Skip to main content

From entrepreneurship to exit strategy:

What got you here, can get you there

share arrow printer bookmark flag

September 5, 2023

Having been an entrepreneur myself for almost 16 years, I’ve experienced the roller coaster of highs and lows, successes and failures, feelings of going it alone and wondering, “will I ever arrive?”

Recently, my daughter took the leap from employee to entrepreneur, and it’s been fascinating watching her begin the journey.

She’s a pediatric occupational therapist, and like many entrepreneurs, didn’t embark on this journey because she is a savvy businessperson who understands financials, strategy and how to improve systems and processes.

Rather, she was driven by the need to “do it better,” have flexibility and balance and be her own boss.

Being an entrepreneur is hard work.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

How does this relate to business exit planning?

The characteristics that make for successful entrepreneurs also make for successful exits – what got you here, can get you there.

Vision and passion
Having a clear vision and passion is crucial for developing a successful personal exit.

If you can articulate your long-term goals, you can align your exit strategy accordingly.

In addition, having passion fuels the drive to not only build a business that is profitable, but also personally fulfilling, and, when planned for, can create a meaningful exit.

Adaptability and flexibility
Successful entrepreneurs understand their exit plans may need to adapt to market conditions, industry shifts or personal circumstances.

Being flexible allows them to adjust their exit strategy as needed, ensuring they can capitalize on the most favorable conditions and opportunities.

For example, a client is in transition from family ownership to employee ownership.

The last family member in the business wanted to exit several years back but, due to a failed succession plan and taking the eye off the ball, was forced to stay on for much longer than anticipated.

Had he exited on schedule, the business would have failed, and he would have lost significant value.

By being adaptable and flexible, he is now able to capitalize on a more favorable business value and a solid succession plan.

Risk-taking and resilience
A successful personal exit often involves taking calculated risks.

This could involve the development of an individual successor or team (that may not work out), a sale to a third party (with unknown outcomes) or an unplanned exit.

Entrepreneurs need to evaluate the potential returns and associated risks when considering exit options. 

The resilience to bounce back from challenges is crucial.

It allows entrepreneurs to persevere, learn from setbacks and explore alternative exit avenues. We had a client whose plan for exit was a management team buyout.

However, the leaders weren’t capable of running the business or financially able to buy out the owner, and several had no interest in being owners.

In understanding the situation, the owner was able to shift.

The business is now being positioned for a single management member to buy out the owner. Over several years, the successor has gained valuable professional development, personal financial stability and wherewithal to invest and is interested in taking on the risks and rewards of ownership.

Had the owner not evaluated this early on, he would have had limited options to exit.

Problem-solving and decision making
One of the first things my daughter said to me as she launched her business was, “Is this what being an entrepreneur is – constantly thinking about the business – new ideas, new obstacles, new problems to solve?”

Honestly, I did chuckle at that – because that’s exactly what it is.

And this doesn’t change as you build a successful business and plan for your exit.

Some of the most difficult decisions you will make over your entrepreneurial journey are:
What will life look like once you exit?What is important to you as you plan for your exit options?
A critical characteristic of any entrepreneur is confidence – failure is not an option.

Continuous learning and growth to overcome obstacles and see new paths are critical to success.

Believing in yourself and what you’re building takes all the characteristics outlined above.

But above all, it takes the confidence to take the leap, fail and continue charging forward – because at the end of the day, that’s what drives success and ultimately drives the ability of an owner to build a business they can be proud of and exit the way they want.

Responsibilities of an entrepreneur
As I said, being an entrepreneur is hard work – it’s also a privilege and an obligation.

When you build a successful organization, you are responsible for the employees, their families, your family, vendors, customers and the community.

This responsibility requires you to apply all the characteristics that made you an entrepreneur – create a vision, define your passion for what’s next and be adaptable and flexible as things change. 

Realize the risks may be different, but your resilience will always move you forward.

Your ability to problem solve and make decisions that take into consideration your goals and options and to confidently define your future will allow you to continue to use the strengths you’ve developed as an entrepreneur to create your successful exit.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending