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Escape Hatch

Why now's the time to work on your business exit plan

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This story appears in the June 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When you're doing everything that needs to be done to get a business going, probably the last thing on your mind is how you're going to get out of it. But experts say that should be something you're thinking about from Day One. "You need to know what your ultimate exit plan is," says Ronald Williamson, a partner at Squar, Milner, Reehl & Williamson, a Newport Beach, California, accounting firm. "Having that in place will make your daily business decisions much easier."

Your exit plan doesn't have to be detailed or complicated, but just "a target on the wall, a direction in which you're headed," says Williamson. Do you want to start a business you can sell in five years? Then operate the business in a way that will get you the highest price when the time comes. Are you planning to use the company as a cash machine for a limited period of time then close down? In that case, you won't be concerned about long-term strategies and reinvesting profits.

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