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BUSINESS EXIT PLANNING

What is Business Exit Planning?

Instead of just closing your business one day, stopping everything you worked for and firing your employees, a better move is typically to a plan.  Every business owner needs a plan for wrapping up their involvement in a business. It’s like a Last Will and Testament for your business.  That either means getting the business ready for a change of ownership, whether through a trusted younger generation or to another capable company. Executing a well-thought-out exit strategy can increase your sale price, while ensuring the business continues after you’ve left.

Business Exit Planning goals

The aim is to leave your business in the best possible shape for a new owner. That means it should be operating at peak profitability, the books should be spick and span, and all your processes will be written down so a stranger can come in and run the place. Oh, and the business won’t need you anymore – no matter how important you once were. It takes years to do all this. That’s why it’s never too soon to start on your exit strategy.

Once your business is in good shape, typically these nine steps will help you get your plan in place.

1. Determine what kind of buyer you would like.

There will be different priorities depending on who you're selling to. If it's family, take pains to make everything transparent and fair. You don’t want the transaction to cause tension or conflict between children. If you’re selling to employees, be prepared for staggered payments. They’ll probably start with a deposit and pay you the rest from the business’s income over time. If you sell to the highest bidder, then get all your records in order as otherwise they won’t have any idea how you operate, or what sort of money you make.

2. Decide how fast you’ll want completely out

Some buyers, such as family or employees, won’t have the cash to buy you out straight away. You might have to keep an interest in the business and stay involved to protect your investment. If that’s the case, you’ll need to negotiate consulting fees. If you want a clean break, you’ll probably be better off selling on the open market. That may not work if you have a client services business, however. Buyers of those types of businesses will expect you to stay around to help ensure clients don't leave.

3. Get your accounting very organized

Smart buyers will ask to see at least two years’ worth of clean and dependable financial records. If your bookkeeping isn't all it could be, get it fixed now. And if there’s something you can do to improve profitability, do it as soon as possible. You want that upswing to show in your accounts as a sustainable trend rather than as a recent spike. Use our balance sheet template to help get things in order.

4. Make yourself redundant

No one’s going to buy your business if it can’t survive without you. If you have employees, give them the training and authority they need to succeed. Scale back your involvement. Be less available to customers and clients. Delegate big decisions. Show up to work less often.

5. Ensure your business is a well-oiled machine

Ensure you have formal (and efficient) processes for getting work done. Who does what, when, and how? Make sure there are protocols to guide all this. Potential buyers will be impressed if some things in your business happen automatically.

6. Write down how everything happens in your business

Write a “how to” manual for your business, so that a stranger could pick up the reins and run everything tomorrow. Record every process, including admin. Make a note of the steps you follow for each of these tasks. While you’re at it, write formal job descriptions for employees. And create templates for tasks that are repeated in your business.

7. Figure out how to drive up the valuation of your small business

What are the things that make your business great? Do you have an outstanding product? Loyal customers? Amazing intellectual property? Find the strengths in your business and grow them, so that they become even more valuable. Similarly, figure out the biggest holdbacks and fix them. You’ll need someone from outside the business to provide this assessment. Get your accountant involved. If they don’t have the skills you need, they may be able to recommend someone who does.

8. Get a basic business valuation

You won’t know what you’ll get for your business until the day it’s sold, but you can get a rough estimate. Ask for a professional opinion (we can help). A guideline valuation will help satisfy your curiosity and set realistic expectations. If they predict a lower price than you’d hoped, you might delay your exit, and spend some time building value in the business.

9. Work on a sales pitch

Buyers need to be excited by your business, so come up with an elevator pitch that captures the essentials. Craft a story that explains why you got started, how you’ve grown, and what you’ve achieved. Paint a positive picture of the future, too, but keep it real. Incorporate stats and facts to support what you’re saying.

Exiting is inevitable

Exiting your business is inevitable. It will happen whether you’re in control of it or not.  You will sleep better at night if make a plan now and start getting your business ready for the next owner. It’ll help you command a better price and increase the chance that your business survives. Learn more about selling your business.

And remember that anything you do to benefit your future buyer, will also benefit you. You’ll have a more efficient, profitable and easier to manage business.

It’s never too soon to build a business exit strategy. Set up a free consultation with us and we will help you get started.

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