Letting go of a business you built: Sometimes the best thing to say is simply goodbye

“Frost? On the kitchen floor?” he wondered incredulously, with his hand against his forehead as if to stop the impending dread from flooding into his brain and bringing with it the hassle of another problem at one of our company’s rental properties.

That’s all I heard as I walked into my home office. As the owner of the business, normally I would jump in as the problem solver. Start taking notes. Determine who would do what, and when I would follow up, and start dictating consequences if things weren’t done quickly and inexpensively to my liking.

But I didn’t feel that need today. I’ve been training him years, and I’m finally ready to let him truly take over. My replacement in my company. A company I started to help give us a little financial security in retirement and then morphed into something that should help us pay the bills and then turned into a money pit adding to our debt after the real estate crash. (Yes, that one. A long time ago. It’s taken this long to dig out of the hole, and we still haven’t fully escaped.)

He’s been ready for a while. I added his name on the company LLC as a Christmas gift last year. It was his idea to run weekly meetings to be more organized, and he’s been leading those for the past few months. But I’m always there, tracking the conversation and duties, throwing in my perspective, adding my usually angry outburst at least once or twice in a two-hour meeting. A meeting that I dread.

I dread the meeting — or doing virtually anything for this company that I started 10 years ago and put my blood, sweat and tears into nurturing — because it is not my passion. The frustrating work required to run a property management business is not driven by purpose. It was created out of a seed planted by a book I read and then grew out of perceived financial desperation when neither my husband nor I could find a stable full-time job or enough freelance work to pay the bills after sending hundreds of resumes and trying to piece together a living from a dozen different part-time jobs.

When the business unexpectedly swallowed up my life, and made me a cranky wife and a yelling mom and an overwhelmed woman all the time, that’s when I knew I needed help. And a change. I’ve been slowly bringing in new people to take over duties, even if it meant going into more debt. I’ve never been willing to just close up shop. I’m not a quitter. And my husband believes in the business. He’s gotten more involved over the years. And now he’s taken over, or rather, I allowed myself to let it go — so I can let something new in, something that fills me with passion and purpose.

When I walked into our home office, and realized surprisingly the weekly phone meeting had started 20 minutes earlier, I didn’t feel compelled to sit down, open my document of unfinished duties for the various team members, and jump in. I felt a sense of peace that I could simply walk out, and he would handle it. His way. Not my way. And I was okay with that.

This is the third week in a row he started the meeting without me, while I was still sleeping. The first two weeks I missed it we were visiting relatives, and I was in vacation mode. He let me sleep in. This week I have been staying up until about 4 am every night working on my passion project, finally relenting to my internal clock and producing when I am most creative and most of the world is asleep, and some days not setting an alarm and not waking up until almost noon.

It’s easy to work long hours and work late and wake up excited to work when you love what you do. That’s what it’s been like for most of my career as a journalist, writer, and video producer. Anytime I have a new freelance assignment, I throw myself into it and focus on that until I finish. But those projects are a few times a month, not every day. And I have a burning desire to create content every day, so I developed my own brand focused around one driving purpose — to improve the lives of working moms (which will subsequently improve the lives of their children and our future generations) through honesty, truth and transparency. I interview working moms as often as I can and encourage them to share the messy parts of their lives that don’t show up on the highlight reels of social media, so other moms can relate to their mistakes and not feel alone. I find out how these moms solve their problems and share those solutions in videos I create for my YouTube channel. I love this work. It fills me with enthusiasm and hope and pride. But it doesn’t pay me anything. It will make money someday when I build my brand, but that takes time and patience and hard work. And it means stepping away from my property management business, which I keep saying I want to do. But I keep letting myself get sucked back in, because I convince myself only I have the expertise to oversee certain areas of the business.

Not only is that attitude holding me back from fully pursuing my passion, but it’s holding my husband back from fully taking the reins and instilling the business with his own purpose-driven direction. Last night, after I finally dove into a new effort to drastically increase my content creation to better build my brand through motivation from the #garyveechallenge, I started reading a new book before falling asleep called “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose.” I knew before I even began reading that my Working Mom Warrior brand is driven by a strong purpose, especially because it will likely be many months before I make any money from this new business. But what occurred to me while reading the first 24 pages is that I’ve been running my real estate business for 10 years with no real purpose. Yes, I did give it a name that inherently encompassed a purpose and wrote a mission statement outlining that purpose. But I never really shared it with my team and often didn’t live it as the leader of the business. It was never my passion, so the purpose never resonated enough with me to be true to it. My husband and our team feel far more passion for real estate than I do, which is just another reason I am so relieved I finally realized I need to completely step aside and let my husband and his purpose drive the business forward.

It’s not that I haven’t been extricating myself from the real estate business for months. I’ve been tracking my time with the goal of spending fewer and fewer hours on property management and more and more hours on producing content for working moms. And I’ve been achieving that goal slowly, week by week.

But I hadn’t really taken back my mental energy from this business, so I could devote it fully to something else. Until today.

You can’t give your heart fully to something until you let go of whatever had a previous grip on it. And I have finally done that; it now fills me with exuberant possibilities for my working mom brand.

Thank you, author Roy M. Spence, Jr. Thank you, podcast host Gary Vaynerchuk. And thank you, Adam, for your love and leadership. And for dealing with the frost on the floor.

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