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A successful exit in 21 steps


A successful exit in 21 steps

By , February 21, 2018

Understanding, co-ordinating and preparing the three key factors of Business Succession and Exit Planning is critical to developing a successful plan.

These key factors are as below:

1.The Business

Unfortunately, although they may be good businesses, the large majority of companies are not exit or sale ready. Instead, a large proportion are owner dependent and often lack effective systems and processes – these issues can limit the value of the business and impact the business’ ‘sellability’. While the business in question may be quite large, some of them run as though they are much smaller.

2. The Owner/s

Owning a company is an important part of an owner’s life, that’s why many business owners are very strongly attached to their business. A business owner will identify with the business in what is called role-identity fusion and will need time and space to get comfortable about what the exit actually looks like and importantly what does life after business mean.

3.The Money

The business, the owner/s and their finances are often complicated and interwoven and therefore hard to separate. The Exit Planning Institute estimates that up to 90% of an owners wealth is tied up in and linked to the business – this needs to be resolved before an exit can take place and to make sure the owner and their family is adequately funded post retirement.

Value-focused five-stage process

We use and recommend a five-stage process – all focused around value. 

  1. Identify

  2. Protect

  3. Maximise

  4. Extract

  5. Manage

All of these stages have a number of key steps – 21 in all. These are designed to effectively prepare the business, the owner and the financial position to maximise business value and achieve a successful exit.

This process has been developed over time – when I first published Enjoy It in 2006 our process had only 9 steps, which mainly focused on preparing the business. As we worked with clients and learned more about their needs and the issues that were stopping them from being successful the process was further developed into 11, then 15 and finally 21 steps.

The process now covers all of the key issues – business, personal and financial to ensure maximum success.

21-Step Process

The process allows time and space for owners to get very clear on what Business Succession and Exit Planning means to them – for many it is not about the money, but more about preserving their legacy, looking after staff, customers and suppliers, and the process needs to firstly identify the key drivers and aspirations of the founders and secondly, provide a mechanism for them to be successful in achieving those key goals and outcomes.

21 step in business succession & exit plan

To fully implement the 21 steps we typically work with clients over a 12 -18 month period (and with some clients much longer) and we always find work closely with the clients key advisers – accountant, financial planner, lawyers, bankers etc. will help speed the process and ensure the best possible result. This is very much a trusted adviser relationship and we work closely with the owners, family members, key employees and other stakeholders to balance interest and ensure all Business Succession and Exit planning needs are met.

Become an Accredited Adviser

As an Accredited Adviser, Succession Plus’ proprietary 21-Step process allows you to strategically guide your clients through a successful exit so they can achieve the most profitable, optimal outcome.

To find out more about our 21-step process or to express your interest in becoming an Accredited Adviser, please feel free to contact us. To read more about the key benefits of being an Accredited Adviser, click here. 

Craig West

Craig West

Executive Chairman | Succession Plus

Craig West is a strategic accountant with over 20 years of experience advising business owners. His background as a CPA in public practice has provided invaluable experience in the key issues of concern to business owners.

In March 2014, Craig was appointed Executive Chairman of the SME Association of Australia, Australia’s largest small business organisation representing over 300,000 business owners.

In October 2014, he was awarded the Exit Planner of the Year at the Exit Planning Institute Annual Conference in Texas, USA, due to his innovative development of an exit planning process to help business owners maximise business value and achieve a successful exit.

Craig’s proprietary structure - a Peak Performance Trust - has won the Australia-wide award for the Employee Share Ownership Plan of the year twice in four years.

In November 2018, Craig launched SME Experts in partnership with Mark Bouris’ Mentored on Podcast One and quickly grew the monthly podcast audience to over 26,500 downloads; in October 2019, he released a new podcast focused on medium-sized businesses - Mid-Market Matters.

In July 2021, Craig joined the NSW Committee for STEP (Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners) – focusing on advising families across generations.

Craig has also launched a SaaS platform, Capitaliz (which captures the 21-step process), to assist other advisers internationally deliver advisory services at scale.

In November 2021, Craig was appointed Executive Chairman of NSW Leaders, a business mentoring group for leading NSW businesses.

In July 2022, Craig West received the award of Doctor of Business Administration for his research thesis titled “Examination of the key factors driving business exit options in Australian Small and Medium Enterprises.”

Craig is passionate about encouraging business owners to think strategically, maximise the value of their business and achieve a successful exit.