Exit Strategies

Strategic Initiatives (Part 8)

A number of requests have come in lately for assistance with exit strategies for owners and key performers. For some it is because of age, others are simply tired of being beaten up by the economy and many have more dreams to pursue.

An exit strategy is a strategic initiative and should be considered the day the business is conceived. Knowing possible options for exit and transference builds the business to maximize the value when the opportunity becomes an option. The key words here are option and opportunity. We all know that just about everything in business is for sale dependent on price, terms and conditions. It is being ready and able to execute when the right opportunity or circumstance occurs that makes a huge difference in the satisfaction gained and value realized.

First of all, what is an exit strategy? An exit strategy is a defined course of action designed to culminate in the transition of duties, responsibilities and often ownership, with a desired beneficial outcome.

Optimally, all businesses would have an exit strategy or strategies in mind at the inception of business, but most business owners do not start to consider initiating a strategy until a life or business changing point or circumstance occurs. At that point, options are fewer and, in some cases, the peak point of value may have already passed...a person who was considered an heir apparent has taken another path or the business has not built the processes and team for continuance without the current owner of leadership.

So where do you start to build a strategy? Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Consider what you want to do post-transition. Do you want to leave or stay involved? What roles and responsibilities are important to you? Can you tolerate someone else driving the direction of the company if you remain in some capacity?
  2. Who is the likely successor? Is it a third party unrelated buyer or someone in the company currently? Is it perhaps a family member or other person not currently involved that can either work into ownership or be “gifted” ownership? If there is an heir apparent, are they ready, willing and able to take the lead with passion?
  3. What do I want out of the business if sold? What am I willing to do to make the sale or transition occur in terms of time, money and my involvement or commitment? If I am going on to other ventures or retiring, am I willing to be non-competitive?
  4. What are the dependencies to you executing your exit strategy? Consider money, time, life circumstance, achievements and other opportunities for starters.
  5. Are the people, processes and business elements in place for continued viability and to produce a return on investment for someone else if you are not a part of the picture?
  6. If you got a call from someone interested in buying your company, what would be your first reaction? What would you need to know and what would be your next step?
These are just starter questions but extremely important in considering the options and potential for an exit strategy. A well planned exit is the culminating strategic initiative of a successful business.