How to Leave Your Business

Exit planning

The end of the year.  For some, the end of 12 years of school, or 3-4 years of Uni, or some other big chunk of calendar time that has dominated their life. 

As you reflect on endings, you would do well to reflect: What about the end of my involvement in my own business?  Will it end well or badly? 

When you come down to it, there are four options:

  1. Die in harness 
  2. Lock the shed and walk away 
  3. Sell 
  4. Hand over to the next generation. 

I’m not making any judgements on any of these. But as always, thinking it through will give you better results than just waiting for life to make the decision for you.  Any of the four could be a valid choice for you – so long as it’s a deliberate choice. 

Ever heard of “retirement remorse”? It’s a thing.  If you’d rather die in harness, doing something you love, make sure you are not breaking your partner’s heart.  Make sure your plan is understood, and that someone else has the code for the safe or the keys to the tractor. 

If you’re promising yourself (or secretly wishing) that you’ll have some years of leisure and adventure, creativity, travel, doing stuff you haven’t had time for… well, start planning for that.  Secretly wishing won’t cut it. 

If you think that your lifestyle will be funded out of selling your business, you better get busy defining that transaction.  Who will buy your business, when, why, and for how much?  I have heard many times that “my superannuation is in the business”, but the sad truth is that many small businesses will not find a buyer.  As with selling anything else, define that buyer persona and get busy understanding their motivation so well that you could do their side of the negotiation for them. 

And if you think it would be a lovely thing to have created a legacy business for the generations to come, you better be sure that they are (a) ready, (b) willing and (c) able to take it on.  Would they even be grateful?  Will they invest the time to learn how to run it well?  Can you let them do it their way, stepping back to be a mentor?  You don’t want to be grasping for these answers in a hurry, when the sands are running out. 

Options 3 and 4 take several years to succeed, when they do. Deciding on option 1 or 2 takes a lot of personal courage. 

What’s your option?  This can be awfully hard stuff to discuss, even with yourself, let alone with a partner, kids, lawyer or accountant. Scary. Emotional. But facing up to the critical conversations gives you the freedom of a well-informed choice. 

We can help.  We do planning, facilitation and advisory work with people facing the transition.  Call us, and don’t leave it too late. 

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