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Will You Be Ready?

Will you be ready when it is time to leave your company? A business owner needs to have a basic business strategy to monitor company financials regularly. Several owners consider this a strategy to prepare for exiting their businesses. However, monitoring company financials is like looking in the rearview mirror. What if you could incorporate a business strategy that looks forward and leads to accelerating profitability and increases business value? In addition, this strategy helps lead to less stress, more free time, and ultimately helps take control of a business exit?

The Active Strategy

The Business Strategy is called Exit Planning. John H. Brown, author of How to Run Your Business So You Can Leave it in Style, writes: “Exit Planning is a process that results in the creation and execution of a strategy allowing business owners to exit their businesses on their terms and conditions. It is an established process that creates a written road map, or Exit Plan, often involving efforts of several professionals, facilitated and led by an Exit Planning Advisor who ensures not only the plan creation but its timely execution.”

Unfortunately, most business owners do not employ this strategy. They are personally unprepared, and their business is not ready when it comes time for them to transition. Ultimately, there is less control over the timing of the exit and even less control over the value they receive when they do exit their business entirely.

What can you do?

Consider this when building an exit strategy:

1. Focus – Adhere to the niche the company serves. Buyers place a premium valuation on focused companies that do one thing very well, better than others. Do not stray from the niche because it destroys value.

2. Develop a Management Team & Reduce Owner Dependency – Ensure the management team can carry on without the business owner when the business sells. It is difficult for the business owner to disengage while they still actively manage. But this is precisely when the owner can create more value—because when the business is not exclusively dependent on the owner, it is worth more! Ask yourself, if I leave today for an extended length of time, will the success of my business be impaired? If your answer is yes, you have not created value. You have created a glorified job.

3. Assess Your Business – Prepare an objective assessment of the company’s current position and potential. A simple SWOT analysis is beneficial. Write down the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats of the company.

4. Ensure the Business Has Adequate Capital – The lending markets are often more willing to lend in good times than in bad times. Are you maxing out your credit lines, or do you have a comfortable margin of credit? Are you happy with your current lending relationship? Evaluate alternatives and review your loan covenants regularly.

5. Clean Up the Balance Sheet – Collect past due accounts or write them off if uncollectable. Review customer credit policies. Clean up inventory and take it off the books if obsolete or unsellable. Diligently track personal expenses run through the business. And lastly, call in loans to shareholders and employees.

6. Obtain Financial Audit of Business – Frequently, the company’s accounting has not grown at the speed of the company’s growth. An audit prepared by an objective third-party accounting firm provides a high level of credibility to the business performance.

7. Protect Key Personnel – Obtain employment and non-compete agreements from key employees. The last thing you want is someone leaving just before you decide to exit. The buyer is looking for continuity of Key Personnel. If you have not already tied your integral people to the business, it may be far more expensive to do so at the time of sale.

8. Identify & Mitigate Legal & Environmental Risks – Working with your liability insurance advisor is essential. Unfortunately, until the buyer brings up the subject, this is often left undone.

9. Review Customer Concentration & Overall Operations – Are your vendor contracts assumable/transferable upon sale? Do you derive more than 20% of your revenue from one customer or client?

10. Build Your Team of Advisors – Establish a strong team of qualified accounting, tax, legal, financial, and investment banking professionals. Invite them together at one meeting to establish your expectations of collaboration around your personal & financial goals. Establish recurring management meetings to monitor progress.

While there are many competing needs for a business owner’s time, working on an exit strategy can result in less stress and more time to do the things you want to do instead of need to do. In addition, an exit planning strategy can also enhance profitability and business value, resulting in a win-win for the owner, the owner’s family, and the employees of the business.

Invest 15 minutes and take our FREE Valuation Analysis to find out what your business is worth and how you can increase its value.

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