Building a successful business and minimizing risk may seem like opposite strategies, but typically, they go hand in hand. Once a business matures past the early, sometimes chaotic stages of development, business owners often turn toward actions that can protect them from the unexpected.
One of the most important goals of Exit Planning is to position business owners for post-exit financial security. To do that, business owners and their advisors must have several pieces of information: how much the business is currently worth, how much money the owner will need to live the post-exit lifestyle they choose, and which non-business assets the owner has.
Imagine building your business over several decades, beginning to plan your business exit, then dying unexpectedly before you can implement your plans. Business owners rarely think about how an unexpected death or permanent incapacitation can derail even the most carefully created plans. And it makes sense: If you were always worried about what could go wrong, chances are you’d have never started your business in the first place.
If you’re considering transferring your business ownership to family, you might be tempted to put your family’s wants over your own goals. While this altruism may be admirable, it can also cause more problems than it solves. Consider the case of Darnell Orie.
When you set about starting your business, you likely had big goals and expansive dreams about its success. Whether success meant having an impact on your community, making as much money as possible, or something else, you probably wanted your business to become the ideal firm in your market.
Many owners and advisors talk about the importance of growing business value, and there are nearly unlimited options to help business owners do just that. But wouldn’t you agree that growing business value is pointless if you don’t know how to reduce the threats to that growth? As you prepare for an eventual exit from your business, there are several threats to business value that you need to be aware of:
Cash flow is one of the most important factors in a business exit. Today, we look at why securing a professional estimate of your company’s cash flow is crucial to the success of your Exit Plan. All buyers, whether an outside third party or an insider (family member, co-owner, or key employee), will use cash flow as a way of measuring or confirming the value of the companies they buy. While there are many definitions of cash flow, the one that we often use is free cash flow.
Setting goals is critically important to owners who begin Exit Planning. Without goals, even the strongest processes fail, because they have no purpose to work toward. Your goals are what guide your process toward a successful exit, and without them, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels in the mud of indecision. While setting goals is the most important thing you do as you begin your business exit journey, it doesn’t mean that you have to know exactly where you’ll end up after you exit your business. Goals can and often must change to give you the best chance to exit your business on your terms. Business exits are rarely all-or-nothing propositions.
If you co-own your business, the business-continuity agreement (or buy-sell agreement) is one of the most important documents that you will sign. If you have a buy-sell agreement that is out-of-date, not reviewed, or focuses on the wrong issues, it may be worse than having no agreement at all. Let’s start with a hypothetical case study that illustrates the importance of drafting a buy-sell agreement that anticipates and provides for all transfer events (lifetime transfers, disability, or death). George Acme’s son-in-law, Tom Gardner, had been with George’s company for over 20 years.
For many owners, the answer to one question determines whether they can leave their companies: “How much money will I get when I sell?” This question is critical, and answering it is Step Two of The Seven Step Exit Planning Process™. Realistically, you can’t exit your business unless you achieve financial independence, and the primary source of that independence is likely to be the funds you receive for your business when you leave.