It’s been our experience that most business owners don’t think about their eventual “exit” until it’s almost imminent.
Which, in most cases, means that it’s too late.
The question: “how will you eventually exit your business?” is a good one to ask early on – and then re-ask periodically – because situations change.
“I’m NEVER going to retire!” might be your response when you’re in the prime of your career, full of energy, and having fun growing your business.
Your answer might change when you’re 70 and ready to spend more time on the golf course and less time in the daily grind.
In this article, we’re going to show you some options, some questions to consider, and some resources that can help you plan for your eventual exit.
7 Options for Exiting your Business
Often, when we think about exiting a company, we conjure the image of a spectacular business sale where a buyer swoops in, pays an enormous price, and the business owner rides off into the sunset.
The reality is that there are several different ways to exit the day-to-day operations of your business. These are the most common options:
This is the closest exit to the stereotypical sale where you sell 100% of your business to a third-party buyer and walk away.
Sell Part (Re-Capitalization)
Under this scenario, you sell a portion of your equity, which allows you to take some money out while you continue to maintain some equity in your company.
This is a “fire sale” where there is assumed to be little goodwill in your business and you simply sell its hard assets.
Hire someone to run it for you
Another option for exiting the day-to-day operations of your business is to hire a President & Chief Operating Officer (COO) to take over running your business day to day. With a COO in place, you continue to be responsible for major strategic decisions and would likely continue to work in your business and draw a salary.
Become the Chairperson
As a Chairperson, you would relinquish the day-to-day operations to another leader who you appoint as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In this scenario, it is unlikely that you would draw a salary or have any day-to-day responsibilities in your company, but you would likely retain all (or most) of your equity in the business and, as a shareholder, may continue to be able to draw dividends from time to time.
Transfer to Family
In this scenario, you could undertake a family transition where a family member(s) gradually takes over running your business. Succession plans like these are usually executed over many years; in most cases your shares would be purchased using the cash flow from your business.
Your manager or managers could choose to buy you out. Given their knowledge of your business, managers can often access bank financing or private equity to raise the money to acquire your business.
Now that we’ve looked at the options, the next thing to look at is your readiness.
4 questions to consider when you’re thinking about exiting your business
For a successful exit, you need to be able to say a hearty “Yes!” to these important questions.
1. Are you financially ready personally to exit?
If your goal in exiting your business is to retire, you’ll want to ensure you will have enough investable assets to create the income stream you need to fund your retirement. The first thing you need to figure out: how much will you need?
2. Are you ready mentally or emotionally to exit?
I once had a client call me the night before his business sold. He was about to receive an enormous deposit into his personal bank account, so I expected he would be on top of the world and calling to celebrate. Instead, he was near tears. He didn’t know who he would be or what he would do without a business to run.
As business owners, we derive tremendous satisfaction and purpose from running our businesses. It becomes part of our identity. Losing that can be a real blow if we’re not prepared.
3. Is your business ready for sale or handover?
You might be ready. But is your business?
We do a lot of work in either helping families transition ownership and leadership to the next generation – or helping them find a buyer and arrange a sale.
Most of the time, while the owner may be ready to leave – the business is not ready to survive without them.
4. If you’re selling – is the business attractive to potential buyers?
4 out of 5 small businesses listed for sale don’t sell.
Most business owners don’t realize that only about 25% of the “saleability” of a business is based on financial performance – the other 75% of the value comes from intangible factors that make a business attractive or unattractive.
Family businesses – especially those that are “family first” businesses – are often unattractive to buyers.
There can be many reasons – but one of the biggest is when the business relies on the owner for decision-making, leadership, customer relationships, and sales (making it rain.)
When the business owner’s personal involvement is a key part of what makes a business successful, buyers will either heavily discount their offer – or decline to make an offer at all.
The good news is that if you have 3-5 years to work on the attractiveness of your business, you can double, triple, or even quadruple its value.
What’s next for you?
Ready to sell now? Book a call with Rob to discuss M&A Intermediary Services.
Planning to eventually sell, pass your business down to the next generation, or retire? Get our FREE Exit Planning Resource Kit.
Your kit includes
- An exit planning checklist with a 5-step action plan to ensure you have a happy, lucrative exit from your business
- An online assessment to help you assess your personal, financial readiness to exit
- An online assessment that will help you gauge whether you are mentally and emotionally ready to exit
- An Exit Planning Strategy Session with one of our advisors to help you map out your plan
- An online business readiness assessment that includes an estimate of how much your business could sell for and provides guidance for what you can do to increase its value
To get instant access to your kit, fill in the form below:
Thinking About Selling Your Business?
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Whether you’re planning to retire and let the next generation take over - or you’re thinking about selling your business to a third party - the sooner you start planning for a successful exit, the better.
For a successful exit, you need to be able to say a hearty “Yes!” to these important questions:
- Are you financially ready personally to exit?
- Are you ready mentally or emotionally to exit?
- Is your business ready for sale or handover?
- If you’re selling - is the business attractive to potential buyers?
This kit contains our best resources to help you answer these questions.
Enter your email address below to get instant access.