You have spent years building up your business, but now it’s time to step away and move on to the next venture. So, how can you plan and implement a successful business exit strategy?
The key is to know what your objectives are, not just in terms of pounds and pence, but what you are seeking to achieve on a personal level as well.
How will the staff and overall company be protected for the future? Without visibility on how your business is going to run once it’s in new hands, the transaction could be a very negative experience.
Tim Ward, head of the corporate team at Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ Cheltenham office – the most active legal advisors in Experian’s M&A review 2021 – shares ten questions you need to be asking, ahead of any business exit:
- What is your long-term vision? If it’s a trade or private equity deal, do you and the incoming owner have a shared set of values and visions? It’s vital that you can work together.
- What are your personal objectives and how does the transaction align with your values and plans? If you are walking away, you’ll take one view, but if you’re being retained, then you need to consider what the plan is for the team.
- How is your business going to be managed operationally? Spend time thinking about this and the role of your support teams.
- Is your team, to the extent you have shared information, onside? Do not think you can just walk away; it will be difficult to achieve an exit without everyone on board.
- Think about setting up options for your senior managers; Buyers will want the team to be motivated, this means that they also share on any exit value and if structured correctly they can pay a lower rate of tax – it is much better than paying bonuses and you can drive the right behaviours.
- Are there any legacy issues that need resolving, within IT, your staff, or with a customer? Tidy up the skeletons and identify what needs fixing; don’t assume you can abandon unresolved matters.
- Do you have sufficient support? Trying to run your business and manage the deal simultaneously isn’t a good idea; where possible, try to offload an element of the deal or have someone else run the business for you in the interim.
- Who can set out all the facts knowledgeably? Get a strong team of advisors who have dealt with this type of transaction before; sometimes, you will have to accept you won’t get everything you want.
- What is your value proposition? While you should also spend time thinking about this, it should be kept simple.
- “Why aren’t things going the way I want it to?” – you may find yourself asking this because there will be some frustrations but be patient.
Most importantly, you need to know how your team, and your clients, will be treated and how the company culture will be protected.
Depending on your objectives, the creation of an employee ownership trust (EOT) may be the answer; read more on this from Tim Ward, here
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