After 9/11, I was determined to sell my tech company. I was burnt out from extensive traveling, constant negotiations with international customers and dealing with cash flow and personnel issues. I also realized I would need millions of dollars to retool and upgrade our product line. At that time, I just didn’t have the drive or heart to continue to invest and fight the battle. Borrowing a bunch of money seemed like a massive risk. And I was unhealthy in so many ways. Ultimately, I realized I was not aligned with my business or it’s industry and I wanted to find a way out of it.

My lawyer and I worked out an exit strategy, thinking my employees, customers and partners would be fine. I was so clever. But the plan and the people I trusted failed to deliver and my exit wasn’t so successful. I learned a valuable and painful lesson about the best way to sell a business—I now know it is all about timing and alignment:

• the business owner needs to be mentally and emotionally ready,

• the business needs to be running optimally,

• the buyer needs the right culture, customer base, product mix, and amount of cash, and

• the market conditions need to be in your favor.

Today, I help entrepreneurs plan their exit in a much more strategic, thoughtful and healthy way. I evaluate the readiness of the business, and its people, product and owners. Almost any profitable businesses can be sold if the owners have an entrepreneurial mindset and a customized personal and business exit strategy. The goal is to maximize the sales price of  the business and the personal readiness of the owner.

There are many possible ways (and hybrid options) to exit.

Basic Strategies
Sell all of it for a lump sum and get out

Sell a portion of it and stay involved

Transition to a family member (over time)

Set up an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP)

Sell it over time (payments)

Hire a proven leader / general manager to run it

Sell it to your current managers (buy out)

Merge with another company

Your “why” for the exit needs to align with the best way for you to exit. According to The Exit Planning Institute, over 75% of owners regret how they approached their exit. The reason is the same thing that happened to me: I sold a valuable asset at the wrong time to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Avoid my mistake and turn your business into a super-valuable entity that gives you multiple options for operating and exiting it. I always tell my clients, “develop a world-class business and you will have all of options you want.”

Take a fifteen (15) minute exit assessment and learn the current valuation of your business: