Every owner needs an exit strategy. Eventually you will leave your business. When you do, you will want the most money for your company that you can get. It’s really that simple.
Business owners and Entrepreneurs often take great pleasure from the struggle of setting up and launching their businesses.
One thing they often forget is that their day to day decisions can have huge implications later down the line. it’s not enough to build a business worth a fortune; you have to make sure you have an exit strategy; a way to get the money back out.
Some entrepreneurs build to sell as soon as the value reaches their threshold to sell, some build to accommodate family succession, others to accommodate their lifestyle needs.
Whatever the reason and however it happens, you should always run your company to maximize its value.
One favourite exit strategy of some forward-thinking business owners is simply to take as much money out of the business for themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean being reckless – it means paying yourself a huge salary, reward yourself with a gigantic bonus regardless of actual company performance.
Rather than reinvesting money in growing your business, in lifestyle companies, you keep things small, take out a comfortable chunk, and simply live on the income.
Remember, money in your pocket is no longer money in the business. If you’re in a business that must invest to grow, taking out too much money can hurt you down the road. Also, if you have other investors, taking too much can upset them.
If you think you’re in business for the lifestyle, minimize your dependence on other investors and structure the business to allow you to draw out cash as needed.
Even lifestyle entrepreneurs can decide that enough is enough. One often-overlooked exit strategy is simply to call it a day and close the business doors. Not many founders start a business planning to liquidate it someday, but it happens all the time. If you liquidate, however, any proceeds from the assets must be used to repay creditors. The remainder gets divided among the shareholders–if there are other shareholders, you want to make sure they get their due.
Another option is to sell your business to a ‘friendly buyer’. You can also sell your business to current employees or managers. Often in this kind of sale, the seller finances the sale and lets the buyer pay it off over time. The owner still makes more this way than he would by closing, and the buyer gets to earn their way into owning a business.
In an acquisition, the sky’s the limit on your perceived value and you negotiate the price. If you choose the right acquirer, your value can far exceed what would be reasonable based on your income. Look for strategic fit: Which acquirer can buy you to expand into a new market, or offer a new product to their existing customers
Your exit strategy is important because it helps you define success in business. When entrepreneurs have not thought through an exit strategy, it may be an indicator that they are not focused on the eventual transition of the venture.