Will you be as responsible in exiting your business as you have been in building it?

One of our favorite clients has built a successful service business over the last 20 plus years here in Gaithersburg, MD.  Yesterday we met to discuss progress on his exit plan, and then we talked about how his basketball outreach to a local underprivileged neighborhood was going.  Many years ago, very discreetly, he started renting a gym weekly for teenage and college-aged kids in a low-income neighborhood, and has been faithfully running it at his own expense ever since.  Living life "others focused" characterizes our client in both his personal and business life. He takes his responsibility for serving others very seriously - and he is not alone.

We find working with business owners to be invigorating and inspiring because they are typically hardworking, courageous, responsible, and caring people.  While growing a business they are conscientious about how the business impacts employees, customers, vendors, the community, and their family. They work hard to make good and responsible decisions that will benefit everyone, including themselves.  In addition, like our client, they are frequently involved in charitable or community-based works that improve the lives of others.  Over time, sometimes for decades, their actions have a significant effect on many lives.

However, because they can be consumed with running and growing the business for the good of all, they sometimes miss something that could seriously damage or even destroy all the good they've accomplished through the years.  They can neglect planning for the event that can have the greatest impact on them and everyone connected to the business - their eventual, and inevitable, exit from the business.  

Business owners can work hard for decades, withstanding downturns in the economy and other tough times, and still succeed in serving many people along the way.  But, because often they don't know what they don't know, they overlook the planning necessary for a responsible and successful exit.  It takes more than a few weeks or months to plan an effective exit from the enterprise that took years of hard work and struggle to build.  It often takes years to prepare for a successful exit. 

Some might call it “stewardship”.  You’ve been a responsible steward of growing the business and caring for those connected to the business through the years, what should responsible stewardship look like in planning your exit?  Do you want your legacy to be one of care and concern for others, as demonstrated by how you exit as much as it has been in building the business?  Begin planning today, so that you are as responsible and successful exiting your business as you've been in building it.