Regardless of the motivation behind starting a company, it’s crucial that entrepreneurs establish a clear destination for their business. Without a defined direction, they risk failing to create significant value for their companies. As an owner, you should recognize that you will exit at some point, and include the possibility of leaving your business into your plan of action. If you haven’t thought about an exit strategy for your business, or if you think it’s too soon, you’re not alone. Nearly half of business owners don’t have a formal exit strategy planned. To ensure success when parting ways, it is essential to consider the current state of your business, its future trajectory, and the necessary steps to reach that point.
An exit strategy is a vital element of your comprehensive business plan as it guides how you operate and expand your business over its lifespan. Its ultimate objective is to optimally position your business and enhance its value for potential buyers in the future. However, having a plan in place is not enough. You must also be able to realistically execute that plan.
Crafting a Comprehensive Plan
Developing an overall business plan, exit strategy, and personal lifestyle goals involves careful consideration of numerous factors. Your business should demonstrate consistent growth, scalability, and performance metrics. By building a company that is perceived as scalable and valuable by potential buyers, you increase the likelihood of a successful exit. Stay attuned to industry trends, emerging technologies, and market dynamics to position your business optimally in the eyes of future investors or acquirers.
Evaluate your products, services, and overall business model to determine their long-term relevance. Will your business continue to hold value and appeal to potential buyers when the time comes to exit — now or in a decade or two? Engaging in conversations with others in your industry who have already undergone successful exits can provide valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges you may encounter.
Involving Your Leadership Team
Building a capable team that can drive your business toward your desired goals can make all the difference. When planning your exit strategy, it is critical to consider individuals who will be instrumental in your organization’s present and future growth. Your chief financial officer and key members of your leadership team should be involved in the decision-making process.
As part of this process, determine who should be involved in discussions regarding the direction your company should take. This decision will also significantly influence your overall employee retention strategy. Consulting with trusted advisers can help you determine effective ways to compensate or incentivize your leadership team to actively contribute to your company’s long-term growth and success.
Maximizing Your Business Value
Achieving a balance between current and long-term value is key to your business. Regardless of how you envision leaving your company, all your efforts should align toward the same goal. You should always strive to maximize your business’ value. There are a number of factors that contribute to the value of a business, including:
- The right functional organizational structure
- The right products and services
- Differentiators in the marketplace
- Capabilities of your leadership team
- Standardization of processes
- A robust growth strategy and the ability to execute it
- Efficient information systems that drive organizational effectiveness
- Effective reporting tools that provide timely and accurate financial and operational information to facilitate sound decision-making
Addressing all these foundational factors is crucial to creating value. A stable growth strategy and a consistent trajectory will appeal to buyers in the future. To assess whether your business is on track to maximize value, it’s wise to seek guidance from knowledgeable consultants.
These experts can help determine how to efficiently run and grow your business over its lifetime, while maximizing its value and supporting your exit strategy. Plus, they can provide guidance on how to involve the right individuals in your exit strategy planning and set them up for success. By developing a well-informed strategy now, you gain control over your future and can choose when and how to depart from your company.
Securing Your Future
As your company becomes increasingly profitable over time, it is critical to work toward securing your future. While your business grows and its value increases, it may be tempting to indulge in luxury purchases — like a larger house, boat, or car. However, it is crucial to be disciplined in spending and saving. It’s unlikely you’ll wake up one day and find your company worth a substantial amount of money and be able to sell it for a nice profit.
It’s wise to collaborate with a financial planner or wealth manager to develop a plan that sets you up for success after an exit. Planning for contingencies and diversifying your net worth is essential. For example, putting some wealth aside for a retirement plan will reduce your need to put pressure on the sale price of your business when it’s time to leave. By not having all your eggs in one basket, you can achieve greater financial security and peace of mind.
Your exit strategy should be customized to align with your specific needs and the expectations of the future buyer, whether it involves selling to family members, management, or a third party. Crafting a well-thought-out strategy empowers you to shape your own future, giving you control over how and when you leave. Exit strategies are essential in today’s business landscape, and collaborating with the right experts can help navigate the complexities of creating and executing one effectively.
Joe Raymond is the Founder and Managing Partner of RVR Consulting Group. He has successfully facilitated the launch, growth, and exit of 100s of companies. Over many decades, Raymond has helped businesses solve their most pressing challenges, accelerating their growth and maximizing their exit value.