I close off my sabbatical leave after the withdrawal from Smals B.V. with a sailing expedition to Antarctica, together with five other people. On this trip, I start thinking about my own future, what do I want to do with my time? A companion on board advises me to do something related to family businesses, especially with regard to transfers and takeovers. With the South Pole in sight, we work out several business cases to come to the conclusion that consulting firms mainly focus on the technical side of transfers and takeovers: legal, financial and fiscal services. The personal dilemma's I have experienced as a parting owner/managing director were not addressed by any of them. Strange, because in an emotional context such as a family business, it can be quite lonely and confrontational to make all the tough decisions.

This is how I got the idea to develop a program for owners/managing directors who are ready to leave the family business. In March of 2002, I started my research into the personal and emotional aspects of the sale and transfer of family businesses. To this end, I interviewed many former owners of such companies about their experiences: what went well and what didn't go so well? I also interviewed several successors: within family owned businesses, management buy-ins and buy-outs, and heirs who were sidetracked in the process. To get an even better understanding of these aspects and processes, I organize two roundtables with experts by experience, led by a De Baak trainer-coach; one was with eight entrepreneurs who had just sold their company, and the other one was with eight entrepreneurs who had just bought a company or took over from their parents.
I also researched the scientific journals and publications to further substantiate my approach. I spoke with three experts in the field of family businesses: Prof. Dr. Roberto Floren of Nyenrode Business School, Albert Jan Thomassen, Director of the Center for Family Businesses, and Prof. Dr. Theo Compernolle, expert in stress and executive development.