Exit Strategy. Listen to the news or read a magazine and you’ll notice that the term is tossed around as if it is part of our everyday vocabulary. Any news story about a modern war will include the words, used fairly often to criticize the planners and strategists of the conflict for their lack of foresight while involving their forces in a quagmire, a situation with no visible way of escape. We have seen a number of conflicts for which the criticism seems valid over the last fifty years, not the least of which was the one in Vietnam. It was, in fact, the situation for which the term “exit strategy” was coined, the epitome of a no-win situation.
I am usually impatient with trendy catch phrases such as this and try to avoid them as much as I can, but I found myself using the words the other day as I spoke with a friendly young man I’ll call Chip. He was waiting for me as I unlocked the door to my business that morning. Chip has been a regular customer for a few years and we’ve developed a closer relationship than I do with many of my clients. I like to talk (the fact may have escaped you), as does Chip, so our conversations have gone deeper than the simple mechanics of the transactions which have transpired between us. He had a surprise for me on the day to which I’m referring, though.
He needed an item and I sold it to him, after which we gabbed for awhile. As we reached the end of our banal dialogue, the young man dropped the bomb. “Hey, if you ever decide that you’re ready to move on to something else, I might have some interest in running a music business.” I’m not sure if my mouth hung open long enough for him to notice, but I really wasn’t sure how to respond. It wasn’t that I have never wondered what I’d do if someone offered to buy the business; it’s just that no one ever has before. Chip wasn’t making an offer, but he certainly was earnest in his interest. “I haven’t really worked out my exit strategy,” I stammered out. We talked a little about what would have to happen and I told him just before he headed out the door that it would probably be quite awhile before I was ready to be put out to pasture. I’ve had a little time to consider things since then.
Tonight, I’m still thinking about my exit strategies. I’m not a young man anymore, having just passed a birthday which I somehow feel is significant. At fifty-five, a number of establishments consider me a senior, eligible for their discounts on goods and services. I’m still a ways from the legal age of retirement, but the mind wanders a bit towards the goal of being a little less tied down. Maybe it is time to start thinking and planning my escape…errr…exit, from the business I’ve run for the last twenty-seven years.
While I’m talking about the age I attained recently, I can’t help but remember that evening about twenty years ago when a dear friend of mine, who was celebrating this same auspicious birthday, commented about the prospect of being middle aged. Being young and tactless, I asked her how many people she knew who were one hundred and ten years old. She wasn’t really amused. Right now, I’m not nearly as amused by it as I was back then.
Now, where was I? Oh yes! Exit Strategy. I won’t bore you with the details of what will eventually happen with my business. I’m really more interested in the other ramifications of the term “exit strategy”. The experts in most fields tell you that you should know how you’re getting out before you actually get in. Every spy and adventure hero I’ve ever watched in the movies knew before they went into a situation how they were going to extricate themselves. At the very least, they looked for the back door, to be sure there was an avenue of retreat. It might behoove me to find the way out while I’m still able.
But, as I think, I realize that this is true for so many different areas in life–things about which we seem to avoid thinking until it’s too late. You may be surprised to find that having no specific strategy is in itself a strategy of sorts. A poor one, but still a strategy. We don’t have as much say in the process, but we are making choices.
There are so many facets to this subject, including the areas from which no exit strategy is acceptable–marriage, parental responsibilities, care for our parents. Other facets will spring to your mind. I do wonder, however, if we have considered the one final exit strategy which we will absolutely not be able to avoid.
I’ve been reminded again and again, as time marches on, that our time on this earth is limited. We don’t know that limit. The obituary list in my local newspaper the last few weeks has included old people in their eighties and nineties, and middle aged folks in their forties. There has even been a teenager or two recently. We have no guarantee of anything past the moment in which we live, right now.
Just as I have been reminded that I might be wise to plan an exit strategy soon for my business, I would suggest that we also would be well advised to make exit plans for our ultimate departure.
The words on my old clock seem to be apropos tonight. “Tempus Fugit.”
What’s your plan?
“Time and tide wait for no man.”
(St. Mahrer~1225 AD)
“…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgement.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012 All Rights Reserved.