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Business transition is a process

For most entrepreneurs, business succession is the largest financial and personal change of their careers. It’s important to view it as a process, not a liquidity event, because there’s a lot to think through and a lot at stake. All owners exit, one way or another. How you do it is a bell you can’t unring.

Why You Need to Think Ahead, Prepare, and Have a Plan
An illustrative story

We know a 54-year old entrepreneur whose initial business idea was two rounds of raising money, followed in short order by an IPO. Twenty-six years later, he is a profitable solopreneur, but with no IPO insight, all savings poured back into the business and a need to monetize his equity to exit. When we first talked, he’d been overtaken by events:

  • He was midway through updating his CRM, inventory and accounting systems, navigating the IT and data chaos
  • He’d just learned that his wife had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s
  • A potential buyer had raised interest in a letter of intent and hada due diligence list a mile long

Unable to respond, and without an exit plan in place, he lost a timely and urgent opportunity to sell his business. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them.

The Finish Big Exit Plan
See our approach. Get a Draft in 90 Days

Over a 90-day timeframe, we work with you to draft your exit plan. Your goals, priorities, situation and readiness drive the plan. Having some, but maybe not all answers is far better than having no plan at all. We are not business brokers, wealth managers, estate attorneys, insurance experts or financiers – you will almost certainly need their specialist services to execute. What you get from working with us is an informed and integrated draft plan to take around to them – the context to invite their best inputs – and one to help you deal with the unexpected. We can quarterback a team of such specialists on your behalf. We’ve done this before, know most of the potholes, and can anticipate what’s critical for your success. What you don’t know, or don’t do in selling your business can cost you a fortune. We take that risk off the table, so you don’t leave millions on it.

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Figuring our your viable exit options

We have tools and a process to help you learn about, assess and consider the available exit options that can optimize your path forward. Each has a number of implications, especially tax implications. We help you sift and sort, look forward with eyes wide open – and choose what will optimize price, terms, timing and personal goals. Start now – get a plan in place.

What Happens as Results You Can Expect
Use our services à la carte or as one integrated program.

Our services – Get Traction, Build Value, Finish Big – can overlap and integrate easily. Or, given assessment and planning, components can be cherry-picked and done a la carte, as best suits your situation.

What you get is a business succession plan geared to small businesses at a level of quality that that’s usually out of reach. Most service specialists target companies with more than $30 million annual revenue. Our power alley is $500 k to $15 million. Most specialists are focused on their respective service or doing the deal. We’re focused on helping clients succeed spectacularly. “Good luck” is when preparation meets opportunity.

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“What got you here, won’t get you there.” This famous quote alerts entrepreneurs to the need for leadership development, business succession and transition readiness. This article speaks to the key issues, the must-get-rights and our related services. Everybody faces these, and they are not trivial.

Successful entrepreneurs are typically very self-reliant, do it yourselfers – it’s what starting a business calls for. Armed with an idea, energy and a way to start, they’re off and running. Much has been written about start-ups and the challenges people face as they operate and grow. We’ve coached many entrepreneurs through the early transition from entrepreneur to supervisor to manager. It does not often come naturally; and some are much happier and better suited to the start-up world. We help people make the right choices and equip them to succeed.

Increasingly we find entrepreneurs are challenged with and value help with the other end of the business: succession planning, transition readiness and exit. In our experience, this is by far the biggest change people deal with personally, organizationally and financially.

On the personal level, this is an inevitable issue – we all eventually exit, one way or another. But few take the time to plan well, and figure out the “what’s next:” the important and worthy things to do, the people to love and the identity issues that surface from doing to being. Most don’t think about exiting; opt to avoid the “what do I want” questions, wait too long. I am reminded of the owner who called me in the middle of installing a new financial system, when he’d received an unsolicited offer from a prospective buyer (but couldn’t get the data for due diligence), and, in the same week, learned that his wife had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Many owners are trapped by unexpected events – health crises, divorce, partner exits, or, more recently, pandemic-driven disruption. Data from the Exit Planning Institute reveals that 75% of owners who have sold their business report being unhappy, within a year, no matter how much money they made. It’s often the personal contours that need attention. Our best advice: start transition readiness preparing before you must. We routinely recommend that owners take more and more vacation as they go. One reason is that this tends to raise the personal issues that need attention – in time to properly address them. And there’s a second important reason.

The second reason has to do with organizational readiness. Business succession is a pivotal transition process for organizations. I emphasize it’s a process, not a liquidity event. Most owners don’t know what they don’t know about exit options or how to properly prepare their organizations. One pivotal issue is how well the organization can run independently, hence the value of taking more and more vacation to gradually gain that competence. We offer services for transition readiness assessment, planning and preparation. One rule of thumb – devote at least a year of preparation for every decade of operation. As it turns out, our approach addresses the value drivers that optimize readiness for either internal or external new owners. When possible, all other things being equal, we lean toward internal transitions, ESOPs, or buy outs because our experience is that this tends to optimize pace, process and timing for success. This really raises the stakes on getting the right people on the bus in the right seats in the workforce, and the right leadership team in place and teaming well. One of our most effective services is to help owners lead a risk management initiative with their team. It is a very practical, tangible succession preparation exercise and the best leadership development for transition readiness that we know of. One rule of thumb – devote at least a year of preparation for every decade of operation. We love talking with owners about this – please feel free to call us for a free initial consultation.

Finally, the financial transition has to work. Like wealth managers, we offer financial planning services for this because most owners have their wealth largely tied up in their business and need to monetize this to exit. However, virtually all owners overestimate the value of their business. So unlike wealth managers, our expertise foots to valuation, and the specific actions needed to yield what owners need in terms of personal and organizational preparation. Sometimes, we find that owners are more than there already – and can demonstrate the risks of waiting too long. More often than not, we can help them with enterprise value and risk management to get themselves and their organizations transition-ready.

In summary, our transition readiness consulting services can address one or all of the three components needed for success: personal, organizational and financial. To learn more, browse and feel free to get a free initial consultation.