When Clients Step Down from the Business They Started - Part Two

The power and value of Life Career Planning

By Tom Hubler

Key Takeaways:

  • As couples get older and start to consider retirement, many realize how little they understand about each other’s dreams and values for the next stage in life.
  • Life Career Planning techniques can help entrepreneurs and their spouses realize a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
  • Life Career Planning helps guide entrepreneurs and their spouses from the past to the future: (1) Harvest the Past, (2) Turn the Soil and (3) Plant New Seeds.

As we discussed in Part One of this article series, the decision to step down from a business that you worked so hard to build is never an easy one. But many entrepreneurs do not discuss their expectations fully with spouses and other family members who may or may not be part of the business. Now we’ll discuss how to develop your dreams for life after retirement, as we explore the Life Career Planning process and its many benefits.

Nearly all couples have implicit, unmentioned assumptions about their marital relationships. As couples get older and consider retirement or changing their work relationship, many have not considered a plan for the future. They have no resources, no practice and no road map, so when they look ahead, they feel adrift.

I help business families address this change by using a process I call Life Career Planning. Using Life Career Planning techniques, they realize a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Both the entrepreneur and the spouse turn their dreams into reality. The couple enjoy peace of mind about their future. Most important, the process helps them devise a common perspective on their values. They are able to share their goals and dreams effectively with each other in a manner that honors and engages both spouses. They redirect their wisdom and their knowledge of life to produce a realistic, engaging plan for meaningful work and leisure time. They look ahead by looking back.

Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard extolled, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” To me that means we recognize, embrace and celebrate our accomplishments so that we can use them to energize the future.

The past as platform for the future

Life Career Planning unfolds in three simple stages that help draw entrepreneur and spouse from the past to the future: (1) Harvest the Past, (2) Turn the Soil and (3) Plant New Seeds.

  1. The couple Harvest the Past by celebrating the blessings of their life. They own and let go of regrets and hurts of the past. I offer pathways that encourage candid exchanges and mutual encouragement. As the couple harvest the past, they are able to stand in the present, to make conscious choices about what they want for themselves, their family and their business.

  2. The couple Turn the Soil by speculating on all they might like to do. To get there, they may talk about their personal purpose, what’s meaningful in their life, and the role that spirituality plays in their work and life. They discuss how to be content by aligning their gifts with all areas of their lives.

  3. The couple Plant New Seeds by, as the term implies, putting new ideas into a plan for the future. They create a new dream together based on their explicit, shared goals and values—the discussions they have had during the harvesting and soil-turning phases. Many aspects are drawn together: work, family relationships, money/wealth, community service, leisure time, health and spirituality. By recognizing and aligning all these aspects, the couple build direction into their future and an enthusiasm to engage in it.

A case study in Life Career Planning

Here is one example from my practice that illustrates how the process unfolds. Brad (not his real name) owned a local construction company that remained successful throughout this last recession. He was 55, and while not totally committed to retiring early, he knew he wanted to work less. He made this decision because his father had died prematurely from a heart attack.

Brad’s three sons and his wife all worked for the company. His sons were hardworking and dedicated, but they didn’t have the necessary skills to take over the business. Plus, Brad had a nonfamily manager who he believed could run the company.

Brad began the process of discovery on his own. He wanted to continue playing a role in the business by becoming chairman of the board. This was a new role in the company, and Brad was excited to assume that leadership function. Brad also wanted to extend his commitments to the small rural community in which the company was located. He saw himself becoming more active in both the community and his faith. Brad was a homebody and didn’t anticipate a lot of traveling once he and his wife, Ruth, had more free time. Essentially, Brad “harvested the past” and “turned the soil” on his own.

When Brad and Ruth got together to share their individual plans, there was much to talk about. Ruth had a different perspective about travel and looked forward to seeing the world. She and Brad shared the same values, but they realized they had separate ideas about how to implement those values. Brad wanted to direct his service to the local community, while Ruth had a more international focus to her plans.

Finding the right balance in early retirement

Brad and Ruth worked out a compromise. Each contributed to a shared plan by generously accommodating the other. Brad agreed to accompany Ruth on some of her international service trips and encouraged Ruth to invite some of her close friends to join her as travel companions at other times. Ruth agreed to participate in and devote some of her time to community service with Brad. She even joined Brad as a co-chair on a fundraiser for a community nonprofit organization.

The heart of their plan was their common devotion to their family and six grandchildren. They had always agreed that family was most important to them, and they continued to participate in their grandchildren’s activities and to support their educational goals. As Maya, their 17-year-old granddaughter, was preparing for college, they worked with their accountant to help defray the cost of Maya’s tuition. In addition, they created an educational account for all their grandchildren.

Another aspect of Brad and Ruth’s relationship was their strong spiritual bond and their active participation in their religious community. As part of their commitment, together they explored ways to support a mission in Central America.

Finally, as a couple, they had always been concerned that their financial success might have a negative impact on their grandchildren. To offset this concern, they involved their grandchildren in Nathan Dungan’s Share Save Spend program, which links money decisions to values.

Applying Dungan’s ideas, Brad and Ruth gave each of their grandchildren sums of money and had them work with their parents (Brad and Ruth’s children) to decide how much to share, save and spend. The results have been gratifying, as each of their grandchildren is involved in supporting a local nonprofit while developing gratitude for their blessings. Brad and Ruth could not be more proud.

To create their Life Career Plan, Ruth and Brad developed a plan for meaningful work and leisure time. Their community participation magnified their fulfillment and purpose. They applied their shared values to transform their dreams into reality.


The idea of “retirement” does not have to be uncomfortable or mystifying. Instead, I recommend that you use Brad and Ruth’s example to create a new dream for your future in work, leisure time, relationships, service, purpose and money.

About the Author

Tom Hubler (tomh@thehublergroup.com) is president of Hubler for Business Families (hublerfamilybusiness.com) and an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas. He can be contacted at (612) 375-0640.