Exit Planning and the Marathon Runner

“Eat well and exercise!”

Just about everyone over 30 has heard this advice from someone interested in our health, usually a doctor.  We all know that we should begin by doing SOMETHING, yet we wind up not really doing anything.  We know deep inside that if we want to live long and prosper, taking a few painful steps will have long-term pay-offs, but all too often those first few steps never happen.

What has this got to do with Exit planning? 

Business owners know they should be taking steps to plan for the future, but all too often they don’t seem to get around to it.  With each passing year comes the thought, “I’ll get to that.” But, like the good intentions for diet and exercise, the longer one waits, the harder it gets.

How Exit Planners Help Businesses Get In Shape

            Exit planners are a bit like personal trainers.  What personal trainers do for fitness, exit planners do for businesses. They take a look at the shape a business is currently in, and develop plans to improve that business until it is in optimal condition, usually so that the business can be transferred or sold in such a way that the owner remains in control of the sale.  A business in less than optimal condition often means that the owner will lose some of control of the sale to the whims of the buyer.

Dream Big

            A middle-aged person who develops a dream to run a marathon soon finds that just reading about marathons is not enough to get in the race. Still, if they never dream the marathon dream the race has no chance of being run at all.

            Business owners who intend to sell also should not hesitate to dream big, even if they do not plan to sell for five or ten years. Big dreams mean big accomplishments.  Every business owner should dream big about two things:

1. The ultimate objectives (financial, personal, family, and/or philanthropic goals) for leaving the business.

2.  The “transferable value,” of that business, which should ensure that the owner does not have to go with the business when it is sold.

Set Small, Achievable Goals

            Like someday wanting to run a marathon, dreams are easy to write down, but need diligent daily work to achieve.  They will not happen on their own. Whether you a baby boomer nearing retirement, in the middle of your career enjoying the excitement, or just at the very start of a venture, taking these simple steps will prepare you for the future:

1.         Get help to develop a “workout plan.” Just as it can be helpful to get a personal trainer involved when you begin to exercise, the same is true for business planning.  It's a complex process that requires specific knowledge in certain areas (legal, financial, estate planning, human resources, etc.) to ensure your business gets in optimum shape.  

2.         Set simple goals - Simple goals when one begins exercising help to prevent accidental injury, and the same is true for exit planning.  Three simple, easily achievable goals are:

a.     Determine how much money you need, or want, for retirement

b.     Decide when you want to leave your business

c.     Identify the person, or persons, to whom you want to transfer the business

3.         Start slowly – you can't rush getting into great physical conditioning, and you can’t rush the business planning process. Set realistic goals and act on them one by one.

4.         Stay steady and consistent - sticking with the plan and taking small, consistent steps will pay off.  Make time in your busy schedule to do the essential steps.  

5.         Measure progress - in order to ensure you're making progress toward your goal you’ve got to measure it. Setting 90-day goals allows manageable progress and the ability to celebrate the small wins.  

As you work hard in the business day-to-day, take the necessary time to prepare for tomorrow - starting your exit planning program now will maximize your quality of life in the future.


Corby Megorden

Corby Megorden has decades of executive experience helping organizations identify and successfully navigate the challenges of growth, risk, and change.  His expertise covers operations, program management, and financial development and has been tested in a variety of contexts including non-profits, industry, and the military.  As the VP of Operations for TeleCommunication Systems, he created corporate financial management, contracting, budgeting, and corporate merger processes, helping guide the company from startup to a publicly traded company.  As Administrator of a 4,000 member church, he developed structures, processes and procedures to manage finances and operations through periods of rapid growth, economic challenges, and radical organizational change, bringing stability and maintaining the fiscal health of the church.  He is a retired Captain with the Naval Reserves, serving the last 11 years of his 22-year tenure as an Executive or Commanding Officer.  With a Masters in Engineering Administration and 14 years as a licensed pastor, he brings a unique combination of knowledge of the processes and interpersonal dynamics in which organization function.  He is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (ICEAA).

Corby has served on numerous non-profit boards including Covenant Life School, Christ Church of Mt. Airy, and ONE-U Campus Ministries. He and his wife Vilma live in Gaithersburg, MD.  They have two married daughters.