3 Considerations for Exit Planning
By Andrew Cassin
“#1: Establish how much money you want – or NEED – in your hand, after taxes”
Like all good plans, it is critical to first identify what it is you are trying to achieve. When preparing your business for exit, this fundamental aim is what you want to walk away with, cash in hand.
For many, the determination of the cash-in-hand objective will be made with retirement needs in mind. After all, for many business owners, the sale of their enterprise represents the greatest proportion of retirement funds.
Furthermore, the cash-in-hand objective underpins the entire exit plan and flows through into the required business value, so it is critical to get this defined clearly at the outset.
This is not to suggest that a business’ value is currently in line with its owners’ cash requirements – in many cases, there may indeed be quite a gap between the two. However, knowing what the aim is from the get-go shapes the development of the exit plan and the structure of the business in order to achieve the necessary sale price.”
“#2: Determine a timeframe
Exiting a business does not happen overnight. The process of preparing a business for succession to new ownership can take months, even years, whilst the sale process itself can be a drawn-out affair. Factor in also a transition period requiring your ongoing involvement post-sale, as the sustainability of many businesses is pegged to a degree of reliance on the outgoing principal.
It is fairly evident that selling a business takes time, so it is important for you to determine how long you are prepared to commit to the business from this point onwards. After all, you are going to have to maintain your passion for the business, personal motivation and standards of operations throughout this process. You cannot simply switch off and stop investing the necessary time and resources into the business.
Allow sufficient time for preparation (at least 12 months), transaction (6-12 months) and transition (allow at least 12 months, to be on the safe side). Timeframes do vary considerably, depending on the scale, type and market appeal of the enterprise.
If you need help figuring out how much time is likely to be required in any or all of these stages, ask a trusted advisor.
#3: Know what you are going to do next
For those who have been slogging away putting in sixty-hour weeks for thirty years, the concept of retirement sounds mouth-wateringly appealing.
For others, the planned sale of their current business provides a platform for new ventures or a change in lifestyle, without withdrawing from the commercial world completely.
Irrespective of which camp you find yourself in, having a clear idea of what you will actually do post-sale is critical. For those retiring, perhaps writing a ‘bucket list’ by yourself or with your significant other would be fun first step. (If you’re not familiar with the term ‘bucket list’, procure a copy of the movie by the same title, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.)
If you’re staying put in working life, take time out, free from distractions, to brainstorm ideas or write business plans, research emerging trends or simply focus on the things that matter most in life.