Leaving a Business on Your Terms
The term exit planning sounds so cold, so calloused, so calculating.
If I were a content writer for any exit planning expert, I’d force them to quit using this term entirely.
Business owners pour their lives into building companies at the risk of isolating themselves from family members and friends during the early turbulent years. These talented men and women put everything at stake enabling others to make a living.
In short, business owners create compelling storylines that impact the lives of others which took years to write (and to endure).
Still like the term exit planning? I prefer something a bit more personal. Let’s call it Leaving a Business on Your Terms. And “your terms” means not someone else’s terms.
Should You Hire an Expert?
For now, I’m sticking with the term Exit Planning. And yes, you need help.
No, I’m not a salesperson, and I make no money from this endorsement to recommend outside experts.
My reasoning is simple. You have written a great script, a great story in building your business. There’s a prologue followed by the dedicated to section which includes moving comments for your loved ones.
Chapter 1 is about beginnings, the origins of You, Inc. Ultimately, You, Inc. becomes Big, Inc. Or something like that.
The plot thickens as you share the high points and your most depressing moments during the scaling-up years.
As you reach the finish line, your final chapter needs an ending. As the publisher and editor of your story, you want a happy ending. But why are you staring at a blank sheet of paper or a blinking cursor on a white monitor?
And that’s what a gifted exit planner does. They help you craft the final chapter of your life as a business owner. You still make the decisions, but they are the thankless guides providing strategic calls to action that only you can act on.
In short, they help you to leave on your terms, not the terms of someone else.
When Do You Start?
The simple answer is right now. But you and I know that’s unrealistic.
How about sooner rather than later? That’s really the best answer, but it’s still vague.
You’ll know when. As long as you have a sense of self-awareness with a non-controlling mentality, you’ll know when to start the discussion with an expert. Possessiveness causes you to hold on. When you learn to let go, you’ll be ready. I guarantee it.
The wrong answer is to wait too late. Don’t do that. If so, the final chapter of your book ends in tragedy. I don’t want that. Neither do you.
What Does an Exit Planning Expert Do?
I’m not sure. I just know that when my client is ready to step away, we’re miles ahead of other business owners that are in the same boat. Since I’m a systems-driven person, I always think with the end in mind. While my clients may not know this, I’m always ready on behalf of my clients when we bring in the hired guns.
But I still didn’t answer the question.
I still don’t know. But I know this:
- They ask tons of questions about what you want
- They find out if you want to sell or give away the business
- They address every tax aspect of any potential decision you make
- There will be plenty of questions about your management team
- They walk through money scenarios for any succession strategy you may consider
In short, they want to help you meet your goals for the third-most important business decision you’ll ever make. The first is getting started. The second is staying the course when everyone else says you should quit. The third most-important decision is stepping away, which is the hardest decision of all in my opinion.
Every championship team that begins training camp and then plods their way through a long and grueling regular season starts with a book. It’s called the playbook.
That’s what exit planners do. They write playbooks. They’ve written hundreds of these Xs and Os playbooks. They even have one with your name on it. They are the Vince Lombardis and the John Woodens of exit planning. They ensure that you leave on your terms.
They don’t do their work effortlessly. It just looks that way. But don’t all experts make their work look easy?
Where Do You Begin?
I would never hire an exit planning strategist without a obtaining a ringing endorsement from someone I trust. And I’d want case studies of their prior successes.
You should be able to get a short list from your accountant, attorney, or financial planner.
I normally don’t endorse professionals on my digital platform, but these names are so important, I’m gladly breaking my own rule. Accordingly, I am listing three names I’d entrust to any family member down below. Two I know well. I know the other by reputation. All three are national thought leaders in this domain space.
Should you reach out to them, they will not sell you anything. They are fact-finding junkies and will ask many questions to determine if there’s even a fit. And don’t be surprised if they drop a lot of ideas in your lap before they are ever engaged to provide exit planning services for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn the lay of the land in the world of exit planning, especially if this is uncharted territory in your mind.
Logistics may be an issue, maybe not. If distance is a concern, the exit planning world is small, and they will have other names to share with you that live near you.
The G3CFO Short List of Exit Planning Experts
Jane Johnson of Business Transition Academy – She’s the best. Years ago, I encouraged Jane to start building a platform in the world of exit planning. She’s amazing, intelligent, and can navigate the succession planning landmines with ease. She’s a likeable expert. We stay in touch, and I learn something new after every discussion.
Dennis Niven of B2B CFO® – I met Dennis when I was in the same CFO firm he’s in today. I could easily say the same thing about Dennis that I said about Jane. This guy is just freaking intelligent with a great Bob Newhart sense of humor, probably better. Dennis is a great strategist like Jane is. I’m sure if you drew a Venn diagram of their capabilities and accomplishments, the circles would mostly overlap.
Barbara Taylor of Allan Taylor & Co. – I do not know Barbara on a personal level, but we’ve had a brief conversation on LinkedIn. I have enjoyed the handful of articles she has written for Forbes. And her website is packed full of great content. Plus, she’s from a neighboring state, Arkansas. Barbara is smart, capable, and strategic. Like Jane and Dennis, she knows how to help you to achieve your goals and dreams for your next season of life.
The Call to Action
It’s your book. Your story. Your beginning. Your middle. Your end.
Do it on your terms. You get to write the final chapter. The epilogue too.
Just don’t do this alone.
I’m not paid by the great people I recommend. It’s just that my conscience dictates that I need to let you know that Mr. Niven is a very giving man as validated by the gift he sent me in 2011 (the same year the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series).
So not only is he smart, he has a great taste for gifts too. Dennis, thank you (for about the hundredth time)!
Title Photo Credit: Daniel McCullough