A business is often someone’s most valuable asset. So, when planning for an exit, the process deserves a great deal of attention, says John Kvamme, senior vice president and wealth advisor at Associated Bank, Wealth Management.
“Roughly 80 to 90 percent of a business owner’s wealth is tied up in the business, so it’s important to plan appropriately around that,” he says.
What business owners underestimate, however, is that many aspects of the planning that needs to be done will take several months or even years to do properly. That includes readying the business for sale to maximize value and how to transition or approach the sale process. It also includes personally preparing for an exit by determining what to do after the sale and what amount of wealth will be needed to maintain that lifestyle.
“Business owners spend a lifetime building a business, but many times aligning those personal and financial goals gets left to the very end,” Kvamme says.
Still, he says some 75 percent of business owners profoundly regretted selling their business 12 months after the event, and more than 70 percent of businesses put on the market don’t sell or properly transition.
“Imagine creating over several decades building a business and then a year after the fact profoundly regretting selling it,” he says. “And a lot of the reasons why those numbers are where they’re at is that the business owner doesn’t properly look at what life will be like after the sale — what are they going to do and will the wealth generated provide the lifestyle that they want?”
Business owners should instead begin thinking and talking about what they want out of a business exit, discuss that with trusted stakeholders, and then begin to sketch out rough timelines and goals. Think about what an ideal transition would look like. Also think through what life post-sale will look like and what financial needs would be required to maintain that.
“But I would also say, don’t over think it,” he says. “A lot of time paralysis by analysis exists where you try and dial into the numbers, and business owners are very detailed people. But start with some sort of understanding of what you want out of it.”
Kvamme talked on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about ways business owners can personally prepare for an exit, as well as set themselves up for the best chance at success (and the least chance for regret) post-transaction.