How to Make a Lucrative Business Exit From 5 Entrepreneurs Who've Done It

Long before you are ready to sell is the right time to begin getting the business ready to sell.

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By Thomas Smale


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Imagine devising a winning business idea that you develop into a fully fledged enterprise.

Your business is profitable, and it's everything you ever wished or hoped it would be. But now it's time to move on. You're ready to make your exit because you want to explore new ideas and new ventures. Or maybe you just want to take a well-deserved vacation.

If you're looking to sell your website, however, and you don't have an exit plan in place, the process could prove more challenging than you are inclined to think. If you don't know how you're going to sell your business yet, don't fret. Here are five entrepreneurs that were willing to share their secrets to a successful online business exit.

1. Create exposure engines.

Jeff Taylor, CEO of DEVISE, sold a seven-figure fitness website earlier this year, and he was kind enough to share how he was able to make it happen.

Taylor's advice is to "...first focus on quality and user experience. After that focus on creating exposure engines. Exposure engines can be organic or paid. Taking the time to develop a large social media page can pay dividends over the course of time. These exposure engines can put thousands of eyeballs on your content in minutes. They provide a strong launch pad for what you're offering. With these launch pads, if the offering is quality, it's hard to fail."

Taylor notes that the selling process was time-consuming but ultimately rewarding. It shouldn't come as any surprise that investors looking to buy a business -- especially a seven-figure business -- are going to do their due diligence before diving in.

If you aren't familiar with exposure engines, the idea is quite simple. It's about getting your listing seen on as many high-visibility websites as possible. It's worth digging a little deeper into the topic if you're starting to plan your exit.

Related: 3 Ways to Get Big Spenders to Acquire Your Startup

2. Prepare long before you start.

Mike Angell of Evulse, a self-taught programmer says, "...the best thing you can do is prepare your site for sale well before you even consider selling it. This means doing all the little things such as making all the domain names, hosting accounts etc. under their own entity."

Angell found the selling process simple and straightforward, which is what every business owner hopes for. But his advice is definitely worth noting. If you one day hope to sell your business, start preparing now. Don't wait until the last minute. Do everything you can to make the transfer a painless process.

3. Talk with a broker.

Alan Kong, a New York based entrepreneur had this to share: "Make sure to speak to a broker a half year or year before you sell. You'll learn what can make your business much more attractive to prospective buyers, which makes for a much easier sale when you're ready."

If you want to get the most out your business, you need to heed Kong's counsel. When you know what buyers are looking for, and you can make the right adjustments in advance, you will find that the sales process goes very smoothly.

Related: The High Costs of Your Exit Strategy

4. Keep extensive records.

Tim Seidler was building websites on the side until his online efforts started out earning his employment income.

His suggestion is to: "Keep records. Document your earnings, annotate your analytics, save your receipts. Buyers want proof and they want you to back up that proof. You having these things ready will not only expedite the process, but it'll give the buyers confidence that you and your site are the real deal."

Seidler's comments underscore the importance of transparency. If you are honest and open in your communication with potential buyers, you will have a much easier time selling your online business. The same goes for your records. Prospective buyers will feel more equipped to make a decision when they have the numbers laid out in front of them.

5. Create systems and processes.

Brian Casel, a web designer by trade has experience building WordPress templates, education resources, a successful SaaS service and a popular podcast.

This is what he had to say about making a successful online business exit: "If you're new at this, like I was, it never hurts to ask a lot of questions. A good broker will answer all of them and then some. As for the business itself, do as much as you can to prepare it to be sellable. Focus on systems, processes, and do as much as you can to remove yourself from the day-to-day so that a new owner can easily take over."

As with Alan Kong, Casel suggests talking with a broker to figure out your next move. But he also advises getting your business as systematized as possible. If you can get your business to the point where it doesn't require your constant involvement, it will be far more attractive to buyers, whose involvement can also be minimal should they choose to acquire your business.

A successful online business exit is what many entrepreneurs dream of, and it is certainly within reach if you're willing to do the work. After the sale of a business, some business owners move onto new ventures. Others choose to take some time off to recoup. Still others seek to give back and start their own coaching and consulting businesses, or even charitable organizations.

If you have a bigger vision for your life, and you have the desire to make your dreams -- and the dreams of others -- a reality, then selling a business may very well be an important step onto reaching your big goals. But it all starts with where you are at right now. Are you willing to prepare in advance? Are you willing to seek out the advice of qualified and experienced brokers? Will you do the hard work of creating systems and procedures for your business so that it can run without you?

Learn how you can make your site more attractive to investors, and focus on how you can cater to their interests rather than yours. This is a surefire formula for a smooth sales process.

Related: An 'Acquisition Aficionado' Offers 3 Tips on When to Cash Out vs. Double Down

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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