Strategies that don’t start with the end goal in mind will usually miss the exit ramp every time. Founders of small to midsize companies rarely think about the day they will sell or be forced out of the business. Unless, of course, they run a tech company funded by venture-backed capital that wants nothing more than to take an exit to line their pockets and flip to the next big thing. All the Silicon Valley wannabes will have gobs of support to make sure they take the right exit ramp at the right time—the rest of you will actually have to plan for it.
Founders are often caught flat-footed when the best offer of their life comes along. Like someone fitted with lead boots, they fail to act, and the buyer goes sailing by like a cigarette boat in the Hamptons. Or they are so entranced with the sketchy investment banker who wants to fleece the company, they fail to see their company is being stolen right out from under them. Worse yet is the founder whose company has long outgrown his skill set and who is literally paralyzed with fear about what comes next. Well, if he stays in paralysis too long, it will be the wailing a life-support machine makes when someone pulls the plug.
Strategic offer, selling to friends, maybe even family? Who knows? “I’ll know it when I see it”—the common response from the entrepreneur who has no idea what their business is even worth. The need for cash or a certain dollar amount has no real connection to the value of the business—not that they actually know what the value of the business is. As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” So goes the road toward an exit—hop on and pray the road is paved and the sign to the exit ramp is lined like the yellow brick road.
If any of this sounds familiar, you could be headed down the road to Nowhere when you decide to leave your business. Read the upcoming eight noteworthy stories of how NOT to create a strategy for exiting your business, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll pick up a few tips on how to do it right. Unless of course, you picture yourself like Cruella de Vil and absolutely have to have all one hundred puppies for yourself.