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It takes years to become a successful entrepreneur and generations to build a business empire. However, the sad reality is it takes just one adverse situation for it to all fall apart. As many of us learn, an ounce of prevention is 100x better than the medicine it takes for the cure. One of the many reasons to have an exit plan is to create a series of contingency strategies if and when a business faces a crisis. A crisis may be financial, internal, or operational: it doesn’t matter. What does matter as a consultant is whether you’re capable of creating efficient exit plans for your clients to address these types of scenarios.
One critical piece of this process is linking your clients personal goals to their value creation strategies.
Here are some of the typical questions for which you’ll need clear answers before you can formulate an exit plan, particularly one that is designed as a contingency plan in a crisis situation.
1. Why did your client wish to do business at all? In other words, what motivated your client to start a business in the first place? The purpose of starting a business is not only to earn money; there is always a bigger aspect to that decision. Maybe it’s to create more personal freedom. Maybe it’s to create change in the community. This is the mission statement for the business. Every business owner should be prepared to answer this question, and most are. Often, it gives you a clear picture of what life might look like after the business. So, it’s critical to ask it up front.
2. Why did your client choose this particular business? Once you are convinced that the client is ready for the challenge of building a business, the next question is why this particular business. Look at whether the client has any prior knowledge of that specific niche. Maybe your client worked in a larger firm, and saw a missed opportunity. Maybe your client simply saw an opportunity in the market.
3. Does your client have a clear vision for growth? Every successful entrepreneur has a clear vision of what he/she is going to do, that divine motivation that compels them to pursue business in the particular niche they’ve chosen. Without that vision or motivation, they lose the urge to succeed in business. Find out how much zeal the client has to reach heights that the business has never reached before.
4. Does the concept of an exit plan disturb your client? Believe it or not, some business owners, even highly successful ones, are not comfortable talking about transition. Also, some are not realistic about their business’ current position and don’t possess a clear understanding of what the business lacks. One might argue that it is your job, as an advisor, to know that; but the client should also know what the company is missing. It’s up to you to help the client manage expectations for what their business is worth and what it’s truly going to take to exit.
5. How much does the client care about an exit plan? This relates to whether your client is willing to create an exit plan. Some business owners just figure it will take care of itself, and no amount of convincing will get them to look at their situation differently. If you and the entrepreneur are on the same page regarding development of an exit plan, then you know he or she trusts you to prepare that contingency plan as well.
6. What is your client’s vision for the business? The most successful CEOs and business owners have a clear future-facing vision of where the market is going and where they see their business headed within that future reality. They know where they want it to be in the next few years, in the next five years, and the next 10 years. But, most clients don’t have that type of clarity in future state. It’s up to you to help them think through what the future vision looks like. What does the client expect in terms of employee churn, new customer acquisition, customer retention, and other factors?
Creating an exit plan prepares the entrepreneur when something goes wrong, not just when the business owner decides to retire or pursue some other business objective. Generally, when crafting operational strategies, one hopes for the best results. For that, you need to align your perspective with the client’s. To do that, you, the advisor, must have a clear vision of what the client expects from you.
Expectations include both short-term and long-term objectives. Keeping tabs on what those are will always give you an edge moving forward and signals benchmarks that indicate milestones achieved or failed. At the same time, when planning an exit, discuss the lowest point that triggers an exit plan. Detailed information about the company’s objectives helps you prepare an ideal exit point.
At the end of the day, you and your client both want the same thing: to achieve success and to sustain it long-term. The same information that helps to guide a business to success also serves to create an exit plan if unfortunate events do arise.
In addition to using the information in the best interests of the business, the rapport you build with the client foments a relationship of collaboration, trust, and confidence. For instance, if an opportunity arises that you believe is perfect for your client and requires immediate action, the relationship you built with that client will enable you both to act promptly and not lose the opportunity. Ultimately, properly implemented strategies will reap rewards for both you and your client.
Creating a feasible exit plan is a challenging task that requires a lot of details and access to often sensitive information. With detailed, accurate information, you can craft an exit plan that can cover almost every aspect for increasing a company’s value as well as mitigating losses should adversity cause the company to fail.
Value Scout can help you along the way. With Value Scout you get access to detailed questionnaires to drive your exit planning work, your clients get an initial estimate of baseline value on their business, and a set of clear findings that will explain where and how they can invest to grow value and achieve a successful exit.
The best advisors use Value Scout to enable the success of their exit planning work. Schedule a demo today.
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