For many owners, it’s impossible to separate their personal identity from their work as a business owner. So the idea of exiting a business can feel daunting and emotionally fraught. They may wonder how they’ll manage the process, and whether leaving is really a good idea. It’s natural to ask these questions. Indeed, doing so shows that you take selling your business seriously.
An exit plan makes the process more manageable. No owner can write one alone, without assistance. Instead, a good exit plan is a collaborative process that relies heavily on expert input. So how can you get the most out of exit planning and draft a workable exit plan? Try these suggestions.
Plan for a Collaborative Process
The best exit plans draw on expertise and insight from several different business advisors—a lawyer, accountant, a tax expert, and perhaps a broker or M&A advisor. Every sale involves several goals, and your expert team can ensure you achieve them all. Ensure your exit planning team can work together, since there may be conflicts that can affect your long-term strategy.
Remain in Control
While the right team can lend significant expertise, making the exit planning process run more smoothly, your team cannot tell you what you want, or what you should do following your departure. You’re the expert on your business and your life. So don’t surrender control to others. Stay in the driver’s seat, and be clear with your team about what you hope to achieve with this exit.
Don’t Rush the Process
Your exit options are only theoretical if you haven’t yet explored your desires for the future. It’s tempting to spend time and money exploring exit strategies. But a strategy offers little of value if it doesn’t address what matters to you. Before selecting an exit plan or working toward a goal, your team should help you assess your priorities, then explore options that help you achieve them. A solution doesn’t do anything if there’s not a clearly defined problem. Define your problems and goals first. Don’t rush into a plan that offers little in the way of tangible support.
Understand That Exit Planning Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Exit planning is not something you can sit down and do over your lunch break. Your exit plan is not just another inconvenience to cross off of your to-do list. Despite this, many owners hope to get through the process as quickly as possible. When they discover how involved it can be, they may be discouraged, or lose planning momentum. Be prepared for a process that unfolds over time, potentially spanning many years. Moreover, know that your exit plan can and should evolve as the realities of your business and your hopes for the future shift.
Choosing the right team can help exit planning feel less overwhelming. Select people who have done this before, and who can help you set reasonable expectations for the marketing, sale, and exit of your business. You may be an expert at running your business, but you’ll probably only sell a company once. Make sure you’re working with people who have done this before.