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Why Every Entrepreneur Needs an Exit Strategy (Before It's Too Late) You need a plan to ensure you can exit your company when you want to retire or explore other business ventures.

By Brady Frank Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Setting goals for your company is essential for long-term growth and success.
  • A critical part of strategic planning for your business is creating an exit strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're an entrepreneur, you likely spend plenty of time thinking about how to grow your business, especially if it's relatively new. There's more to consider than just expansion, though. Every entrepreneur should have an exit strategy. You need a plan to ensure you can exit your company when you want to retire or explore other business ventures. Here's why and how to go about it.

You need business and financial goals

Setting goals for your company is essential for long-term growth and success. A critical part of strategic planning for your business is creating an exit strategy. If you begin with the end in mind, it will be easier to determine the milestones you need to achieve to stay on track. Whether you want to grow your business for many decades or you'd like to attract buyers and exit as soon as possible, the key to getting what you want is planning well in advance.

Related: When Should Business Owners Start Developing an Exit Plan? Here's What You Need to Know.

Your exit strategy should provide clarity

An exit strategy also gives you the clarity you need for the next career phase. When you define your next steps and what it will take to accomplish them, you are more likely to succeed with your plans. Additionally, you'll have the peace of mind needed to take action rather than stalling because you aren't sure how to get started.

Know who and when

It may not be possible for you to set a definite date for exiting your business when you first create your strategy, and you don't know the name of the buyer or the person taking over for you. But you can begin with an approximate timeline for when you'd like to transfer control and a profile of the ideal buyer. As time progresses, you can make more accurate decisions regarding the timeline.

Related: Exit Strategy Through the Eyes of an Angel Investor

Keep income statements and balance sheets updated

Knowing what your business is worth is crucial to creating a solid exit strategy. Your income statements tell you a lot about the health of your business, and they're going to tell the potential new owner a lot, too. It's important to keep them updated and ready to go at all times. Not only does that help you better understand when the appropriate time is to exit the business, but it also gives you leverage when you negotiate with potential buyers or successors.

In addition to your income statements, you'll also want a potential buyer to see the balance sheet. That shows them what kind of money is coming in and going out, all in one place.

Even though there's a lot more to operating a business than money, cash flow is what matters when it comes down to it. Your exit strategy should include paying close attention to that cash flow to move on at the most reasonable time for your needs. There's no reason to settle for less than you wanted to get for your company because you mistimed your exit.

Growth potential can entice buyers

Even if you are eager to exit your company, it's important to time your departure in relation to its growth potential. Leaving prematurely could hinder your company's growth. Depending on who is buying your company, they may want to buy your company on the condition that you are able to stick around for a few years before you leave for good. The opportunity for additional, even explosive, growth could encourage a substantial buyout in your favor.

Related: 4 Go-To Moves to Help Start Your Exit Strategy Now

Cash flow is key to it all

Understand your cash flow and move when the time is suitable for the best chance at protecting yourself and your future. The buyer of the company will want to see strong cash flow to the business, and you'll want to exit the company while it's still strong and healthy to get the most significant benefit.

The bottom line on exit strategy

The most important concept to focus on when considering an exit strategy is what you want and need from it. Yes, you want to exit the business at a time that encourages someone else to buy or take over, but your needs are also important. With careful planning, you can find a great balance between your plans and goals for the future and exiting your business at a time when its value appeals to others.

Brady Frank

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-Founder

Brady Frank is a third-generation dentist turned entrepreneur/inventor/author and thought-leader with a passion for teaching others the hard-won lessons he has learned about successfully creating and selling a business.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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