WHAT YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE SAYS ABOUT YOUR EXIT PLAN

In my experience, your age has a big effect on your attitude towards your business and how you feel about one day getting out. Here’s what I’ve found:

Business owners between 25 and 46 years old

Twenty- and thirty-something business owners grew up in an age where job security did not exist. They watched as their parents got downsized or packaged off into early retirement, and that caused a somewhat jaded attitude towards the role of a business in society. Business owners in their 20’s and 30’s generally see their companies as means to an end and most expect to sell in the next five to ten years. Similar to their employed classmates who have a new job every three to five years; business owners in this age group often expect to start a few companies in their lifetime.

Business owners between 47 and 65 years old

Baby Boomers came of age in a time where the social contract between company and employee was sacrosanct. An employee agreed to be loyal to the company, and in return, the company agreed to provide a decent living and a pension for a few golden years.

Many of the business owners I speak with in this generation think of their company as more than a profit center. They see their business as part of a community and, by extension, themselves as a community leader. To many boomers, the idea of selling their company feels like selling out their employees and their community, which is why so many CEO’s in their fifties and sixties are torn. They know they need to sell to fund their retirement, but they agonize over where that will leave their loyal employees.

Business owners who are 65+

Older business owners grew up in a time when hobbies were impractical or discouraged. You went to work while your wife tended to the kids — today, more than half of businesses are started by women, but those were different times, — you ate dinner, you watched the news and you went to bed.

With few hobbies and nothing other than work to define them, business owners in their late sixties, seventies and eighties feel lost without their business, which is why so many refuse to sell or experience depression after they do.

Of course, there will always be exceptions to general rules of thumb but we have found that – more than your industry, nationality, marital status or educational background – your birth certificate defines your exit plan.

Wondering if you have a sellable business? The Sellability Score is a quantitative tool designed to analyze how sellable your business is. After completing the questionnaire, you will immediately receive a Sellability Score out of 100 along with instructions for interpreting your results. Take the test here and find out: Sellability Score questionnaire

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Does Your Business Have Curb Appeal?

Let’s say you’re in the market for buying a house and you go to view one that looks appealing in the ad. How does it look on the inside? The outside? What about the location? What is your general impression?

Like your house, your business projects an image to potential buyers. When they come to see your business for the first time, your “curb appeal” can attract a buyer to your business—or cause them to walk away from it.

Do you need to improve your curb appeal? Here’s a three-step plan:

1. Fix Your Leaky Faucets

Perhaps, like many other business owners, you started your business from scratch with one or two employees and now you have 20 people working for you. But do you have the appropriate HR infrastructure in place for that size of a company? Perhaps you even take pride in your informal management style, but it can prove to be a liability when it comes time to sell.

Make sure your human resources policies are at least as stringent as those of the company you hope will buy your business. Some basics to have in place:

  • A written policy making it clear you forbid any form of harassment or discrimination;
  • A written letter of employment for each staff member;
  • A written description of your bonus system;
  • Written policies for employee expenses, travel and benefits.

2. Assemble Your Binder

When you go to buy a house, it will give you confidence if the owner has the instruction manuals for the appliances, information on where they were purchased, and who to call if one of them breaks down.

Similarly, when a potential buyer looks at your company, he wants to see that you have your business information in order. Documenting your office procedures, core processes, and other intellectual capital can help you attract more bidders and a higher price for your company, while also lowering the chance of the deal falling apart during diligence.

If you want to attract a buyer one day, your business needs a binder with instructions for basic functions, such as:

  • Opening up in the morning and closing down at night;
  • Forms and step-by-step instructions for routine tasks;
  • Templates for key documents;
  • Emergency numbers for service providers;
  • Billing procedures for customers.
  • How your company is positioned in the market and your marketing tools.

3. Document Your Intangibles

Intangibles for house buying might include: Is the house near a good school or daycare? What kind of neighborhood is it? What kind of commute are you looking at to get to work?

Your business also has intangible, often intellectual, assets that a potential buyer needs to be made aware of, such as:

  • Proprietary research you’ve conducted;
  • A formula for acquiring new customers;
  • Criteria you use to evaluate a potential new location;
  • Your unique approach to satisfying a customer.

As with selling a house, your company’s curb appeal can go a long way toward closing a deal.

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