Starting A Business? Consider Your Exit Strategy Part I

We’ve covered nearly all elements of a business plan and we are approaching our final destination—the exit strategy. You may wonder why someone who has just begun to map out a business building strategy, filled with excitement and determined to create a business that represents all that he/she has worked hard to learn, would want to contemplate ending it all?  The answer is,  every journey has a destination.  How else can you know which path to take unless you know where you want to end up?

SELLING THE BUSINESS

If you have tangible assets and a desirable customer base,  you might want to sell the business eventually and give yourself either a retirement nest egg or start-up capital to create yet another business.  Keep your options open and start the preparations early. Whatever you decide, these actions will be beneficial for the business.

Maintain detailed and credible financial records: demonstrate profitability; show good cash flow; keep your debt to equity ratio low.  Expect to show a prospective buyer 5 years of data.  If the business owns property and/or equipment, ensure that all is well kept and in good working order.

To sell your business at a price that accurately reflects its value,  it is recommended that you consult first with your accountant and attorney, next with a business valuation expert or an appraiser and then with a business broker. Your accountant or attorney may even know the right buyer for your business.  There are four sales strategies to pursue:

I. SELL TO EMPLOYEES.   One, or several, of your employees may be interested in buying the business.  Don’t be shy about raising that possibility.  What better way to boost confidence and morale than letting valuable employees know that you trust them enough to place your treasured achievement into their capable and caring hands?  Selling to employees can be a great exit strategy.  The employees are able to invest in a business that they know and trust.  They know the challenges and opportunities that the business may encounter.  They know the customers and the customers may also know them.  They know the history of the place.  They know how things run.   If you’re thinking of moving on, why not offer those who you can see would be good candidates either a buy-out or an employee stock option plan (ESOP)?

II. SELL TO A COMPETITOR. Target one of your larger competitors as a potential buy-out prospect.  What better way to decrease competition and gain market share quickly than to absorb the entity that’s been eating your lunch? Position your business as attractive, financially healthy and possessed of a customer base that will align with the competitors’. Some entrepreneurs start a business aiming to be bought out. They believe they can grow their business fast enough to compel an industry leader to buy them out and end the battle.

III. SALE THROUGH A BROKER.  If you are unable to persuade someone whom you know to buy your business,  contact a business broker.  It’s like hiring a real estate agent to sell your house. There are brokers who represent sellers and those who represent buyers.  Be sure to get an independent appraisal on your own,  so you can be confident that the broker prices the business appropriately and that you understand the likely market value of what you are selling.

IV. LIQUIDATION.  In this instance, you are unable to find a buyer for the business, so you hold a “going out of business sale” in advance of closing your doors.   Whatever business assets exist are sold;  creditors are paid off;  the business owner keeps the net profit.

When selling your business it will be imperative to obtain an accurate appraisal. There are three methods to use and you may want to do them all:

I. ASSET VALUATION. The value of the inventory and equipment, business property, the client list and even the company’s reputation (best practices and good customer relationships are worth money in more ways than one!).

II. INDUSTRY VALUATION.   Based on the sale prices of similar businesses in your industry and geographic locale.

III. CASH FLOW VALUATION.  Based on the expected future cash flow of the company, as demonstrated by past performance.

Remember that the best time to sell your business is when both you and it are healthy! I’ll be back next week with a couple of more exit strategy options.

Thanks for reading,

KIm

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