You might not be able to see it now, but there will come a time when you want to move on from your business. Natasha Courtenay-Smith discusses the merits of keeping the end in sight, wherever you are today.
There’s been plenty written about the things you must have in order to start and grow a business; a business plan, a marketing strategy, and a strong team. But something that isn’t so readily addressed is your exit strategy.
That’s because for most entrepreneurs, their business is their baby and they are so engulfed by it, that it’s hard to imagine a time when things will be different.
But if you take a moment right now and ask yourself, honestly, whether or not you’ll still be doing the business you’re running now in 10, or 20 years’ time, you probably know the answer is no.
And why? Because quite simply, life changes. Things will happen that will change your dedication to your work, your love of your work, or the feasibility of your venture.
You might just wake up one day as I did, with a successful business but an increasing sense of boredom and a question somewhere in the back of your mind over whether ‘there’s more to life’.
Today, you might have a thriving business selling iPad cases or doing whatever you do. But what’s to say in a few years won’t wake up and think ‘I’m going to spiral into depression if I have to look at another iPad case or listen to yet another tech industry talk.’
And you know what, this is a normal part of the natural cycle of life.
At some point in the future, either near or distant, you will have to, or you will want to, let go of your business. And that is why, from the moment you realise this truth, you should keep the end in sight and build your business accordingly.
Owning a business is a bit like running a marathon, and selling it is like crossing the finishing line. The only problem is, unlike in a marathon, we don’t always know exactly where the finishing line is, or when we’ll see it on the horizon ahead of us.
But just like a marathon, you can begin the race with the end in mind and a level-headed plan for what will happen when it arrives. A plan that will leave you able to sell your business for the most possible money, and leave with your head held high – your job in creating and growing your enterprise done.
Start today with your exit plan by asking yourself these three vital questions which will be at the heart of it:
Who will be me when I exit my business?
The more you are key to your businesses running, and a vital part of money generation in your business, the less valuable your business will be. Quite simply, it will be too tied to you and in order to sell it, and you’ll have no option but to stay on running the ship for the new owners for up to three years. Start now by delegating more and replacing yourself within the business. You need to get employees to take over the work you do, and take on the role of business owner.
What can I do now to increase the value of my business?
When the day comes that you want to exit your business, in order to sell it for a large cash sum, it must be in its best possible shape. Everything from the operational aspects of your business to the accounts, its curb appeal to its prospectus needs to be in order. One of the main reasons you as the business owner need to free yourself from working in the business (as per the above question) is because its your job to work on it to increase its value. Your business will be at its most valuable when it is a smooth running machine with plenty of income streams that potential new owners can imagine stepping right in to.
What will I do next?
Many business sales fall through because the person selling their business gets cold feet. Speaking from experience, it is terrifying to sell a business and realise that your life, which naturally revolves around the business, will no longer have the business in it.
A bit like a break up, a business has a way of speaking to you last minute and pleading with you not to let it go.
There were many moments when I thought ‘I can’t actually go through with it’ and felt completely sick at the thought of how my life would pan out afterward. But you need to start thinking about your life beyond your business and have a clear vision of what you will do next. You need an actual written down list of all the things you will now have time to do that you haven’t had time to do previously, and even better, add in pictures too! You need to create a feeling of excitement and opportunity around your new life. This will pull you forward and keep you going through the sale.
Natasha Courtenay-Smith is a London-based business coach and mentor who specialises in helping entrepreneurs grow valuable businesses and sell them.