Exit Planning: A New Year’s Resolution

“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” – Dennis Waitley
This is the time of year when many of us decide that we need to change things or accomplish new things, and we set goals at the beginning of the New Year. Quit smoking; lose weight; make more money? How about taking a look at your business this year and begin to prepare it for your exit, which will ultimately arrive whether you’re ready or not.  Surveys have shown 75% of business owners have done little or no exit planning. Owners that do plan ahead are more likely to attract buyers and obtain a higher selling price. Here are some key steps to take this year:
1. Clean up financial records.
  • End commingling of expenses, assets & liabilities. This may result in increased tax liability, but will more than pay for itself by returning a higher sale price. Example: suppose you wanted to sell your businesses in 3 years. If the market multiple of EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes Depreciation & Amortization) is 4, for every extra $1 of EBITDA you show on the bottom line, you receive an extra $4 in the selling price.
  • Declare all sales revenue.
  • Sensible, consistent, GAAP financial statements (from the buyer’s CPA prospective).
  • Normalize each of your financial statements. Make notes below each of your year-end statements regarding expenses that are non-recurring in nature, or one-time expenses that are not normal in your business operation.
  • Control expenses: if you have a corporation, take a look at your salary, perquisites and benefits. Decide what it would cost if you had to replace your services with someone else. A business broker/appraiser would make this adjustment to arrive at a modified level of earnings that is commensurate with market rates of compensation. If you have more than one owner working in the business, adjust the salary, perquisites and benefits for each of the owners.
  • If you personally own the building that houses your operation and the corporation or LLC pays rent to you, check to see that the rent is at a market rate. Differences between market rent and actual rent being paid will adjust EBITDA.
  • Pay all of your taxes on time; sales, personal property, payroll, etc.
  • Maintain sensible, accurate management reports.
2. Systems, policies and practices.
  • A well-documented operation pays off by adding intangible value from a buyer perspective.
  • Develop or update systems – and have detailed documentation for all processes your business performs.
  • Measure, report and act on key performance indicators
  • Develop or update employee manuals, policies and job descriptions  for each employee.
3. Personal Goodwill.
Depending upon the type of business and your role in it, take a hard look at your involvement with customers. If most of them do business with the organization because of personal relationships with you, begin to transfer these relationships to someone else or a new hire in your organization. From a value perspective, goodwill that is attached to you is more difficult to transfer to a buyer than goodwill attached to the enterprise.
4. Customer Concentration.
Take a look at your top 10 customers and the percentage of revenues and gross profits that each customer generates. A high concentration of business with a small number of customers will have a negative effect on value. One way to correct high concentration levels is to increase the size of the customer base.
For advice on exiting your company feel free to contact Bob Altieri at 916-905-5706 or boba@exitstrategiesgroup.com.