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More and more small business owners are selling their companies, with sales hitting a four-year high earlier this year in the United States, and Canada predicting its largest small business turnover ever in the next five years.

“Many of our CEOs are baby boomers approaching retirement age,” says Kathleen Richardson-Mauro, co-author with Jane M. Johnson of a practical new guide, “Cashing Out of Your Business.”

“We’re about to see a tsunami of ownership transitions and Kathleen and I worry that too many of these small business owners are not taking steps early enough to plan for it,” adds Johnson.

Richardson-Mauro, a Certified Financial Planner, and Johnson, a Certified Public Accountant, specialize in helping business owners successfully transition out of companies and achieve their goals. They recently launched an educational website, Business Transition Academy, to help owners plan their exits on their own.

“Most CEOs don’t realize they need to start planning years before they might, potentially, be ready to sell or hand off their business,” Johnson says. “And while a lot of that planning is to ensure they’ll have the money to meet their lifestyle goals, there are other equally important considerations.”

Small business owners tend to pour their lives into their companies and it doesn’t take long before their identity is entirely defined by their job, the women say. In order to achieve a successful after-life, they need to start laying the groundwork early for their emotional separation.

Johnson and Richardson-Mauro suggest these steps for small business owners of any age to begin preparing mentally for their non-CEO future:

• Start now. You never know when you might receive an unsolicited purchase offer or what life events might rock your world. Most owners do not start thinking about transitioning out until some event gives them a jolt: a significant birthday; children graduating from college or starting their own families; illness or injury.

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