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Certified Business Exit Consultants

Exit Planning for Business Owners

Exit planning is a critical process for any business owner looking to sell or transfer their business while ensuring a comfortable retirement. This strategic process should begin at least 5 to 10 years before the intended departure of the owner and involves the coordination of several professional advisors. By planning early and thoroughly, business owners can maximize the value of their business, ensure a smooth transition, and achieve their personal retirement goals.

Why Exit Planning is Essential

The Importance of Early Planning

The process of exit planning is often underestimated by business owners. According to recent statistics, 96% of business owners recognize the importance of having both an exit and succession plan. However, 87% do not have either plan in place. This lack of preparation can lead to significant financial losses and operational disruptions.

Financial Implications

Without an exit plan, the average business loses 27% of its value upon sale. Additionally, only 20% to 30% of businesses that go to market actually sell. This leaves up to 80% of business owners without solid options for realizing the highest possible value of their business or ensuring continuity. Only 5% of business owners are satisfied with the net proceeds from the sale of their business, and 76% experience profound regrets within a year after exiting their business.

Impact on Stakeholders

The absence of a well-crafted exit plan affects not only the business owner but also family members, employees, customers, and other stakeholders. An unplanned exit can lead to uncertainty, decreased morale, and operational challenges, impacting the overall health of the business.

Components of a Successful Exit Plan

Certified Business Exit Consultant

A Certified Business Exit Consultant (CBEC) ® plays a crucial role in the exit planning process. Acting as the "quarterback," the CBEC ® coordinates the efforts of various advisors and helps the business owner visualize and execute the best exit and succession strategies.

Key Advisors

In addition to a CBEC ®, several other advisors are essential for a comprehensive exit plan:

  • Attorney: Provides legal advice and ensures that all transactions comply with relevant laws and regulations.

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Offers financial insights, helps with tax planning, and ensures accurate financial reporting.

  • Certified Financial Planner: Assists with personal financial planning, ensuring that the business owner can meet their retirement goals.

  • Chartered Life Underwriter: Specializes in life insurance and estate planning, providing strategies to protect the business and the owner's wealth.

  • Certified Management Consultant: Offers strategic advice to improve the business's operational efficiency and value.

Exit Strategies

There are several exit strategies that business owners can consider, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The right strategy depends on the owner's goals, business structure, and market conditions. Some common exit strategies include:

  • Selling to a Third Party: This option can maximize the sale price but may require extensive preparation and marketing efforts.

  • Management Buyout (MBO): Selling the business to its management team can ensure continuity and preserve the company's culture.

  • Family Succession: Transferring the business to a family member can keep the business within the family, but it requires careful planning to address potential conflicts and ensure a smooth transition.

  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP): An ESOP allows employees to become partial owners, which can boost morale and loyalty, but it requires significant legal and financial structuring.

  • Liquidation: Closing the business and selling its assets may be the last resort if other options are not feasible.

Steps to Create an Effective Exit Plan

1. Define Your Goals

The first step in creating an exit plan is to define your personal and business goals. Consider your retirement needs, the desired legacy for your business, and the timeline for your exit. Clear goals will guide the entire planning process.

2. Assess the Business

Conduct a thorough assessment of your business to understand its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis). This evaluation will help identify areas that need improvement to enhance the business's value and attractiveness to potential buyers.

3. Assemble Your Team

Assemble a team of advisors, including a CBEC ®, attorney, CPA, CFP ®, CLU ®, and CMC ®. Collaborate with these professionals to develop a comprehensive exit plan tailored to your unique situation.

4. Enhance Business Value

Work with your advisors to implement strategies that enhance your business's value. This may include improving financial performance, optimizing operations, diversifying the customer base, and strengthening management teams.

5. Develop a Succession Plan

A succession plan outlines how leadership and ownership will transition. Identify potential successors, whether they are family members, management team members, or external buyers. Provide training and development opportunities to prepare successors for their future roles.

6. Plan for Taxes and Legal Issues

Tax planning is a critical aspect of exit planning. Work with your CPA and attorney to develop strategies that minimize tax liabilities and ensure compliance with legal requirements. Consider estate planning to protect your wealth and provide for your heirs.

7. Execute the Plan

With your advisors, implement the exit plan according to the established timeline. Monitor progress regularly and make adjustments as needed to stay on track.

8. Prepare for Life After Exit

Plan for your life after exiting the business. This includes financial planning to ensure a comfortable retirement, as well as identifying new activities or ventures to stay engaged and fulfilled.


Exit planning is a complex but essential process for business owners who want to maximize the value of their business, ensure a smooth transition, and achieve their personal retirement goals. By starting early and working with a team of experienced advisors, business owners can create a comprehensive exit plan that addresses their unique needs and circumstances.

Whether you are considering selling to a third party, passing the business to a family member, or exploring other exit strategies, careful planning and professional guidance are key to a successful transition. Don't wait until it's too late—start your exit planning today to secure the future for yourself and your business.