Every business owner eventually exits his or her business. Some may leave by choice (e.g. retirement, acquisition) and other external factors, while others depart due to changes in the market or a change in personal circumstances.
As the owner, you are the champion and set the standards for your business. Your reaction to considering an exit strategy may be, “That’s not something I need to think about yet. I need to focus on winning and serving clients now.” While immediate business growth and development are inevitably filling most of your 'thinking space', it’s never too early to start thinking about your exit strategy.
Of course you have options: you can choose to let your exit evolve organically or choose to take control to influence the outcome. The following questions can help you decide if you want to consider an exit strategy:
What do you want for your business? What impact is your business making? Are you are helping your clients create the changes they want? How important is this to you? Perhaps you have even developed and implemented new processes, tools or models that enhance your relationship with your clients. Who will maintain the momentum if you exit?
What do you want from your business? You may have invested time, money and creative thought in the startup and growth of your business, together with funding, licencing, inspiring and leading. How can you maximize your return on the investment?
So what are your options?
1. The organic option
You simply let the business run its course. But if you do this and then you are no longer physically capable of operating your business, then it may not be sustainable without you. Or, someone else decides it is time to close the business. Perhaps as a result of intervention by another entity or person, such as a bank, investor or business partner.
2. The pro-active option
You could transfer the business to a family member, a colleague or another stakeholder to continue your work. This outcome of course assumes your identified successor wants to continue to operate your business! Perhaps you could sell the business. However, there has to be something to sell. If you are your business (meaning that when you walk out the door, income generation stops), then there really is nothing to sell!
Or you can use the time between now and your exit to create value in your business that a buyer will be willing to pay for (i.e. intellectual property, product/service models). If a buyer can step in and operate your business without you, or integrate your business into another operation, you could relinquish ownership profitably and with the knowledge that you’ve helped accelerate another business’ growth.
Determining the future of your business is your decision. The time you spend now considering your exit strategy is time well spent, for you, your business, your stakeholders and clients. Sometimes exploring the options, which can be numerous and complex, can be better evaluated with an executive coach.