When You Start Or Buy A New Business

A career as a business owner has a beginning and an end. If you are giving birth to the business of your own or adopting one that is already operating, it is important to spare a moment’s thought for how you plan to end this chapter of your life. You need an exit strategy. Take the time to review this information before your busy career as an owner gets too far along.

Even though the range of different businesses in the world is virtually endless, the number of potential exit strategies available to their owners is surprisingly small.

Close Up Shop

This is the end that might be forced on you by unforeseen circumstances, like economic downturns, disasters, or health issues. However, it is also a perfectly viable strategy to plan for. Closure is most appropriate for small business or independent one-person ventures where your responsibilities are relatively simple. All you will need to do is attend to your outstanding debts, settle affairs properly with any employees and convert the remaining assets of the business to cash and move on.

Pass The Business On

Another option is to find a worthy successor and pass along your stake in the business to him or her. This is often a family member but it may also be an employee. In many mid-sized businesses, the upper tiers of the management team can pool their resources to purchase the business from you. This is known as a management buy-out and it allows you to step out of the business without interrupting its operations too severely.

Take The Business Public

This is the dream option for many business founders, especially optimistic entrepreneurs in the technology industries. Making a name for yourself and your business and attracting the right kind of investor attention can multiply the potential value of your company many times over. Making an initial public offering (known as floating your business in the UK) is often the exit strategy that delivers the greatest financial rewards. Be aware that it is a long, expensive and demanding process, though. It may also take time to fully extricate yourself from the business’s operations and realize the full value of your share in it.

Sell Outright

As long as you build a profitable business with good long-term growth potential, selling it entirely is always an option. The most common buyer to turn to in such a situation is a much larger player in your industry to merge with the company or acquire it outright. Accepting a merger offer will immediately deliver an enormous financial windfall to you. Your departure from the company is usually swift, making this option ideal for quickly-planned exits. Of course, mergers are not always available close at hand. You may have to work to set one up.

Why Your Exit Strategy Matters Sooner Than You Think

Your planned exit strategy will play a key role in how you organize your business right from the very beginning. Certain financial arrangements are poorly suited to certain strategies. Partnerships and sole proprietorships, for instance, are difficult to sell or take public. The cost and difficulty of altering your business’s structure to accommodate a specific exit strategy can often reduce its overall value and have a negative impact on how much money you end up taking with you. Isn’t it more practical to let your preferred exit strategy dictate the initial form of your business?

Over time the practicality of your different options is going to change. For instance, you may have planned from the beginning to leave your company by accepting a management buy-out when the time was right. If the time comes and your management team does not have the financial resources to buy your share, though, you will need to modify your plans. In this situation combining a buy-out with another exit type, like an IPO or a merger is often the solution.

Every entrepreneur who starts up a brand-new business is dreaming big. Before your new company starts growing, just take the time you need to think about your eventual endgame. By mapping out an exit strategy or two for yourself, you can lay down a cohesive long-term plan for the company and secure your own future after your time with the business is done.

Thomas Gunner is a successful entrepreneur and business owner. He operates ReviewFilter.com, which is a cloud-based tool for Hotel And Restaurant operators that engages with recent customers via email or SMS and invites them to give feedback on their recent experience of your business.


PitchBook Dealmakers Column

The current private equity deal-making environment is dynamic, marked by several key factors that may seem at odds with the economic landscape.

It is counter-intuitive to think that there is a liquidity surplus of both debt and equity capital. Not only are there plenty of funds available, interest is strong from all lender/investor constituencies. Companies with solid operational profiles and sound financial reporting are being well received by all funding sources.

The senior debt market has eased, with aggressive competition from banks and non-bank lenders, according to Hilco Global thought leaders. Traditional limited partner funds, credit opportunity funds, captive bank funds, hedge funds, commercial finance companies and insurance companies have all created pricing pressure on traditional lenders. This significant cross-section of investors is competing for a limited number of quality transactions whose credit standards remain basically unchanged. Risk aversion has relaxed, opening the market to non-sponsor private equity companies, challenged credits and traditionally avoided industries.

There is also excess capital in the PE market as the window appears to be closing for various general partners to invest a significant portion of their “dry powder” that accounts for the approximate $543 billion capital overhang in the U.S., according to PitchBook. In short, if you are an active buyer (strategic or financial) looking for an attractive, well-performing company in today’s marketplace, it is likely to be an extremely competitive process as sellers are in the driver’s seat.

To learn more about the PE dealmaking environment, read PitchBook’s latest Deal Multiples & Trends Report, which features a full Q&A from Hilco Global thought leaders.

This article represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily represent the views of PitchBook.


By Axial | April 7, 2016

For the owner of any small business, deciding to bring in an M&A advisor or investment banker is a big decision.

For family businesses, the decision can bring additional trepidation around questions of ownership, legacy, family leadership dynamics, and more.

Says Mark Kincannon of Confidential Business Intermediaries, which works primarily with family-owned businesses, family business owners “want to make sure that this business that has been their baby for many years, sometimes even generations, is placed in someone’s hands that will represent it the way that they desire.”

Here are a few questions to ask when evaluating advisors for a sale or capital raise.

1) “In what specific ways will working with you add value?”
This question gets at the heart of every advisor’s sales pitch. To some extent, you should be able to predict an advisor’s answer — think increased ROI, an expedited process, more time to focus on your business, market/industry expertise, etc. However, the more detail an advisor provides off the bat, the better. You may uncover potential value-adds, like specific relationships or experience, that set one potential advisor apart.

2) “What does success look like for you?”
Frame this question broadly and pay attention to how the advisor answers. Do they talk only about achieving a certain return on investment? If you’re like most family business owners, you’re probably interested in financialsand fit. Listen carefully to see if the advisor frames success stories in the context of each owner’s unique goals for the business and his or her family, as opposed to merely earning returns that meet industry standards.

3) “What work have you done with companies like mine?”
This question does triple duty — it should help you identify advisors who are well-versed with a) companies in your industry, b) companies of your size, and c) companies with similar goals. If you’re looking to raise debt, for example, that’s a lot different than looking to be acquired by a corporation — so make sure you engage an advisor who is poised to help you succeed.

4)“What issues have you encountered when working with family businesses in the past?”
This is a great way to understand the advisor’s approach and attitude when it comes to balancing family dynamics and business priorities, without necessarily airing your own business’s dirty laundry on an initial call. You may even get some free advice out of it!

5) “What do you see as the biggest challenges for my company in this process?”
This question can help you evaluate whether an advisor understands your business model and the unique factors impacting the road ahead. It will also show you whether they have done their research on your organization ahead of time. Their answer should also give you a sense of the advisor’s attitude toward conflict — will they be more likely to try to smooth things over or are they willing to voice and confront potential challenges head-on?