Much like Dickens stated so long ago “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…", so too are the business times today. More and more evidence is accruing daily that shows in the coming years there will be a) too many businesses for sale, b) chasing too little money to buy. The results, as in nature, are that only the strong will survive. Regardless of whether your current business plans are to grow organically, by acquisition, or to remain status quo, of greater concern should be how to exit on your terms, since exit is inevitable.
Peter Drucker, the oft-quoted management consultant, educator and author, said it best when he said “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work." Notice that Drucker put planning ahead of hard work, not the other way around. Most business owners have the hard work part down cold; it's the planning part that the trips them up as they are working too hard to take the time off to plan!
For that reason, there is no better time than now to contemplate your exit strategy for tomorrow. If you plan to exit your business in the next decade or so, getting you and your company in a competitive position should be the number one focus of your exit strategy. If that is the case, here are some steps you should take so that you can start to build your tomorrow, today.
First; decide where you want to go. The old saying is so very truthful “If you don't know where you are going, any old road will get you there." Take the time to define what you want to happen when you finally leave for the last day. Want to pass it on to the kids? Make sure they can run it, and can afford to pay you a fair price for it. Want to sell it to someone else? Make sure it has value in their eyes, not yours. Buyers seldom buy what sellers are selling, so know the difference.
Second; put together a road map to get to the front of the pack. With more and more businesses chasing fewer and fewer dollars, only those at the front of their industry will have a chance at reaching their financial goal. Look internally and externally at where, what and how you can make changes that will raise your business into the top percentiles for its size and industry. Be honest in your planning, but be ruthless with yourself in execution. Most often you are the reason things don't happen as planned.
Third; prioritize your tactics, once you have your strategy finalized (and don't confuse the two)! Your strategy should be whatever exit option you have chosen. Your tactics are the day to day actions you will take to reach that goal. But don't be afraid to make course (tactical) corrections as things change. Remember, roads close for various reasons and force detours, but the destination doesn't change.
Finally, get expert help. The fact that you have not planned so far is most likely the very reason you need external assistance. Find someone or a team with a successful track record to work with you, not do the planning for you. It's your plan, but they can offer guidance and can often see things you cannot.
Interested in learning more? We have been helping owners plan, execute and reap their rewards since 1990. Try us; you just might find a strategy and tactics that work for you!
P.S., even if you are not planning an exit any time soon, you still might want to plan. There are other things that could force your exit, and at a bad time, as our old friend Murphy might attest.