It is never too early to begin thinking about merging, being acquired, buying another business, selling your own, or training a successor. With a long-term vision of your exit strategy choices, you can start making the incremental changes to ensure the choices are available. Like any other type of business planning, long-range thinking helps you gain clarity on which short-term objectives you need to meet in order to meet your long-term goals. This is imperative for businesses that revolve around long-term, recurring revenue client relationships.
Deciding which plan will work best for you requires a yearly “gut check” and some deeper dive thinking. You will have to factor in how much decision-making authority and/or responsibilities you, or your executives, will want to retain in order to choose the course of action that you are most comfortable with. This will guide your options.
If entertaining the idea of a merger or acquisition, part of the process will be matching your criteria or wish list to other businesses. You will need to identify which have the similarities and differences from your business you are looking for. These could include:
The next steps in this process will be building a strategy to migrate data, clients, technology, staff, and marketing and communications after the continuity agreements or sales have been made. The act of visually documenting the strategic steps will surface hurdles and decisions that need to be researched and solved.
If, on the other hand, you decide to train a successor, you will have different considerations to make. You will have to determine if you possess the skills and patience necessary to mentor the next leader or if you will hire someone else to do so. Whichever the case may be, you need to begin running your business with these future plans in mind.
For those that want a successful, thriving, multi-generation business, identifying where you want to be in three, five, or even ten years will help you choose the short-term plans of an organization. It will also help to:
Download the Succession/M&A Exercise, regardless of where you are in your business cycle or career path. This is a very quick mindset exercise to open your mind to the possibilities and feelings about your own transition as a leader.
At some point in business growth, you will have to decide if you want to be the visionary of the company or the management leader. You have to decide what your role should be now, as you progress through your career, and when you move on from the business. The only way to gain clarity on these roles is to have the long-range goals in mind now.
Please remember to add any new epiphanies and ideas to your Master Plan of Ideas and Initiatives.