For some entrepreneurs, thinking about exit planning is about as pleasant as thinking about that other “exit” plan—a last will and testament. To wit: 50% of owners haven’t thought about how they’ll leave their companies and, of those who have, most have no written plan or team in place to facilitate the transition.
Exit planning is crucial, however. Roughly three quarters of businesses taken to market don’t sell, according to Exit Planning Institute owner Christopher M. Snider’s book, Walking to Destiny: 11 Actions an Owner Must Take to Rapidly Grow Value & Unlock Wealth—and having a plan can tip the scale toward success. The field of exit planning has also made unprecedented strides in the last decade. Why not avail oneself of the latest strategies and resources when many millions of dollars can be at stake?
Here are the top myths about this misunderstood arena—and how to avoid falling into their traps:
Myth 1: Exit Planning Can Wait Until You’re Ready to “Exit”
This sounds reasonable: Why start thinking about leaving a party, after all, when one still has a half-full champagne glass in hand? But exit planning should begin the day a business is created, or not long after. Why? It’s just good business strategy. When you’re focused on creating transferable value it acts as a catalyst to determine business priorities, helps management and employees think like an owner, and creates a strong and lasting company culture. Most importantly, it makes the timing of an exit irrelevant! The business is always ready to grow or exit. What business owner doesn’t want that type of control?
Myth 2: An Owner’s Merit Is Vital to a Business’ Value
The vision, blood, sweat, and tears that owners put into building their businesses are key to value creation. But the business itself needs to be the star in the end. Why? Again, transferable value: Once a founder exits, a business’ value drivers need to remain. To help in creating such a structure—which not only puts more power in the hands of your leadership team and employees but also frees up a founder to devote time to honing a company’s strategy and mission—a Certified Exit Planning Advisor’s (CEPA) services can be helpful.
Myth 3: A Plan For What’s Next Is Irrelevant to Valuation
Sure, a business owner can wait to address post-sale plans until after the sale itself. But business owners without a “what’s next” (meaning the upcoming phase of life) plan are a red flag for buyers and exit planning advisors. Why? Sellers’ cold feet is the number one reason mergers and acquisitions go south. Sometimes strong buyers won’t even engage with sellers without such a plan—and if they do, a business’ price can go down and sales terms can become less favorable.
The above, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. For more on the arena, order a copy of the second edition of our book, Personal Financial Planning for Executives and Entrepreneurs: The Path to Financial Peace of Mind. And in the end, our biggest tip might be simply this: Exit planning can be intimidating, complicated, and take precious time to engage in, but it’s also the key to a top-notch future—and present.