As a business owner, your company is dependent on you and your presence for its success. In return, your business supports your family and your personal goals. Even though you know that one day, you’ll step away from your business, the idea of preparing for a future you’re not yet ready for may be unnerving, especially if you have no plans to leave your business soon. Business owners cite many reasons for waiting to start their exit plan:
- It’s too early to plan.
- Exit planning is too time consuming.
- The process is too complex or intimidating.
- I don’t want to deal with the associated family and employee issues.
- I don’t have, or know where to find, expert advice on exit planning.
Consider the consequences of procrastination. What happens to your business, family, and personal goals if you were unexpectedly forced from the helm – by injury, illness, death, or some other unexpected event? Positioning yourself as indispensable puts at risk the people you care about most – your family and staff – and the entity you have built with so much care that supports them.
Preparing for that seemingly distant future can benefit you both today and when you are ready to exit. You may not feel a sense of urgency now, but you will someday if you don’t start to plan now. An exit strategy is dynamic and will be tweaked along the way, so you don’t need to have complete clarity or all the answers to start the journey now. We use a well-defined, seven step process during which you’ll find the answers you need as you progress. Consider taking the following steps to get started on what is literally the journey of a lifetime.
- Choose a realistic exit date. Write that date on a sticky note and post it where you’ll see it every day. This will help cultivate a mindset of preparing for your exit. Ideas, questions, topics, and situations you need to address will start to come to mind. Write them down as they do.
- Consult with an exit planning advisor. Having an expert in your corner early will help you organize your thoughts and topics of concern so that they can be addressed in a meaningful and efficient way. An exit strategist can provide you with some brief, basic assessments to complete that will provide a big picture idea of where you and your company stand and what needs to happen between now and the exit date you’ve chosen.
- Consult with peers. Consider joining our Exit Planning Peer Advisory Board (PAB). No matter where you are in the journey, sharing dilemmas faced and solutions found with other business owners who are planning their exit is invaluable. Participating in a PAB is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to refine and manifest your exit strategy.
- Hire next-level management. This team can function as an extension of you while learning from you. They can bolster the strengths of your company, improve on its weaknesses, and contribute to growing the value of the business. They can help you focus on what you want for yourself, the company, and your priorities for the future by taking pressing business issues off your plate.
- Create Business Continuity Instructions. These instructions are designed to provide guidance to co-owners, managers, family members, and advisors in the event you become unable to run the business. They allow you to make decisions ahead of time about how best to mitigate risks and provide solutions for those who rely on you and your business to maintain their lifestyles. In addition, the process of preparing these instructions likely means you’ll look at your company from an entirely different, atypical perspective which may help you uncover weaknesses and improve upon them, rather than being surprised by them later – a benefit both now and in the long term. An upcoming blog will focus more on how to create a business continuity plan.
Many business owners fail to realize the tremendous benefit exit planning can bring to their company today. An exit plan is a well-researched, well-thought-out, well-charted route into the future in which you can place your confidence. It addresses current issues with the benefit of lessons learned from the past, and targets clear objectives for the future, including contingency plans. With an exit plan, business owners are equipped to be adaptable and agile as they position themselves to leave a lasting legacy.
By looking to the future, you can optimize your success at the helm today, while giving yourself more freedom to pursue your goals inside and outside the business. Contact me for a complimentary discussion of how you can get started, or move forward, on your exit planning journey. And please reach out if you’re interested in being my guest at a future Peer Advisory Board meeting.