• Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 4/11/2013

Every entrepreneur needs an exit strategy 

Every entrepreneur needs an exit strategy
While you’re still building your empire, thinking about how you might disconnect from and cash in on the family business one day probably doesn’t top your to-do list. It should, though – no point building up a lucrative business if you haven’t thought about how you’ll access that fortune in the future.

That’s why every entrepreneur needs an exit strategy. Simply defined, it’s a method for getting out of an investment you’ve made in the past – in other words, getting out the money you put in (and then some).

Many people think of exit strategies as contingency plans in the event of failure. Not so – an exit plan is actually a proactive form of succession planning. Putting a plan in place for your departure gives you more control over how and when it’ll happen.

An exit strategy…

  • Gives your business more direction and clearer focus, since you know what the ultimate aim of your efforts is
  • Helps minimise future disruptions, both to your business and to your life
  • Helps you better manage the tax implications of your departure
  • Helps maximise what you get out.

Formulating an exit strategy isn’t as hard as it sounds! Follow these steps:

  • Consider the ultimate aim of your business – for example, is the end goal to leave a legacy to your family by giving over management to the next generation or simply to make money by selling it?
  • Consider why you started your business – did you start your business purely to make money or because you wanted to further a cause and make a difference? Your motivations to go into business in the first place may well influence your choice of exit strategy.
  • Consider what role you wish to play in the future – do you want to maintain some influence over the business (sit on the board, for example) or would you prefer to make a clean break and play out the rest of your days on the golf course?
  • Consider your future personal liquidity – how much money do you want to get out of the business, and would you prefer a lump sum payment, pay-outs at regular intervals or shares which allow you to participate in the company’s future growth?

Exit strategy options

How to get out? Here are some exit strategies to mull over:

  • Keep it in the family – transferring business ownership to a successor takes considerable planning, from an operational and legal perspective. If you opt to turn the family business over to your heirs, make sure that you have a solid succession plan in place.
  • Sell the business to a friendly buyer – one of the easiest ways to offload a thriving business is to sell it. Before advertising a business for sale, put the word out – chances are parties interested in acquiring your business include those in your own network, like customers and employees, even family members. Those who’ve had some sort of connection with your business in the past are more likely to preserve its legacy – a plus point if you feel strongly about the issue.
  • Sell the business to a competitor – there may be strategic buyers out there who wish to snap up your business for its client base; because they wish to take competing businesses out of the market or because they see some synergy with your business and theirs.
  • Float the business on the stock exchange – transforming from a private company to a public company is the method by which many an entrepreneur has made millions: think Google, Microsoft or Apple. This one’s for the big boys!
  • Liquidate the business – don’t wish your business to get in the hands of your competitors, go public or hand it over to a family member? Then wind up your business – close it down for good and sell your assets. This strategy works well for those who have high-value assets, such as land or equipment. Remember, though, that all debts will have to be paid off, first, before you get the spoils.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.

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