Are you walking toward your business’ destiny?
January 24, 2018
By Martha Sullivan, CPA, CVA/ABV, CM&AA, CEPA
Partner, Succession Planning Practice Leader
Martha leads HK’s succession and exit planning services division and is a regular contributor to Wisconsin’s InBusiness digital magazine.
On Jan. 17, a colleague, Chris Snider, president of the Exit Planning Institute and managing partner of Snider Premier Growth, discussed approaches to exit and succession planning in a presentation at the UW Family Business Center. Snider is the author of Walking to Destiny — 11 Actions An Owner Must Take to Rapidly Grow Value & Unlock Wealth. Throughout his session, he talked about the state of owner readiness for exiting their businesses. Notably:
- There are 6 million privately held businesses with at least one employee in the U.S.
- Two-thirds, or 4 million, of these companies are owned by baby boomers.
- 76% of baby boomer owners want to exit in the next 10 years.
- 50% want to exit in the next five years.
That is a lot of businesses coming on the market relatively soon. What a great opportunity to Gen X and millennial investors and business owners. However, that means even more competition for sellers.
- 99% of owners agree that “having a transition strategy is important to my future and the future of my business.” (61% strongly agreed, 30% agreed, and 8% somewhat agreed.)
- But 79% do not have a written transition plan, and 49% have done no planning at all.
There is a serious disconnect here. Owners know in their hearts that it’s vitally important but it’s hard to commit to and do it.
There are many reasons owners delay their planning. A major one is that the mere thought of doing it, with all its moving parts and complexities, is overwhelming. One of the top questions owners ask me is, “Where do I even begin?”
Snider, who is a serial entrepreneur himself, can relate. He’s bought, grown, and sold companies many times. He’s organized this experience into a highly effective approach for exit planning called the “Value Acceleration Process.” The process, which we integrate into our work with companies, is straight forward yet no-nonsense. It’s built on these key concepts:
- Every owner strives to maximize sales, profits, and business value.
- The priority focus should be on driving value, not growing sales and profits. Build value into your company every single day and growth in sales, profits, and a sustainable business will follow.
- There are three legs to the exit or succession-planning stool that all measure readiness. They are:
- Maximizing transferable business value;
- Ensuring the owner is financially prepared; and
- Ensuring the owner has a plan for “What’s next?”
- Readiness, according to Snider, is a state of fact, not a state of mind. (I largely agree but a counterpoint to this position will be a topic for a future blog post.) The point is that a business and its owner must be able to prove the company’s and his/her own readiness through objective, recurring assessments and documentation. This means knowing the current state of your business, personal, and financial affairs.
- There is traditional accounting (general accounting and tax) numbers and then there is what Snider refers as the “real number.” This is the way a buyer valuing your company looks at the numbers. You must know the “real number” — that is, the value of your company.
- Once you know the value of your company, understand how it breaks down between the tangible assets (equipment, real estate, inventory, receivables, etc.) versus the intangible assets such as human, customer, structural, and social capital. The effective development of the intangible assets drives up to 80% of the multiple a buyer is willing to pay.
- Given the above, how ready are you and/or your business to take the next step forward to either grow or exit? Yes, this also applies to planning for growth. A holistic discipline of exit planning really is just good business strategy. If your business isn’t in good enough shape to sell, it’s not ready to absorb much growth either.
- If there’s more work to be done, value acceleration drives the planning and performance to get you there.
- Relentless execution is chunked down into quarterly increments to keep it manageable and moving forward. You create a new rhythm in how you manage your team, your business, and yourself.
- As a system, this will change your destiny. It’s an opportunity to make more money (now and later), create business independence, reduce risk, and empower those around you.
Value acceleration is a team sport. When working on your business, your management and advisory teams should be right there with you. Your family and personal advisors contribute in the personal and financial efforts. Collaboration is powerful.
Some of the audience was surprised by one of the recommendations. The model has the business owner stop every 90 days to specifically ask if they want to sell the business or keep going. Yes — every 90 days and even in the middle of a wild-tail, having-the-time-of-your-life growth spurt. It is not a leading question. There is no obvious right or wrong answer. The exercise grounds the owner to honestly reassess readiness and progress, factor in new circumstances, refocus where needed, and get back to moving down the chosen path.
One of the attendees remarked, “I have a lot of work to do. I better get started.” Indeed. It takes time to create and walk to one’s destiny, but it can be done and you’ll be better for it.