Stressful economic times often cause business owners to put their head in the sand with try to withstand the storm, or abandon their businesses completely. For some business owners, the right move might be to keep pushing forward, and for others, planning for exit is their best option. Is it time to build your exit plan?

Change is hard and scary. It’s hard to pivot when faced with uncertainty and business interruption, especially is the business was devastated out of no-where, and you can’t see what’s coming next. The stress and fear can be debilitating for a business owner. As a business owner, it’s crucial to figure out what is best for you, and what is best for the business. It’s great when these two things are aligned, but there are times when what’s best for the business owner might not be whats best for the business, or vice versa. It is challenging for business owners to plan the future when it feels like they’re running on “what if’s” and gut feelings. Whether the plan is to exit soon, or in the next 10+ years, business owners need to stay focused on building their biggest asset – their business.

To plan and understand where the company can go, take an accurate assessment of where things stand now.

Now is not the time to defend past actions, and past mistakes. This is the time to take inventory of the past, and make the conscious decision to do better, to put plans in place and follow through. This is the time to re-imagine your business and set goals to ensure a profitable future. Dig into your business, learn how to read your P&L and how to understand your balance sheet. Talk to your team about their observations on how the business is functioning. Use historical data to build a forecast for the future, and understand how your business is trending. Make adjustments before it’s too late the affect change. It will be crucial to understand what you’re working with, so that you can set goals for the next 1, 3, and 5 years, and ultimately build your exit plan.

Now is the time for exit planning, whether exit is in the immediate future or 20 years down the road.

Now is the time to build your exit plan on your terms. I know it sounds crazy – we’re in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, businesses are shut down, customers aren’t buying like they used to. Running a small business isn’t easy. During times like these a lot of business owners think about shutting their doors. What would happen if you shut down your business tomorrow? Most business owners work harder than they have to, earn less than they should, and leave a lot on the table when they exit. Most business owners are not thinking about their exit planning until its too late to make any real and lasting improvements.

Avoid FOMO, you’re not building a Gazelle. Making rash decisions to chase revenue may not result in long term benefits.

Often business owners get stuck in this pattern of FOMO – fear of missing out. They want to chase the next great thing, and chase the dollars. Sometimes this means that the business gets put at risk because there’s excitement behind chasing revenue. Building a sustainable business with long term customers, or customers that come back again and again will help contribute to the over all value of your company. When it comes to exit planning, potential buyers want to see that the business can sustain customers long term, and the want to see steady rising revenue and profits.

Proper exit planning can ensures that you as the business owner have the best possible outcome with a business that funds your exit or retirement. Small business is about building sustainable and profitable machines that contribute to the local economy, and ultimately to the national economy. Privately-held businesses employ millions of people, they feed families, they support each other, they build communities. You are building a legacy, and your exit planning should reflect that.

Here are some small business exit statistics – the plan vs. reality when it comes to exit planning:

50% of small business owners plan to pass their business on to family members when they’re ready to exit; 10% of business owners plan to sell to a competitor. 30% of business owners plan to sell to employees, and 10% plan to sell to outsiders. More often than not, these plans are more like dreams – and they never make it onto paper to put into action.

The reality is that 15% of small business owners actually pass the company to the 2nd generation. Only 5% of businesses go from 2nd to 3rd generation. 10% of small businesses get sold to competitors. Only 5% of small businesses get sold to employees, and 10% of small business owners sell to industry outsiders. 40% of small businesses close their doors / liquidate when it comes time for the owner to retire or leave the business. Business owners without an exit plan are more likely to watch their businesses get sold for pennies on the dollar than to watch their business transition to the next generation.

Build an exit plan.

75% of business owners who exit say they wish they had done it differently. What we hear most from business owners is that their exit plan is leaving in a pine box. Exit planning doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. However, it does require dedication  from the business owner – and sometimes management team – to set up properly. You have put so much of your blood, sweat, and tears into this business. Why are you willing to leave the exit up to chance?

Only 2% of business owners know the value of their own business – their largest asset when it comes to exit planning. We often make the correlation between the value of your business to the value of your home (if you own one). After years of spending time, money, and effort to improve the value of your home, would you ever leave one day and never come back? One day you decide to leave your house keys on the kitchen counter, unlock all the doors and leave your house for some stranger to come and occupy. Let that sink in… would you ever legitimately do that? Absolutely not. So why are you doing that with your business?

The first step is to get a valuation for your business.

It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. What if my businesses isn’t worth what I think it is? What if all this sweat equity I have put in over the years doesn’t add up to real measurable value? It can be scary to think about that, but this isn’t the time to avoid the monster in the closet – this is the time to tackle it head on.

The only way to know for sure, and to change the outcomes for your business is to get started, one foot in front of the other – you can do this. Being an entrepreneur means taking on the challenges that no one else will and building solutions. It’s time to build your exit plan, whether you’ve been in business 2 years or 20 years. Not ready to get a business valuation: 4 Reasons Business Owners Don’t Get Valuations

Interested in building your exit plan, but unsure where to begin? We all need a little help sometimes. Talk to us we’re here to help business owners, our clients are business owners just like you.