As explored in “Business is Personal; Small Business and Owners – a Love Letter” earlier this year, Small Business can be the most wonderful and fulfilling business-life partner you’re looking for.
And sometimes it is not…
When it comes to business, we like to think we are strategic and thorough in our approach. We want to believe we know where our talents and opportunities lie, we spend years (and a fortune) on gleaning advice and (maybe) attending training and professional development, we devote all our collective energies to progressing, keeping a vigilant and jealous eye on the progress of our rivals.
Consequently, when (as a business owner) we’re ready to exit, it should be the easy bit.
We don’t expect there to be any particular complexity in this part of the plan. We’ve decided we want to relax and have fun, and envisage the only obstacles to such goals might be finding the right buyer, so that the business is sold for a song. We adopt an almost laissez-faire, she’ll-be-right-mate attitude, and readily take up suggestions of others without rigorous scrutiny, sometimes, without thinking about things too much at all really.
What becomes painfully obvious when we do get serious is that is what we’ve missed for many years. We fail to note that our business is so much more that just-a-business and not worth nearly as much as we think we deserve, because we insist on being haphazard and even slow about the planning and execution of the Exit. We stick to being guided by internet searches, hearsay, unlearned opinions and muddled instinct when we should be harnessing reason and independent advice from those who play in this space. We end up being a lot more miserable than we might be because we have not taken this part of the business lifecycle more seriously.
And we don’t because we assume that what worked for others will work for us too.
It doesn’t readily occur to us to take our unique situation, both in terms of the business itself and what it means to us and our family and our staff and our suppliers and our customers and our community overall, into account. But most of all, personally and individually.
We’re always looking for clues as to when to even acknowledge the question of Exiting the Business in the first instance, and then when to think about actioning it. Here are 7 to get started:
- No Longer Enjoyable: some owners may not enjoy operating the business any more.
Whilst this might seem simplistic, it’s not. If we’re finding it’s a struggle to do what we once did with joy – why? is it the business itself? is it the people we are working with? is it what’s happening at home impacting on our workplace? Have we found something new to tickle our fancy? Are we just over it? Do we want to leave a legacy that is represented by our business, continuing well into the future, but want someone else to take the reins?
- Personal Debt: successful businesses can be sold to pay off owners personal debt.
Have we found ourselves in a position where we’re staying awake at night worrying about the amount of debt we’re carrying and/or meeting the repayment regime? Is the business the one asset that could be sold that will address this, freeing us up from the burden and for our next add-venture? Is it a choice between the business or the family home?
- Capitalisation: to reap the dividends for many years of hard working by capitalising.
“Capitalisation of profits implies plowing the money back into the business, or keeping it on the balance sheet for some future, yet-unidentified opportunity, or to return some or all of the profit to its shareholders, in the form of cash dividends or new shares” (investopedia.com) Do we really want to sell, or just be able to get some hard-fought-for funds out? Is selling shares a way to do this, and to eventually move the business on over time? Is it a way to at least share the load?
- Ill Health: the owner may need to sell on health grounds.
We’ve had a health check and the feedback is not what we wanted to hear. What do we do now? Do we put the business on the market tomorrow? Do we think all will be right and not worry about it? Do we start making calls to work out what options we have over what timeframes? Do we remonstrate ourselves for not having the business in a more saleable shape?
- Limited Potential: not seeing potential or poor performance.
What future does our business have? Is our business ready to take on new initiatives? Is it in an industry on the decline or incline? Can it be reworked, repurposed, recycled, or refurbished? Do we know what to do to bring it into the 21st century but don’t have the energy or the care factor? Do we not know what to do, and not really sure which way to turn or who to pay attention to? Is this as good as it’s going to get for the foreseeable future, and therefore now would be the time to move it on before there’s more deterioration?
- New Project: owners may want to free up time to pursue a new project in mind.
Freedom plays a big part in thinking about Exit. If we didn’t spend all our time running our business, what would we do instead? What could we do instead? What have we learnt through being a business owner that we can now apply to another path? What angle in our existing business have we discovered that excites us more? Would we actually prefer to be doing something completely different?
- Work/Life Balance: balancing work with life, or maybe even retirement.
Maybe we’ve just had enough…
We want more balance, whatever this means for us.
We don’t want to die with our particular appetites and intense sensations tragically unexplored.
If we use ourselves as our point of reference, what would our life without the business look like? What would we talk about?
How would we identify ourselves? to others?
What have we enjoyed in the past and might we recreate?
What might we learn to say no to and contrastingly, to emphasise going forward?
What’s becoming evident to us as the Business Owners that we are, is that what’s been happening of late (or for the last number of years) cannot continue. Even if we’ve done well, we probably can’t just shut the business down without affecting and upsetting many others, and maybe we don’t really want to do this either. So what are the real options?
Selling the business is definitely one…
If any or all of these possible considerations are resonating, it’s time to work out what to do. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it has highlighted how something can come out of nowhere and completely disrupt our world, whether we’ve been fabulous folk, excellent at business, or otherwise.
Let’s put this learning to good use…
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