Aaron Blackman rang in a new season of life when his business sold hours before 2021 ended.
“The settlement came through to my bank account about 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. I remember opening my app on my phone, and I’m seeing this enormous amount of money,” says Aaron Blackman, former Retail Express CEO and Brisbane resident.
Exhausted from the stress of the sale’s due diligence period, Blackman first celebrated with a 30-minute nap. Then, in a move reflective of his approach to life after the sale, he leapt straight to the next big thing.
“Woke up – probably had the best New Years Eve Party of my life,” says Blackman.
Blackman had plenty to celebrate. He spent 16 years building Retail Express, the first company to offer a purely SaaS platform for omnichannel retail management. And though he’d bootstrapped his business without external investments or partners, he trusted Corum Group, the leading experts in tech M&A, to help sell his business. The move paid off with a purchase by ecommerce platform Maropost.
But despite an optimal outcome on selling his business, Blackman didn’t have a clear plan of what he wanted next. He knew that Maropost shared his vision to create a unified commerce application, so he decided to keep helping his acquirer achieve that goal.
“Immediately following the deal, I literally went back into the business, so I didn’t get time to decompress,” Blackman says. “You know, I really should have taken a short break, and I’d recommend that to anyone.”
Within two weeks of the transaction, Blackman moved into the COO position of the merged companies. He led 350 staff members in Australia, India, Sweden and Toronto. Because the team worked across four different time zones, Blackman found, “my day was, like, early morning right into the late evenings.”
Work didn’t slow down, as Maropost acquired two more companies in the same year. Blackman led post-acquisition integration across four companies simultaneously.
“So, I was exhausted by the end of 2022, to say the least.”
Deciding it was time for a break, Blackman took two months off around Christmas of 2022. He used the time to pursue a passion project he’d been dreaming of.
“A few months after the transaction, I took some time and started journaling for myself. Almost like a playbook of all the things I would have done differently,” Blackman says. After a few months, he had a list of about 50 things he’d do differently when starting a technology business.
The journaling exercise led to an interest in training. During his break, he set up a small boutique venture studio, Venture10x, to mentor small SaaS companies. He helped other founders avoid the mistakes he’d made and taught them how to work faster and more efficiently.
After the two-month break from his day job, he returned to Maropost part-time, supporting the business but unwinding himself from day-to-day operations. Going forward, he’ll be available as an advisor, but he’s positioned himself for the big vacation that he never took after selling Retail Express.
“I’ve got a very active mind,” Blackman says. “I’ve always got ideas coming up, and I’ve had a lot of friends say, ‘Aaron, just give yourself some time to relax, and focus on yourself and family and friends – and don’t try to force anything.”
Blackman continues, “So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m literally taking at least a six-month sabbatical, where I’m just going to focus on, you know, health, wellness, family, friends. Focusing on my investment strategy. And really just enjoying the fruits of what obviously was a great outcome for me.”
But Blackman’s sabbatical excludes the ubiquitous vacation staple: travel.
“For me, travel is something I look for that’s got to be very adventure based,” Blackman says, “But for the next six months, no travel. Because I’ve done a lot of travel in the past. So, zero travel for me for the next six months.”
Blackman has put planning his future on hiatus so his active mind can take a real break. He says, “And then, at the end of the year, I think, I’ll just reassess and see where things go. So, I’ll definitely be doing something very significant next, but I’ll give myself some space to relax for a bit.”
We at Corum wish Aaron Blackman all the best in his upcoming sabbatical. Whatever he does next is sure to impress.
If you’re an exiting CEO, we encourage you to learn from Aaron Blackman’s experiences. Staying on with your acquiring company can be deeply rewarding, but you may find you need time to unwind after the demanding due diligence period.
Selling your business frees you to explore other interests and prioritize your life outside of work. Ensure you know your next steps before you exit for an optimal post-sale life.