Business owners leave their companies under many different circumstances and each owner’s vision of the next chapter of their life is unique. But all have some common objectives when eventually exiting their business:
- To leave their business in the hands of successors you choose
- To leave on a date you pick
- To leave with the money you need and want for what comes next
Understanding and quantifying these three universal objectives – when, for how much, and to whom – are the first steps in planning your exit strategy and mapping the route you’ll take to get to your destination.
But it may not be enough to just define those objectives.
You must set the goals necessary to achieve them, and what you build into those goals – or not – can determine the level of your success. The Business Enterprise Institute recommend that goals be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Goals should be written and broken down into the tasks or steps necessary to achieve that goal and each action must have a deadline. Each step or task must be assigned to a person who is accountable for accomplishing the task. The process of putting goals in writing motivates you to think more in depth about them and sparks more ideas for how to achieve them. Working with advisors during the goal setting process will give you access to expertise and a repertoire of strategies for achieving your goals.
Detailed goal-setting and planning will enable a more efficient process and will serve to lessen the impact on your wallet in the long run. Depending on individual circumstances, achieving these goals may take 5 to 10 years so it’s good to have the specifics well-defined up front. Having everything spelled out will dramatically increase your ability to accomplish the short term steps necessary to achieve your ultimate exit goals.
The Business Enterprise Institute defines three types of goals: Foundational, Universal, and Values-based.
Financial security is a foundational condition of a successful exit. Your exit strategy is successful only if it achieves your financial goals. You’ll need to define, with precision, the pre-tax, annual income – adjusted for inflation – you’ll need to be financially independent of your company. For this critical financial analysis, you’ll need the assistance of an experienced financial planner who can help you map out a long-term strategy for maintaining the income stream you need once you no longer own the company.
You want to enjoy a certain level of post-exit income, depart when you choose, and transfer the business to the successor of your choice – three goals that are universal because almost all business owners seek to achieve them. These goals are not actual needs in terms of your financial survival and therefore, give you some flexibility. They are often more than wants, however, and some owners will postpone their retirement or exit in order to meet them. Base your decisions regarding these universal goals on facts rather than assumptions.
Goals such as creating a legacy, acknowledging employees, charitable giving, assuring family harmony, or considering how your exit may affect others and/or your community may not be on your mind initially. But you may find as you move through the process that there are specific objectives you want to accomplish based on your individual values – what’s important to you personally and what your heart leads you to do. That doesn’t mean these goals are any less important than others – they are important to YOU in that they define how you walk away from your company, and that’s what matters. It is suggested that you examine your vision for the company without you and your vision for yourself without the company when considering your value-based goals.
Setting these initial goals is the most important action you can take towards exit planning – and as a business owner in general. Setting goals provides direction and drives action. Once you go through this initial process you’ll know where you are, where you want to be, and the steps you need to take to get there. A bonus – you’ll have the confidence and motivation that goes along with that invaluable knowledge and having a plan!
I’d welcome the opportunity to help you gain that confidence. Contact me to discuss setting goals that will benefit you both now and in the future.