The First Steps Towards Selling Your Business When It Already Feels Too Late to Start Planning 

You were so busy building your business that you never took time to consider an exit plan – now what? 

So far away, and yet so close. That’s probably how the time horizon for selling your business feels.  

You keep telling yourself that you have plenty of time to plan your exit because, let’s face it, there are more urgent matters demanding your time, attention, and energy these days – and every day. 

But you know it’s important. Every day you put it off to focus on something urgent, you can feel the subtle anxiety growing inside. Problem is, even if you found the precious time to plan the future of your business – and your future outside of it – where would you even start? 

The overwhelming nature of this simple question often makes retreating to the daily grind feel like your path of least resistance. Let that grind remind you, however, that you can’t do this forever. 

So, do your current and future self a favor. Pause. Now make a point to prioritize the important over the urgent. 

Start at the finish line. 

Love it or hate it, your time running your business will eventually end – one way or another, either by choice or otherwise, and whether you plan for it or not. 

The most practical first step in this process is to focus on the last step so you can work backwards from there. Start by determining what it will take to achieve financial independence without your business. Once you define the financial finish line for yourself, you can then move to defining it for your business. What is required for the business to run seamlessly without you?  

Operating with this mindset can be a major shift for many business owners, but it is often one that can be life giving both now and later. 

Be honest about your goals. 

The goals you set for both you and your business must be based in reality. 

You can’t determine the requirements for your financial independence if you don’t have a clear, honest understanding of what that looks like. The bar you’re trying to clear should not be the bare minimum – unless, of course, that’s your intended lifestyle. 

So, allow yourself to imagine your life as a former business owner. Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? How do you want to spend your time and money? 

Now, what about your business? In what position do you want to leave it – your pride and (hopefully) joy – when it’s time for you to leave? 

Figuring out what both you and your business need to achieve to go your separate ways should not be a guessing game. If you need help being precise on both these fronts, seek guidance from an experienced financial advisor.  

Start as soon as possible.   

Planning – and implementing – your steps towards the sale of your business is like accruing compound interest: The earlier you begin, the more potential you can harness.   

What you do to prepare your business to thrive in the future without you will also help it thrive in the present before you go. Implementing the necessary people and processes to remove yourself from having the only key role helps take your business to the next level in terms of performance, profitability, and potential. 

A common misconception about the lifecycle of a business (and its owner) is that it’s linear. Businesses often veer off their charted paths, in both good ways and bad. Having a plan that considers the unexpected can help you more nimbly adjust to the unexpected. 

Starting the process of planning your exit may surface emotions of psychological attachment to your business. Perhaps you’re consciously or subconsciously avoiding those feelings by continuing to just press on. You can still look at it through a more pragmatic lens by acknowledging that sound succession planning is just as critical as any other piece of your business plan. 

Remember, it’s not too late and you don’t have to do this alone. If you think you might need an experienced guide through this important process, let’s talk. 

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