At some point in our business lives entrepreneurs have to think about leaving the business they have built over the years. The driving force may be a desire to cash out because the market it right, you want to retire or a successor is ready to take over. The key to a successful exit is to plan sooner rather than later. Waiting to the last minute will limit your options and will make it unlikely that you will realize full value or be properly prepared.
1. Set your Exit Goals
a. When do you want to leave?
b. How much money you need for financial independence?
c. To whom you want to transfer the business?
2. Create an Exit Plan. Create a team of trusted advisors and put your plan in writing. Your team should include your attorney, estate planner, and accountant. In addition, an M&A professional and/or family business consultant is essential to coordinate the team, provide expertise and to manage the soft issues that can derail your plan. Soft issues include choosing a successor, distributing the wealth fairly if not equally and having a post retirement lifestyle plan.
3. Build on the Value you have created. What makes your business salable and valuable? You must make the business an investment that has inherent value and is more than just you.
4. Develop a Contingency Plan. While you are preparing the business for sale if you die or become disabled or have a business setback your plans will be for nought. Have a specific plan to manage these risks including life and disability insurance and a management contingency plan.
5. Parallel Plan your Business Sale with your Estate Plan. We get to pick two of three choices to leave our money to (if we don’t spend it first) – Our family, charity and Uncle Sam. Planning ahead will provide you with choices and minimize income and estate taxes.
Whether you want to leave your business as soon as possible, at some indefinite time in the future or somewhere in between, good planning will enhance your profitability and lower your business risks today and will improve your future chances for achieving a successful exit.