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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Planning Your Exit Route? Make Sure That You Have Planned Succession In Place!

So you’re an entrepreneur?  You started the business alone and now it is a well managed, energetic and successful company.  Your background is perhaps technology or sales or ever finance.

The problem is that you started the business some years ago when you were young and enthusiastic and you are now no longer as young as you were and perhaps even slightly less enthusiastic.

I recall a very eminent business man some years ago telling me that he “didn’t much enjoy patient trading”.  He said that he much preferred making money to earning it.  That meant to him doing deals rather than the steady drip, drip of everyday business.  It was more exciting and he needed excitement.

Perhaps the excitement and uncertainty of the start up years has diminished and going into the office each day seems to be much as it was yesterday.  Perhaps even the dreaded word “boring” comes to mind on occasions.

So is now the right time to start thinking about the exit route are the alternatives?

So what are the alternatives?  Close the business down and sell the assets, sell it to the management, a trade sale, become non-executive Chairman and hold on to a majority stake paying a dividend, keep going until you fall off at the other end and so on.

Whatever is decided (other than closing down, of course) it is vital to ensure that the management is strong and capable of taking the business on to the next phase.

A trade sale will mean that the business goes into new hands and the owner can sail away into the sunset with his bank account enhanced.  Not always correct.  Frequently the acquiring company can want the owner to stay on for a couple of years (ideally) so that continuity is maintained. It can also happen that they will expect an earn out based on projected results.

One useful approach is for the owner to sell a proportion of the shares to the management over a period of, say, four years keeping an interest at the finish.

Every one of these options (again except the close down) demands a strong, capable and committed management team especially in the case of the trade sale where the acquiring company is likely to pay a premium for buying good management.

The big question is: if you are considering an exit route have you examined the abilities of the management team, strengthened it as necessary and cleared out anyone who is not performing.  Running a business and selling a business both demand having the right people on the bus.

It can make all the difference between a successful sale and perhaps a fire sale.

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