantly.org

jerrycahn@vistagechair.com

About Succession Stories Podcast

Succession Stories is hosted by Laurie Barkman, the Business Transition Sherpa– guiding business owners through the process from “transition to transaction.”

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Transcript:

Laurie Barkman:

Many business owners and entrepreneurs face the challenge of wondering what they will do after they leave the business. Often our personal identity is intertwined with our business identity. When you leave, and eventually you will, you may face this critical challenge. Often I talk on this show about having a more transferable business, and your readiness for a future transition. Today’s episode dovetails so well. My guest, Jerry Cahn, believes in leading a fulfilling life throughout different life stages. As Chair of Vistage Boards in New York, Jerry works with CEOs to find more success in their business and personal lives. He founded AgeBrilliantly.org to help people focus on opportunities for a fulfilling life while working in their company and afterwards. Enjoy the conversation about ways to focus on your future self with Jerry Cahn.

Laurie Barkman:

Jerry, welcome to Succession Stories. We met recently. You invited me to come to your Vistage group and it was such an honor. I had such a fun time. The workshop, I think, from a topic standpoint was timely and timeless, and the topic is really preparing for this biggest transition of your life if you’re a business owner, and let’s face it, all of us are facing that transition at some point, so I wanted to thank you for bringing me in to talk to your group and I wanted to welcome you today to Succession Stories. Great to have you.

Jerry Cahn:

Thank you. Great being here. Great following it up. I don’t usually get that opportunity.

Laurie Barkman:

Yeah, the timing was perfect. I think when we talked, you said one of the reasons for a strategic workshop to talk about strategic growth Exit Planning with your CEOs, you mentioned Stephen Covey, how do we begin with the end in mind? How do we make decisions that are at the end of the goal? I know you’ve made it part of your mission. Now, you’re a Vistage chair, you do some amazing things, amazing work with the CEOs. But you’ve started an organization called Age Brilliantly. I want you to tell me about Age Brilliantly, and, why is that initiative important to you?

Jerry Cahn:

Okay, so I teach, as you know, part time, it’s something I love to do, so I get to work with young people with challenging assumptions and carving new territories and lives need a mentor who kind of says, ‘This is good, keep doing it, even if it’s hard,” and I’m teaching in China and I’ve been doing Vistage now for about five years at that point, and I’m walking around in Shanghai, I’m thinking to myself, “This is good, but something’s still missing in my life,” and you don’t often get a chance to do that, unless you’re in a different situation where you don’t have stimuli that are tying you to where you are and I suddenly realized I had built a company that had 5000 clients for 15 years 24/7, so there’s never any sleep, it’s constant work and highest pressure clients, you could imagine investment banks, etc. and I missed not having the influence, creating a culture for other people to grow into and so I said, “I need to find something I can do for my next act,” realizing right then and there I have it and if it’s really good, this one’s going to be my legacy act. It’ll be the next 50 years of my life, in some ways, man or form, so what would be so useful and helpful to people to do. 

As I kept walking and thinking about it for the next couple of days, and I’m reading the Japanese newspaper and the Chinese newspapers, and I’m watching in China, the only English channel, I’m realizing they’re talking about longevity at a level we don’t have, because people in Japan are living longer. It was the only English channel that I could get and even China was reporting about it in Singapore and other countries and I suddenly realized, “Wow, we’re not paying enough attention to a couple of longevity trends that are really important.” For the first time in the world, we have a generation that can actually say, “I might live longer,” and more important, “Our children will probably live past,” and if that’s the arc of life that’s going in front of us, that means we have a whole new set of responsibilities. We don’t have to get by every day, like our parents and grandparents might have done, but we can actually forge a life that’s even better in the future. 

In 1900, just to give you a statistic, people were living to about 40-45 so if you did it, you started working very young, and you’ve literally died in the field and then today, you died in the factory, and then we create retirement. But now in the world you and I grew up in people talking about, well, you’re going to retire at 65 because we were thinking and actually when retirement was set into as 65, the average lifespan was less than 65 so it was a good bet. From an economic point of view, let’s give a few people who had a little longer some money. But today you’re going to live to 80 and you and I, where we are right now, have a much better shot of living to 90 or even 100. My kids will live past 100 and so for the first time in the history of the world, we can be intentional, and that’s Cody’s point. If you start with the end in mind, you can say, “What do I want that to be,” and then I can aim it and so we can all do it. What made it interesting for me as a teacher, and as my kids dedicated a book to me as their mentor, kind of makes the point to say to them, “At whatever age this revelation comes to you. You have all those years in front of you. So if you’re 20, you’ve got 80. If you’re 60, you’ve got 40. It doesn’t matter but you can be intentional about your future, put a line in the sand and think about your future and what do you want it to be,” and suddenly it changes what you do because suddenly you’re working on what we’ve eventually at Age Brilliantly call the Life Essentials, and that’s obviously health, and it’s finance. Because without health, none of it matters. Without finance, you can’t do all the things you want to do. A Harvard study showed relationships and the number one thing that makes you happy but when you listen to people, what it’s really about is passion and purpose. What people want to do is figure out where they’re going but because they didn’t have that opportunity before, and now do, we have to make that available and then because for the first time in the history we had time, time mastery becomes super important because every time you waste time, you’re actually losing something and if you think about that, and we value our time on the earth longer and hotter, and more valuably, what we’ll do is find that we can do more, and we can enjoy it more and that’s where it came from. 

Laurie Barkman:

I love it. I love it. Yeah, it’s interesting, because of what you said to me, “Hey, Laurie, when you come to the workshop, have one question you want to ask everyone,” so I asked them, “What’s your time horizon? What is that timeline you’re thinking about when you might exit your business?” Now, how they perhaps thought about that question could be a couple of ways. They might think, “Well, I might retire and leave,” or they might think, “I’m going to sell and leave,” regardless, it’s still an exit timeline however they choose to leave, and I think probably most of them were age based, don’t you and their answers?

Jerry Cahn:

100%. Remember, we’re all a function of the norms that we grew up with and they, when I teach, and I teach an aging class, for example, and I’ll say to people, “When do you plan to leave your business or stop doing what you’re doing?” “I’m going to retire at 60 to 65,” and the next question is always, “Why at that age?” “Because my friends are doing it. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” That’s why it became a mission of Age Brilliantly to say, “No, whatever used to be, doesn’t have to be in the future.” In 1900, you had horses, so every hotel had to have a trough for water for the horse. We don’t do that anywhere in hotels and so the instant we change they need to do that, too. That’s what these members have been loving what I’m doing with this new workshop that I have; exit your business, and launch your future sales, because people like you have done such a great job of helping them figure out how when they exit, can plan it out in a way that they can maximize not only the money that they get, their ROI on what they’ve done, but also give their employees a chance maybe to continue what they go over the company.

However, they’ve structured it and grow, but they have not spent any time answering the second question, “How are you going to launch your future self? What is your future self?” What I’m doing with the with the workshops and the exercises is helping people realize the future self consists of many next cells and what will happen is you need to plan them, but unlike the financial community, which thinks each one is separate, and it doesn’t matter, there’s actually an investment bank that told people, “When you retire, you should retire at 65, and take a year off and then if you’re bored, you want to go back to work, you can do it,” not thinking that nobody’s gonna hire that kind of person very easily. It’s not what it’s about so you need to plan this in advance. You say, “Maybe I’m not sure what I want to do, maybe I want to figure it out in five years. But what are the things I can do?”

What I love is when some of the people I work with, they have this plate that’s full of so many different things to do. That’s the hard part – ordering it so they find out what they want to do is buy a house to spend on the waterfront for the kids when they’re a couple of years old. But they discovered that when the kids are five, they don’t want to come visit them, they want to go to Disneyland so that house is not valuable so now what they do is move back to New York City, and go to Lincoln Center and go to theater, etc. so it’s planning that future self. That’s so important and for many of them, it’s starting another company, because like me, they missed something in there, they missed making a difference and having an impact. They miss the creative energies, collaborative energies that some of us are very lucky to have with our people and those kinds of things there. It’s a great way to create, if you haven’t done that before a business for your family, get them involved and if you already have that, maybe it’s time to get out and try something different with a different group of people. That’s really what it’s about – having a future that you really can’t define but you can have an idea of and aim at it and then play with it. I’m sure you’re familiar with D School, which comes from Stanford, where you design your future and it’s all live offices, and then you do a prototype and let’s see what it works. It’s exactly how you should run your life.

Laurie Barkman:

Let’s go to that. Let’s talk about your workshop because I’m curious if people are listening and they’re thinking – and of course, everyone just goes through age – so if I’m in my 40s, what should I be thinking about if I’m in my 50s. Now, this is because this is how we’re programmed, we’re thinking we’re gonna retire when we’re 65 or we’re gonna exit in our 60s, but you’re right. There are people, their mission, there are some examples of younger people, they’re in their 40s, they sell their company, they want to sail around the world and that becomes their mission. They’re not wanting to start another company, there’s others that want to spend more time with family or others who want to do board service, I like to talk about having a portfolio of things like you said, on your plate, what’s on your plate, and how you choose to spend your time and I think the underscoring point here is, if you if you wait so long, like till a year before you’re ready to retire, to start working on these things, and really trying to figure out what you want to do, you might be running up against an artificial clock nonetheless, but it’s still a clock. Right?

Jerry Cahn:

Right. It’s actually… that’s really the danger that we have to work for. When we first started Age Brilliantly we had a different name and the name included the ‘toward retirement’ and we realized that only appealing to one group of people and at the end if you think of history, now as being 1000s and 1000s of years, the real impact of what we’re doing is my kids and my grandkids, and their generations that follow and so we very early on, we realize what we have to do is not be old, because that’s what we think of age, but rather understand aging is a developmental process and the minute you’re on your own, we call you an adult, somebody, it’s a round 20 and at that point, anytime on you can start this process of saying what may they want to do, and when would I want to do it, and not lock yourself in, stay flexible enough to keep changing because the world is going to change.

Imagine that it’s 1900 and the internet comes out, and you thought the world was gonna end at 65 when you sold your business. In 2000, you’d have missed out on the entire world that came back and when it came back to show you that you could do the things you never thought were possible. Imagine being able to communicate with anybody around the world instantly, and not having to spend 1000s of dollars on a phone for example. The world changes so I think whether you’re 40 or 50 to 60, or 70, or 80, or 20, it doesn’t matter, the real question is do a rough draft of where you think you’d like to go and then you have it in mind and then you can change it at any point and that’s really what’s really valuable. So when people say to me, for example, there’s a whole movement of people talking about being a modern elder and being wise, why put a number on that. I have scenes I add, when many years ago, I ran into someone, at 30 sold the company for several million dollars and we were asking, “What are you going to do now?” He said, “Well I could literally retire, never have to worry about money anymore, but you know what I think I want to do? I want to work with other young entrepreneurs and teach them.” Well he’s doing that at 30. He’s not waiting till he’s 55-65 to do it and that’s what he should do.

Think about if you want to do philanthropy, okay, what do most of us think of the program that Gates set up and Warren Buffett, where they sign, “When we die, we leave most of the money to the Foundation, which is going to give it away.” Wouldn’t it be nicer to start donating the time and money while you’re alive, and making sure it ends up where you want it to be, helping the people you want in a way that’s there? That becomes, also, an entrepreneurial opportunity. Suddenly, you can discover new ways to help people that don’t work. Mark Zuckerberg, when he first created his program, he gave $100 million to a city in New Jersey to help them out. At the end, he came back and said, “We had almost no impact.” Wow, that’s a lot of money not to have an impact but maybe if he had been doing more on that and less on Facebook at the time, it might have made a difference. 

We have lived in a world of silos, you and I see that in businesses and compartmentalizing ourselves and I think I’m just very fortunate because I’ve always been kind of a learner and just wonder at the world that I’ve just had this big smorgasbord in front of me and I keep playing out. Let’s try different things and see where it goes. Knowing that all of that is a learning process and what we learn, we may not realize the value of it till much later on but it all makes us better in that journey down the road and so it’s a 100 year journey, and let’s just do as many things as we can and go back to one last thing, the big issue and you know this, there’s 7 million people who have businesses over the age of 60 that probably should leave. Because the answer is if they leave, they can do any of the things we’re talking about. But they’re comfortable. They have position, they have identity, and so they stay there because they’re not thinking, “What could my future self be doing? What kind of contribution?” Whatever your politics are, doesn’t matter, thinking of Jimmy Carter, he did not score as one of the great presidents in the four years president. But since then, he’s done Habitat for Humanity. He’s still teaching in his 90s. In Sunday school, he’s made all kinds of differences and so it’s possible to keep creating new worlds for yourself and for the world that we live in. That’s going to make everything better for everybody. 

Laurie Barkman:

Absolutely. You talk with a lot of CEOs, you’re a Vistage chair, you do presentations, you talk to a lot of people. What do you think are some of the reasons, what are some of the blockers? Is it time? Is it just a mindset that they’re not thinking about Exit Planning, they can’t think about other things in their life, they just can’t make room for it? What are some of those things holding them back?

Jerry Cahn:

It’s purely a mindset and part of it is because as you said, before, we’re born and we create our mindsets when we’re young, and we just continue them and unless something shocks us to think about it differently, we don’t get it. But I’ve just worked on a model and you’ll appreciate this. Even if you have an 80 year life doesn’t matter what your own life is, the reality of it is we live at any given moment in a 200 year lifespan, because the world we’re born into was really formed by our grandparents generation, modified by our parents somewhat and then when we get older, we modify their world. Then as we get older, we teach our kids who start modifying that world, and eventually comes out to the world of our grandchildren, which God willing, if we live long enough, we’re there to see so we’ve got five generations of lives that’s affecting it and so unless we think about the end, we’re only thinking about the past, because it’s how we were raised.

Laurie Barkman:

It’s a dynamic where family businesses encounter some of these issues more than call it the founder-led organization, because the family-led company, they might have a path that has been their choice, but largely developed because of the family legacy and tradition and they go into the business because they want to continue to grow the company and be part of it, and they can’t imagine not being part of it. 

Jerry Cahn:

It’s expected. Again, the norms. I’m in grandpa’s business and when you get old enough, you’ll come in and remember the formative years of being a young person or teenager, you’re helping out in there and you realize, “Wow, everyone respects my father and my grandfather, I want to have that same kind of thing,” and you go in there, when none of them are asking the question, and I have I’ve had, I have one right now that’s a third generation, I have one that’s got four generations going through it. The world changes and the business has to change and is just trying to reinvent the same wheel to sell the same things. For example, if you sell retail, you always have somebody in some country producing the scarf, and then having it shipped here somehow, and then you sold it to whatever the store is going to be, whether it’s a discount or a store. The problem is where Amazon changes all of that, technology changes, you don’t have to go to a store anymore so those margins change, it becomes a completely different thing and that person who’s now running it never learned how to market on the internet, doesn’t have any understanding. 

The good news is you can train the kid to do that but the kids whole world is, “How do I take selling to retail and put it on e-commerce? And how do I do that?” Rather than saying, “Wait, I’m if I’m on e-commerce, I could also do all kinds of things like for our funding, I could be able to explore different diseases,” think of COVID how the internet helped us get all that information together quickly and fast and on all those other things aren’t there and so I think the real thing that all of us especially in a family situation of a business to pass on to our children is the number one value, is lifelong learning. You want to learn every day, every day you get up and say what am I going to learn today, and every night you go to sleep and say what did I learn? The second part of that is to understand it’s not about this, what I’m doing, it’s things outside my world I have to also talk about. I have to be worldly, understanding it, seeing it, trying to understand, “What is it going to be like if we really do have electronic vehicles and we have the ability to fly there?” Okay, that sounds unreal, right? We were there with Tesla, already part of it. We do not have the beginning of what does that mean? How would that change your world? Our worlds too because we didn’t need, again, to go back 100 years, you mostly spent your time with the people who are your neighbors in your city, because geography was a difficult place for transportation. But the alternative now is you could travel to any place at any time, like you and I are doing work to different cities, okay, so the world’s changed, and we need to expose that. 

For fixing succession, you need to be honest and say, “If you’d like to come into this business, that’s fine if I can afford it, and it makes sense, but you don’t have to,” and so one example is the one that I have in the fourth generation, the fourth generation has been basically told, “You don’t have to come into this business at all. Because you know what, we don’t know if it’s even going to be around anymore,” which created an entirely new set of structures. 

If we go into four different businesses, we’re going to have one pie to split so if I’m a harder worker, and I’m making it, do I really just put my 1/4 with everybody else or not? These are the kind of decisions that have to be made so it’s a whole new level of decisions. Now, if you’re not willing to face that reality, then what you do is, just say, “We’ll stay in the business, just leave it going,” and that’s where you find so often, third generations destroy companies, from the fourth don’t even get a shot at it. That’s a terrible thing because it doesn’t have to be that way and so when I had, as a Vistage chair, when this company came in, they started having this, I said, “How have you decided to allocate resources and time and energy to it?” And they said, “We don’t know.” I said, “What would you like,” and their idea was to create a collaborative, where everybody collaborates and helps one another, so in siblings, etc. and that’s how we built it for them and they have that and I think they have, it’s an apparel company to retail, I think one person’s left in that. The rest of them are all doing something different and so because of the different businesses, they all support each other. It’s just like a stool, lots of different legs supporting the Parthenon at the end of the day.

Laurie Barkman:

I want to go back to why this topic is important. Why did I invite you to the show? Why are we talking about it and tie it into transition planning, and what we see in terms of some data and some numbers? It’s all about mindset and preparation and readiness, the more ready an organization is, the more ready an owner is personally financially and they have a more positive attitude, they have some pull factors, they have some things that they are, as opposed to push factors pushing you out versus pulling you towards your next thing. Those people are not only more successful in building that business for readiness to be transitioned over time, whenever that time is right, in the fashion that’s right for them but they’re also more successful emotionally, and I think that that’s the big ‘why’ and we have some data to back that up. But again, in terms of our conversation today, Jerry, I want to tie to the audience, if someone’s a business owner, and they’re listening, and they’re thinking, “Okay, wherever I am in my journey,” and that could be how if they think about it as age based if they think about it and life stage, how would you answer this question? What advice do you have for someone listening? If they’re thinking about it, how do they start to think about leading a more fulfilling life? Through their entrepreneurial journey not waiting to the end? What are two or three things that you want to share with them?

Jerry Cahn:

Okay, so first, just the answer, whether it’s age or stage, let’s get that really clear, we call the company Age Brilliantly, because we want it to be stage related. It’s not about calendars. Okay? There are people at 90 who are young, and there are people at 50, who are okay, and there are people that 20 year old, okay, it’s not at the age where they come to stage and the best way to understand it for persons leading companies to go back and forward and that’s what we do with the transition, you got to go back a little by your values, and what you’ve done, and then understand how that literally catapults you to the future.

Let me give you a simple example. If you think of the evolution of companies, okay, in the very beginning is only a few people, and they do everything, right, and the company can only grow when we realize you’re really good at marketing, and I’m really good at operations and he’s really good at negotiation and selling and so we play a different role. We do that, okay, we grow to that. Okay, but to assume we want to do that for the rest of our lives is ridiculous. Because that’s what growth is all about. Everything says we change, why wouldn’t we change that? So the first premise of any successful leader is to say, “Things will change, and I need to be changing while I’m doing that.”

I happen to have and I’m going to share this because it’s just such a great thing. Yesterday was Sunday, as you know, and I took the extra time to work with one of my CEOs, to go through this. He helped start this business when he was… he got into this business from someone else’s money, as a teenager. He’s now about 50, so he’s grown through that, became the CEO, he’s running it, he manages the whole thing,  it’s big. He’s got over 100 employees, he’s working on pulling all of us together to make it work and I’m listening to him and he’s frustrated by a lot of it, because the answer is, “Where’s the small?” It was fairly easy for Tim to do it all. When it’s bigger, everything gets larger. The scale at this point is how do you get managers to run their own thing? How do you get leaders out of managers? How do you pull this together? He’s got to figure out how to do it and I keep focusing on him, as you say, what’s your end device? Where do you want to be two, three years from? Do you still want to solve this problem? Because we’ve been solving them for two, three years now? Well, do we want to try to change that?

He was one of the people in your session, by the way, that didn’t come out so just letting you know that he can come, he looked at it, he says, “I’d like to just specialize in something so I could do it better, because I now know much more of how to do it than I did 10 years ago,” and it’s good, then what we do is we get other people to do it so our number one priority right now is building an executive team, and as you said, is the single biggest value in your company besides your customers, and the cash flow and the economics, so having a solid succession team that can take the company and let it go on its own and make you dispensable. I said, “If that happens, what would you like to do,” he says, given he’s in kind of an a technology area, “I’d love to be able to start getting back into the sales about what I think two, three years from now, new prototype products could do for people,” because that’s what got me interested in this 20 years ago. I’m not doing that anymore, all I am now is hurting, hurting the Katz’s, we have to get everything done.

That becomes a second part is to recognize these people who let the company grow itself, then have the peace of mind and the emotional intelligence to say, “I don’t have to watch them, what can I do,” and they can start focusing on their future self, the future of that company and that’s why they grow it faster. By looking forward to where you want to go with the company, and where the company can grow, it will grow faster, because now you’re seeing opportunities other people would miss. That’s exactly what he has to go with doing this right now and to the point that we’re doing is working with a couple of other people in the company to say, “Let them take it over,” and one of the examples of that is one of my companies and I’m really looking at three companies this year, while going through this kind of stage of selling of being able to sell a turn it over something like that person came to me and said over the last 10 years, I’ve taken my company for me really running it all to four hours a week of work. That’s the ultimate dream. Remember, Tim Ferriss said that.

He says, “I spent four hours, I wanted to do something different.” I said, “What would you want to do?” And so we start talking about his future self and one of the things that emerges is, “I want to give back more.” That’s something operational we can do now and still plan the bigger thing. We put on a board of a really great nonprofit. With that now it’s time to meet new people, fast forward, one of these people leads to a connection that eventually takes this company and he sells it to a public company and he will be the crown jewel because he’s the biggest one in the United States doing it. He’s ready to leave. Now remember, I said Nick sells, ready to leave, suddenly he realizes, “I could be running this much larger global company, and digital transformation. That’s really exciting. Bingo.” He now finds his new hope and dream, and I think that’s what it’s really all about. Every time I visit this company I know the owner is 86. He comes in to read the newspaper for an hour and a half, then he does a little bit of work for the company. He then leaves in the papers that he does his Excel spreadsheet, gets it to his son, and he says, “Here it is,” and he goes, “Great,” and then he takes it, throws it in the garbage in front of me and I said, “Why do you do that?” You have it on the computer, but it makes him happy. The point is, that’s not always… We should be saying, “Go travel, go do something more valuable with your life,” and that’s the value of meeting someone like you get them early enough to lay out the plan. I’m not saying they have to sell it but let them have a system to do it so if they want to they can do it. There’s a gentleman, there’s another speaker, who when he presented to the group, he said, “I’m in the exit business. My job is to get the company to a point where he can exit and I can exit anytime I want to,” and we all laughed but then I thought that’s really a great perception. Because if he does that planning early, he has freedom and he has done incredible things as I think about it makes that whole point. The peace of mind of the pull to what you would like to be doing in your life is what it’s about. It’s not about how do I take all the money and maximize it, push me out, because then it’s gonna leave you out at the end of a cliff and you’ll jump off and I’m not sure where you’re gonna end up. It’s the pull of all the other wonders that are in front of you and so when I heard that number many years ago, about 7 million people, business owners we probably should be selling, that’s what got me started with the workshop. These 7 million people are a lot of people I could help.

Laurie Barkman:

Yeah, absolutely. I really liked those stories, Jerry, that was really helpful to hear those stories. I know you have a million favorite quotes. But is there one that really stands out to you and pertains to our conversation today?

Jerry Cahn:

Well, one of my favorite quotes when I started actually as teenager, so Coleridge wrote a story and he has a word in there that I’m going to change, because that’s how I remember the quote and it its ‘life without hope draws nectar in a sieve and hope without an object cannot live’ and he was talking about work not life but the point is, to me, it’s all about life and that’s what led Age Brilliantly and it’s the same thing with your company. If you have coped with how you’re going to help the world, help your employees, help yourself and where you’re going to go with it, if you’re taking all that nectar and you’re enjoying but if you don’t, if you’re just going through the routine, then it’s in a sieve and you’re going to lose it as it leaves the bottom. 

It comes to me all the time now because of the great resignation. I think the great resignation is, really the great elevation, because it’s saying to people, “Don’t do things you don’t want to do, you shouldn’t be doing because they’re not making you grow as a human being.” If doing too much commuting for a meeting that you could do over Zoom is what you’re doing and you’re not spending time with the kids as a result, go find another job, go find another way to do it. Change your career, whatever it is, whether it’s purpose or passion, it should be determining where you go, and I’ll end with a story about a guy who at 89 – when he was a kid, he wanted to be a physicist. His parents told him “No, no, no, no, you want to be something and go to school, be a doctor,” so he becomes an MD, spends his entire life as an MD goes to all the stuff, he finally retires and at 80 he says, “I still want to be a physicist,” and he just got his PhD so there’s no limits. That’s the lesson I really want to leave with people. A company is a vehicle to make a difference financially in passion and purpose, helping people lots of good things but there’s many ways you can do it, too. It’s like a garden, go find another flower.

Laurie Barkman:

I love it. Jerry, thank you so much. If people want to learn more, if people want to follow up with you, what’s a great way to get in touch?

Jerry Cahn:

Well, from an Age Brilliantly point of view, it’s really easy, it’s agebrilliantly.org and I highly recommend for yourselves and for your kids join it, it’s we call it a movement, because it’s really just getting rid of all those norms that restrict us and freeing us up and that’s it and it’s jcahn@agebrilliantly.org. You can reach me through Vistage, which is jerrycahn@vistagechair.com.

Laurie Barkman:

We’ll put all of those in the show notes as well. Jerry, thanks again. Great to have you here for a really inspiring talk. Thanks so much.

Jerry Cahn:

Thank you. It’s my pleasure. Take care. Have a great day.

Laurie Barkman:

Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. You can always catch Succession Stories on any of your favorite podcast players or YouTube. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the show! If you want to maximize the value of your business and plan for future transition, reach out to me for a complimentary assessment at meetlauriebarkman.com. Tune in next week for more insights from transition to transaction. Until then…here’s to your success. 


My objective is for you to have a lucrative and successful succession. If you want to understand the value of your company today, the potential net proceeds of a transaction, and your financial needs after you leave the business, that’s a great place to start. The sooner you understand these numbers, the more time you’ll have to close the gap, if there is one. Take the next step by requesting an initial meeting to begin planning for your business transition and strategic exit today. Request a call with me at meetlauriebarkman.com

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