I have cancer. Should I sell my business?

Dear Aunty B

I have run my own business for the past six years and have built it to 25 staff.

I have just been diagnosed with cancer and although the prognosis is as good as it can be at this stage I don’t know how I am going to cope.

I feel overwhelmed at the thought of the surgery, the treatment and then the follow up appointments. I am in my late 30s and have already noticed that my energy is lower than before. I am wondering what to do.

I don’t want to sell the business, particularly at this stage in the cycle and of course no one can get bank finance to buy anything anyway. But I work long days and I simply don’t know whether I am up to it. In fact, just the thought of juggling the business and my health with all my other commitments (family, a charity board); it makes me feel overwhelmingly tired.

My family and friends say not to make any big decisions at this time. But when is the right time to make them? I am also very hands on and while the place will get by without me it is a bad time for me not to be there. I would value your opinion Aunty as I am a reader from the start.

Sick and tired,



Dear Sick and tired,

Oh. So sorry to hear you are not well.  But look, you are not going to sell your business at this time. Too stressful. Put that out of your mind right now. Instead look at the reason you are feeling anxious. You are an entrepreneur. We like to micromanage too much and plan ahead incessantly.

We also think the world will stop the moment we step off. Plus we know the energy and focus required to run a successful business. So the idea of dropping the ball on any of these fronts is confronting and stressful. But you know what? So what if you drop a few balls. The world isn’t going to end.

I haven’t had cancer myself but I have watched several people close to me deal with cancer. My husband had cancer several years ago.

Saint Husband is a much more patient man than me. He took three months off to recover. He literally cancelled everything and focused on himself, probably for the first time since he was a self-centred teenager. He did turn into a terrible bore and tested my patience as I had to listen to who killed who on The Wire that day. But he did make a full recovery and looks back on that time as, well, horrible, but a bit of a rest in a lifetime of work.

My other experience was watching my friend Gillian Franklin go through cancer. You can read about it here. Basically she planned her way through the whole experience and assembled a team to help her. Wasn’t she smart? Gillian, of course, went on to build a bigger business.

So here is what you are going to do. Change the way you approach business. Work out who takes on more responsibility and make sure there is a person in each division who is responsible for the bottom line. Have a look at your business plan and ensure the people in charge know what they have to do. Set up extra reporting so that you clearly know the position of the business. Once you know people are in charge and that you can measure progress, what more do you need to do? Hey?

The world will go on and you will focus on yourself for a change. The good news is that when you get back you will take a different perspective to work. By delegating more you are going to find the stresses on yourself lessen.

See? One solution to two problems. Now go and start planning for this new stage. And don’t underestimate that your optimism isn’t going to kick straight back in once the shock of your diagnosis passes.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B

To read more Aunty B advice, click here.

Email your questions, problems and issues to auntyb@smartcompany.com.au right now!


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