Exit by sale – practical advice for preparing to exit
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, you have just put pen to paper to secure the proverbial multi-million-pound cheque – and your overwhelming sense is one of loss and trepidation. Here, Piers Dryden offers some practical advice for preparing to exit.
For most entrepreneurs, achieving a financially rewarding exit is society’s definition of success where running your own business is concerned. But whilst it is a tremendously exciting event, completion of an exit transaction also represents the end of the journey running your business on your terms. And as with all endings, there can come a void and a profound sense of loss.
Founders and management teams know the all-consuming commitment required to set up and run your own business. With the stakes so high, relationships formed with employees, customers and advisers are generally closer and more meaningful, and the shared successes and disappointments more profound. The journey is an intense one so when it comes to an end after what is usually an intensive and challenging exit transaction, the immediate change of pace, role and status can prove discomforting for sellers.
An obvious place to start is some initial financial planning. Whilst it is important not to make any financial commitments before the deal is completed, receiving significant capital sums can be overwhelming, so clients often look to engage with financial advisers in advance of completion. Establishing an interim plan for the monies on receipt whilst you consider what to do with it longer term takes the immediate stress away. On a related topic, it is also recommended not to discuss the finer details of your deal outside a trusted group. As in all aspects of life, significant wealth can elicit unexpected and sometimes unwelcome reactions from people which can be detrimental and a strain during an already emotionally charged period.
Another piece of feedback we often hear is to avoid making lots of commitments with all the “free” time that you and others you know will expect you to have following the exit. It is tempting to want to keep busy and line up lots of projects and responsibilities to fill your time once you have stepped back from your business, but this can be a mistake. The transaction process is very intense and emotionally draining and a period of recuperation and reflection is often preferable to a busy schedule in the months after the exit. Then, once rested it is possible to examine your priorities and opportunities with a clearer mind than is possible immediately post-deal.
Third, be aware that exit often means a profound change in your position and status with many of the people you interact with on a daily basis. You are no longer the leader of your workforce, and you may well no longer be a business owner amongst your peers. This change of status can be very welcome, but this change of status can mean you are perceived differently in certain circles. It is therefore very important to consider any feelings you may have that arise from any such changes and acknowledge that they may not be entirely welcome. Having said that, you will have a new status, that of a successful exiting businessman and that can bring with it new joys and opportunities.
Finally, beware those who see your newfound wealth and status as a successfully exited founder as an opportunity to corral you into being an angel investor in their business. It may be that this is a role that, depending on your financial planning, you look to take on sooner than later, but ensure that you have safeguards and advisers in place to help you separate those who have genuinely investable businesses from those adepts at flattering you into an investment.
By Piers Dryden