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How to Write a Business Exit Plan

Create a profitable plan from the start

All good business planning documents have a clear business exit plan that outlines your most likely exit strategy from day one.

It may seem odd to develop a business exit plan this soon, to anticipate the day you'll leave your business, but potential investors will want to know your long-term plans. Your exit plans need to be clear in your mind because they will dictate how you operate the company.

For example, if you plan to get listed on the stock market, you’ll want to follow certain accounting regulations from day one that'd otherwise be non-essential and potentially cost prohibitive if your ambitions are to quickly sell the company to a more established competitor in your industry. If you plan to pass the business to your children, you’ll need to start training them at a certain point and get them invested in the company from an early age.

Here’s a look at some of the available strategies for entrepreneurs who want to build a business exit plan into their early planning process:

Long-Term Involvement

  • Let It Run Dry: This can work especially well in small businesses like sole proprietorships . In the years before you plan to exit, increase your personal salary and pay yourself bonuses. Make sure you are on track to settle any remaining debt, and then you can simply close the doors and liquidate any remaining assets. With the larger income, naturally, comes a larger tax liability, but this business exit plan is one of the easiest to execute.
  • Sell Your Shares: This works particularly well in partnerships such as law and medical practices. When you are ready to retire, you can sell your equity to the existing partners, or to a new employee who is eligible for partnership. You leave the firm cleanly, plus you gain the earnings from the sale.
  • Liquidate: Sell everything at market value and use the revenue to pay off any remaining debt. It is a simple approach, but also likely to reap the least revenue as a business exit plan. Since you are simply matching your assets with buyers, you probably will be eager to sell and therefore at a disadvantage when negotiating.

Short-Term Involvement

  • Go Public: The dot-com boom and bust reminded everyone of the potential hazards of the stock market. While you may be sitting on the next Google, IPOs take much time to prepare and can cost anywhere from several hundred thousand to several million dollars, depending on the exchange and the size of the offering. However, the costs can often be covered by intermediate funding rounds. Keep in mind, that the likelihood of your company ever going public is very low, as you'll likely need to reach into the tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue before you're an attractive IPO candidate.
  • Merge: Sometimes, two businesses can create more value as one company. If you believe such an opportunity exists for your firm as a business exit plan, then a merger may be your ticket. If you’re looking to leave entirely, then the merger would likely call for the head of the other involved company to stay on and take over your company's activities. If you don’t want to relinquish all involvement, consider staying on in an advisory role.
  • Be Acquired: Other companies might want to acquire your business and keep its value for themselves. Make sure the offered sale price meshes with your business valuation. You may even seek to cultivate potential acquirers by courting companies you think would benefit from such a deal. If you choose your acquirer wisely, the value of your business can far exceed what you might otherwise earn in a sale.
  • Sell: Selling outright can also allow for an easy exit. If you wish, you can take the money from the sale and sever yourself from the company. You may also negotiate for equity in the buying company, allowing you to earn dividends afterward — it is in your interest to ensure your firm is a good fit for the buyer and therefore more likely to prosper.

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Business exit plan & strategy checklist | a complete guide.

Jacob Orosz Portrait

Executive Summary It’s not enough to merely hand over the keys at the closing. You need a strategy. An exit strategy. An exit strategy, as the term implies, is a plan to assist you in exiting your business. All exit plans will vary, but they all contain common elements. The three common elements that all business exit strategies should contain are: A valuation of your company.  The process of valuing your company involves three steps, the first being an assessment of the current value of your business. Once this value is calculated, you should plan how to both preserve and increase that value. Your exit options.  After you have determined a range of values for your company and developed plans for preserving and increasing this value, you can begin exploring your potential exit options. These can be broken down into inside, outside, and involuntary exit options. Your team.  Finally, you should form a team to help you prepare and execute your exit plan. Your team can consist of an M&A advisor, attorney, accountant, financial planner, and business coach. If you are considering selling your business in the near future, planning for the sale is imperative if you want to maximize the price and ensure a successful transaction. This article will give you a solid understanding of these elements and how you can put them together to orchestrate a smooth exit from your business.

Business Exit Plan Strategy Component #1: Valuation

Your exit strategy should begin with a  valuation, or appraisal,  of your company. The process of valuing your company involves three steps, the first being an assessment of the current value of your business. Once this value is calculated, you should then plan how to both preserve and increase the value of your business.

Let’s explore each of these components — assess, preserve, increase — in more depth.

Assess the Value

The first step in any exit plan is to assess the current value of your business.

Here are questions to address before beginning a valuation of your company:

  • Who  will value your company?
  • What methods  will that person use to value your company?
  • What form  will the valuation take?

Who:  Ideally,  whoever values your company should have real-world experience buying and selling companies , whether through business brokerage, M&A, or investment banking experience. They should also have experience selling companies comparable to yours in size and complexity. Specific industry experience related to your business is helpful, but not essential, in our opinion. There are loads of professionals out there who possess the academic qualifications to appraise your business but who have never sold a company in their lives. These individuals can include  accountants or CPAs,  your financial advisor, or business appraisers. It is essential that your appraiser have real-world M&A experience. Without hands-on experience buying and selling companies comparable to yours, an appraiser will be unprepared to address the myriad nuances of the report or field the dozens of questions that will arise after preparing the valuation.

Action Step:  Ask whoever is valuing your business how many companies they have sold and what percentage of their professional practice is devoted to buying and selling businesses versus other activities.

What Methods:  Most business appraisers perform business valuations for legal purposes such as divorce, bankruptcy, tax planning, and so forth. These types of appraisals differ from an appraisal prepared for the purpose of selling your business.  The methods used are different , and the values will altogether be different as well. By hiring someone who has real-world experience selling businesses, as opposed to theoretical knowledge regarding buying and selling businesses, you will work with someone who will know how to perform an appraisal that will stand the test of buyers in the real world.

Form:  Your M&A business valuation can take one of two forms:

  • Verbal Opinion of Value:  This typically involves the professional spending several hours reviewing your financial statements and business, then verbally communicating an opinion of their assessment to you.
  • Written Report:  A written report can take the form of either a “calculation of value” or a “full report.” A calculation of value cannot be used for legal purposes such as divorce, tax planning, or bankruptcy, but for the purpose of selling a business, either type is acceptable.

Is a verbal or written report preferable? It depends. A verbal opinion of value can be quite useful if you are the sole owner and you do not need to have anyone else review the valuation.

The limitations of a verbal opinion of value are:

  • If there are multiple owners, there may be confusion or disagreement regarding an essential element of the valuation. If a disagreement does arise, supporting documentation for each side will be necessary to resolve the disagreement.
  • You will not have a detailed written report to share with other professionals on your team, such as  attorneys , your accountant, financial advisor, and insurance advisor.
  • The lack of such a detailed report makes it difficult to seek a second opinion, as the new appraiser will have to start from scratch, adding time and money to your process.

For the reasons above, we often recommend a written report, particularly if you are not planning to sell your business immediately.

We have been involved in situations in which CPA firms have  valued a business  but had little documentation (one to two pages in many cases) to substantiate the basis of the valuation.

In one example, the CPA firm’s measure of cash flow was not even defined; it was simply listed as “‘cash flow.” This is a misnomer as there are few agreements regarding the technical definition of this term. As a result, any assumption we might have made would have led to a 20% to 25% error at minimum in the valuation of the company. By having a written report in which the appraiser’s assumptions are documented, it is simple to have these assumptions reviewed or discussed.

Note:  When hiring someone to value your company, you are paying for a professional’s opinion but keep in mind that this opinion may differ from a prospective buyer’s opinion.  Some companies have a narrow range of value (perhaps 10% to 20%), while other companies’ valuations can vary wildly based on who the buyer is, often by up to 100% to 200%.  By having a valuation performed, you will be able to understand the wide range of values that your company may attain. As an example, business appraisers’ valuations often contain a final, exact figure, such as $2,638,290. Such precision is misleading in a valuation for the purpose of a sale. We prefer valuations that result in a more realistic price range, such as $2,200,000 to $2,800,000. An experienced M&A professional can explain where you will likely fall within that range and why.

Preserve the Value

Once you have established the range of values for your company, you should develop a plan to “preserve” this value. Note that preserving value is different from increasing value. Preserving value primarily involves preventing a loss in value.

Your plan should contain clear strategies to prevent catastrophic losses in the following categories:

  • Litigation:  Litigation can destroy the value of your company. You and your team should prepare a plan to mitigate the damaging effects of litigation. Have your attorney perform a legal audit of your company to identify any concerns or discrepancies that need to be addressed.
  • Losses you can mitigate through insurance:  Meet with your CPA, attorney, financial advisor, and insurance advisor to discuss potential losses that can be minimized through intelligent insurance planning. Examples include your permanent disability, a fire at your business, a flood, or other natural disasters, and the like.
  • Taxes:  You should also meet with your CPA, attorney, financial advisor, and tax planner to  mitigate potential tax liabilities.

Important:  The particulars of your plan to preserve the value of your company also depend on your exit options, which we will discuss below. Many elements of your exit plan are interdependent. This interdependency increases the complexity of the planning process and underscores the importance of a team when planning your exit.

Only after you have taken steps to  preserve  the value of your company should you begin actively taking steps to  increase  the value of your company.

Increase the Value

There is no simple method or formula  for increasing the value of any business.  This step must be customized for your company.

This plan begins with an in-depth analysis of your company, its risk factors, and its growth opportunities. It is also crucial to determine  who the likely buyer of your business will be . Your broker or M&A advisor will be able to advise you regarding what buyers in the marketplace are looking for.

Here are some steps you can take to increase the value of your business:

  • Avoid excessive customer concentration
  • Avoid excessive employee dependency
  • Avoid excessive supplier dependency
  • Increase  recurring revenue
  • Increase the size of your repeat-customer base
  • Document and streamline operations
  • Build and incentivize your management team
  • Physically tidy up the business
  • Replace worn or old equipment
  • Pay off equipment leases
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Differentiate your products or services
  • Document your intellectual property
  • Create additional product or service lines
  • Develop repeatable processes that allow your business to scale more quickly
  • Increase  EBITDA or SDE
  • Build barriers to entry

Note:  A professional advisor can help you ascertain and prioritize the best actions for your unique situation to increase the value of your business. Unfortunately, we have seen owners of businesses spend three months to a year on initiatives to increase the value of their business, only to discover that the initiatives they worked on were unlikely to yield any value to a buyer.

Business Exit Strategy Component #2: Exit Options

After you have determined a range of values for your company and developed plans for preserving and increasing this value, you can begin exploring your potential exit options.

Note:  These steps are interdependent. You can’t determine your exit options until you have a baseline valuation for your company, but you can’t prepare a valuation for your business until you have explored your exit options. A professional can help you determine the best order to explore these steps, or if the two components should be explored simultaneously. This is why real-world experience is critical.

All exit options can be broadly categorized into three groups:

  • Inside:  Buyer comes from within your company or family
  • Outside:  Buyer comes from outside of your company or family
  • Involuntary:  Includes involuntary situations such as death, divorce, or disability

Inside Exit Options

Inside options include:

  • Selling to your children or other family members
  • Selling to your business to your employees
  • Selling to a co-owner

Inside exits require a professional who has experience dealing with family businesses, as they often involve emotional elements that must be navigated and addressed discreetly, gracefully, and without bias. Inside exit options also greatly benefit from tax planning because if the money used to buy the company is generated from the business, it may be taxed twice. Lastly, inside exits also tend to realize a much lower valuation than outside exits. Due to these complexities, most business owners avoid inside exits and choose outside options. Fortunately, most M&A advisors specialize in outside exit options.

Outside Exit Options

Outside exit options include:

  • Selling to a private individual
  • Selling to another company or  competitor
  • Selling to a financial buyer, such as a private equity group

Outside exits tend to realize the most value. This is also the area where business brokers, M&A advisors, and investment bankers specialize.

Involuntary Exit Options

Involuntary exits can result from death, disability, or divorce. Your plan should anticipate such occurrences, however unlikely they may seem, and include steps to avoid or mitigate potential adverse effects.

Business Exit Strategy Component #3: Team

Team members.

Finally, you should form a team to help you plan and execute your exit plan. Many of these steps are interdependent — they are not always performed sequentially, and some steps may be performed at the same time. Forming a team will help you navigate the options and the sequence.

Your team should involve the following:

  • M&A Advisor/Investment Banker/Business Broker:  If you are considering an outside exit.
  • Estate planning
  • Financial planning
  • Tax planning, employee incentives, and benefits
  • Family business
  • Accountant/CPA:  Your accountant should have experience in many of the same areas as your attorney, along with audit experience and retirement planning. Again, it is unlikely that your CPA possesses all of the skills you need. If further expertise is needed, the CPA should be able to access the skills you need, either through colleagues at their firm or by referral to another accountant.
  • Financial Planner/Insurance Advisor:  This team member is critical. We were once in the late stages of a sale when the owner suddenly realized that, after deducting taxes, his estimated proceeds from the sale would not be enough to retire on. An experienced financial planner can help with matters like these. They should have estate and business continuity planning experience, as well as experience with benefits and retirement plans.
  • Business Coach:  A business consultant or coach may be necessary to help implement many of the changes needed to increase the value of your business, such as building infrastructure and establishing a strong, cohesive management team. Doing this often requires someone who can point out your blind spots. A coach can help you take these important steps.

Where to find professionals for your team

The best way to find professionals for your team is through referrals from trusted friends and colleagues who have personally worked with the professional in question. Don’t ignore your intuition, however. It’s important that you and your team members have good chemistry.

The Annual Audit

We recommend that you assemble your professional advisors for an annual meeting to perform an audit of your business. The goal of this audit is to prevent and discover problems early on and resolve them. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Your advisors are a valuable source of information. This annual meeting is an opportunity to ensure that they’re all on the same page and that there are no conflicts among your legal, financial, operational, and other plans. An in-person or virtual group meeting enables you to accomplish this quickly and efficiently.

A sample agenda might include a review of the following:

  • Your operating documents
  • New forms of liability your business has assumed
  • Any increase in value in your business and changes that need to be made, such as increases in insurance or tax planning
  • Capital needs
  • Insurance requirements and audit, and review of existing coverages to ensure these are adequate
  • Tax planning — both personal and corporate
  • Estate planning — includes an assessment of your net worth and business value, and any needed adjustments
  • Personal financial planning
Conclusion If you are contemplating selling your business, creating an exit plan will answer these critical questions: How much is my business worth? To whom? How much can I get for my business? In what market? How much do I need to make from the sale of my business to meet my goals? Taking the strategic steps discussed in this article — assembling a stellar professional team and optimizing the team’s collective experience — will get you well on your way toward successfully selling your business and turning confidently toward your next adventure.

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How to Create an Exit Strategy Plan

From defining success to identifying key areas where you can mitigate your risks, here’s how to chart your way to a successful exit.

Touraj Parang

In order to capture and share the critical information regarding your exit plan in an organized and easy-to-reference format, I recommend an approach like the one used by the increasingly popular business model canvas (BMC). 

The BMC is a lean startup template. It depicts in a simple, yet highly informative visual layout the nine essential building blocks of a business model: customer segments , value propositions, channels , customer relationships , revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partnerships and cost structure. This brings us to what I call the exit strategy canvas (ESC) as a template for your exit plan. 

The main goal of the ESC is to document the essential building blocks of your exit strategy and create a shared language for communicating and iterating on your exit plan. I recommend that you lay out the ESC on one page to focus on what is absolutely critical and essential. 

I recommend that you include the following essential building blocks in your ESC.

6 Essential Building Blocks of an Exist Strategy

  • Success definition : What would a successful exit look like? 
  • Core hypotheses : What do you have to believe to be true for a successful exit to happen? 
  • Strategic opportunities : What are key areas for value creation through partnerships? 
  • Key acquirers : Who are your potential acquirers, and what are your selection criteria? 
  • Risks and challenges : What can jeopardize a successful sale to an acquirer? 
  • Key mitigants : What can you do to improve your chances of a successful sale? 

Success Definition 

The entire exit strategy is worthless unless it is crystal clear to all involved what specific outcome an exit is intended to achieve. Once everyone understands the destination, then they can support the journey. 

For many entrepreneurs, a successful exit is one that ensures the survival of their startup. And this survival is all about the continuation of what lies at the heart of a startup’s core values and what the founding team considers to be a part of their personal legacy. That may consist of taking its products from a regional offering to the national or global level, creating new distribution channels, or enabling new features that can make it appealing to wholly new customer segments.

As you consider breathing life into your dream scenario, make sure your definition of success answers the following: 

  • How would an exit best manifest the values of your startup? 
  • How could an exit best promote the mission of your startup? 
  • What would be the ideal time frame for an exit transaction? 

Core Hypotheses 

The next task is to make explicit what you would have to believe to be true for that outcome to manifest. Explicitly stating your assumptions helps you and other team members to discuss and gain clarity about what are the necessary conditions for success, and use them to gauge your future progress. 

For example, if a successful exit for you would entail providing growth opportunities for your employees, then at the time of the acquisition you have to believe that your employees have sufficient skills and expertise of value to an acquirer. Thus, stating the hypothesis allows you and your team to reflect on whether this holds true for the current state of affairs, and if not, what you can do to make that a reality going forward. 

To adopt a more quantitative approach, especially if your definition of success has a valuation threshold, you need to investigate and make explicit what it would take to justify your valuation goal based on either other comparable transactions or public market valuation benchmarks. Your desired valuation will likely necessitate achieving a certain set of financial (e.g., revenues, margin, profitability profile, or unit economics) or user (e.g., customer size, growth rate) metrics. A specific valuation goal makes it much more efficient for you to screen and filter acquisition opportunities as they arise. 

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Strategic Opportunities 

In its simplest form, strategic opportunities are the key areas for value creation with your acquirer. They are the areas of complementarity between your strengths and those of the acquirer. 

As such, to identify areas of strategic opportunity you have to start with a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of your startup. Then, you need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of potential acquirers and how your strengths can fill in the missing piece for their weaknesses and vice versa. This is what is referred to as “synergy.” 

If you have a prohibitively high cost of customer acquisition that prevents you from profitably growing and acquiring new customers at scale, you would have a strategic opportunity to partner with a company that has already figured out a way to acquire those customers at scale profitably but is looking for additional products to sell to those customers. 

Think of companies in your ecosystem for whom you could fill a strategic need, such as adding revenue, adding profits, staving off a competitive threat, accelerating time to market for a product or service, or improving their market share. 

As you enter into discussions with potential strategic partners, you will want to validate and revise your assumptions around areas of synergy and strategic opportunities and be on the lookout to uncover new areas to add to your list. 

Enjoying the Excerpt? Check Out the Book! Exit Path: How to Win the Startup End Game

Key Acquirers 

This is your wish list of potential acquirers. It will also serve as the list of potential strategic partners whom you will be building a business relationship with over the course of the coming months and years. Be as aspirational as possible. You are not looking for who could be an acquirer of your startup today; instead, you are looking for whom you would be thrilled to join forces with long-term. 

For most cases, you could simply state the category or type of company. For a startup serving small businesses, you could refer to “domain registrars,” “website creation platforms,” “e-commerce tool providers” as potential acquirers. 

Keep in mind that at this stage your goal is to provide directional guidance as to what are critically important criteria for assessing strategic partners and what the universe of those potential partners looks like. 

Risks and Challenges 

When considering your exit path, there are in general three types of risks that most businesses have to contend with: execution risk, market risk, and competitive risk.  

Execution Risk

Execution risk is a reflection of your core competencies, external relationships, reputation, and capitalization structure, all of which can make or break a successful exit. Weakness in your core competencies (such as an inability to manage the mergers and acquisitions process effectively, leadership gaps or a lack of a scalable business model) can stop many acquirers in their tracks. That is why building a strong business is table stakes for a successful exit.

Another often-overlooked risk factor in selling one’s startup is its capitalization structure: you increase your exit risk as you raise more money at higher valuations as well as when you grant voting rights to financial and strategic investors , as it reduces the founding team’s control and increases the possibility for others to block a transaction. It’s important that you understand the implication of those increasingly lofty valuations which at some point may render you “too expensive” for many acquirers. 

More on Startups 4 Strategies for Growing a Company Without VC Funding

Market Risk 

As those of us who have tried to sell a company during a market crash know, market risk is always around the corner, and changes in macroeconomic conditions can very much impact the appetite of potential acquirers without forewarning. Because market risk is always present, the more desperate you are to sell, the higher the impact of market risk will be on your startup, so it is ideal not to time a potential exit around a time when you think you will be running out of cash. 

Competitive Risk 

No matter how unique your startup’s offering is, there is always competition in the market. And thus there exists the competitive risk that your ideal potential acquirers snatch up your competitor instead. Be sure to identify and list your largest competitive threats as an important strategic reminder for your organization. 

Key Mitigants 

For each risk and challenge you identify, call out a clear and specific set of mitigants. 

Mitigating execution risks and competitive risks will generally involve building the requisite capabilities and creating strong relationships with your potential acquirers. The best way to mitigate against market risks, in my opinion, is to increase your operating runway so that you can live through short-term market fluctuations. 

Remember that the ESC is a tool intended to efficiently capture and communicate your exit plan. As you create your ESC, feel free to customize it to your own needs, modifying what is captured in each block or adding new blocks that you may find to be particularly well-suited for your startup’s unique set of values, challenges, and opportunities.

Excerpted from the book  Exit Path: How to Win the Startup End Game by Touraj Parang, pages 44-53. Copyright  © 2022 by Touraj Parang. Published by  McGraw Hill, August 2022.

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Exit plans are necessary to secure a business owner’s financial future, but many don’t think to establish one until they’re ready to leave.

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An exit strategy is an important consideration for business owners, but it’s often overlooked until significant changes are necessary. Without planning an exit strategy that informs business direction, entrepreneurs risk limiting their future options. To ensure the best for your business, plan your exit strategy before it’s time to leave.

What is an exit strategy?

An exit strategy is often thought of as the way to end a business — which it can be — but in best practice, it’s a plan that moves a business toward long-term goals and allows a smooth transition to a new phase, whether that involves re-imagining business direction or leadership, keeping financially sustainable or pivoting for challenges.

A fully formed exit strategy takes all business stakeholders, finances and operations into account and details all actions necessary to sell or close. Exit strategies vary by business type and size, but strong plans recognize the true value of a business and provide a foundation for future goals and new direction.

If a business is doing well, an exit strategy should maximize profits; and if it is struggling, an exit strategy should minimize losses. Having a good exit strategy in practice will ensure business value is not undermined, providing more opportunities to optimize business outcomes.

[Read more: What Is a Business Valuation and How Do You Calculate It? ]

Benefits of an exit strategy

Planning a complete exit strategy well before its execution does more than prepare for unexpected circumstances; it builds purposeful business practices and focuses on goals.

Even though a plan may not be used for years or decades, developing one benefits business owners in the following ways:

  • Making business decisions with direction . With the next stage of your business in mind, you will be more likely to set goals with strategic decisions that make progress toward your anticipated business outcomes.
  • Remaining committed to the value of your business . Developing an exit strategy requires an in-depth analysis of finances. This gives a measurable value to inform the best selling situation for your business.
  • Making your business more attractive to buyers . Potential buyers will place value in businesses with planned exit strategies because it demonstrates a commitment to business vision and goals.
  • Guaranteeing a smooth transition . Exit strategies detail all roles within a business and how responsibilities contribute to operations. With every employee and stakeholder well-informed, transitions will be clear and expected.
  • Seeing through business — and personal — goals after exit . Executing an exit strategy that’s right for your business’s value and potential can prevent unwanted consequences of exit, like bankruptcy.

Because leaving your business can be emotional and overwhelming, planning a proper exit strategy requires diligence in time and care.

Weighing your options: closing vs. selling

There are two strategies to consider for your exit plan.

Sell to a new owner

Selling your business to a trusted buyer, such as a current employee or family member, is an easy way to transition out of the day-to-day operations of your business. Ideally, the buyer will already share your passion and continue your legacy.

In a typical seller financing agreement, the seller will allow the buyer to pay for the business over time. This is a win-win for both parties, because:

  • The seller will continue to make money while the buyer can start running the show without a huge upfront investment;
  • The seller may also remain involved as a mentor to the buyer, to guide the overall business direction; and
  • The transition for your employees and customers will be a smooth one since the buyer likely already has a stake in the business.

However, there are downsides to selling your business to someone you know. Your relationship with the buyer may tempt you to compromise on value and sell the business for less than what it’s worth. Passing the business to a relative can also potentially cause familial tensions that spill into the workplace.

Instead, you may choose to target a larger company to acquire your business. This approach often means making more money, especially when there is a strong strategic fit between you and your target.

The challenge with this option is the merging of two cultures and systems, which often causes imbalance and the potential that some or many of your current employees may be laid off in the transition.

[Read more: 5 Things to Know When Selling Your Small Business ]

Liquidate and close the business

It’s hard to shut down the business you worked so hard to build, but it may be the best option to repay investors and still make money.

Liquidating your business over time, also known as a “lifestyle business,” works by paying yourself until your business funds run dry and then closing up shop.

The benefit of this method is that you will still get a paycheck to maintain your lifestyle. However, you will probably upset your investors (and employees). This method also stunts your business’s growth, making it less valuable on the market should you change your mind and decide to sell.

The second option is to close up shop and sell assets as quickly as possible. While this method is simple and can happen very quickly, the money you make only comes from the assets you are able to sell. These may include real estate, inventory and equipment. Additionally, if you have any creditors, the money you generate must pay them before you can pay yourself.

Whichever way you decide to liquidate, before closing your business for good, these important steps must be taken:

  • File your business dissolution documents.
  • Cancel all business expenses that you no longer need, like registrations, licenses and your business name.
  • Make sure your employee payment during closing is in compliance with federal and state labor laws.
  • File final taxes for your business and keep tax records for the legally advised amount of time, typically three to seven years.

Steps to developing your exit plan

To plan an exit strategy that provides maximum value for your business, consider the six following steps:

  • Prepare your finances . The first step to developing an exit plan is to prepare an accurate account of your finances, both personally and professionally. Having a sound understanding of expenses, assets and business performance will help you seek out and negotiate for an offer that’s aligned with your business’s real value.
  • Consider your options . Once you have a complete picture of your finances, consider several different exit strategies to determine your best option. What you choose depends on how you envision your life after your exit — and how your business fits into it (or doesn’t). If you have trouble making a decision, it may be helpful to speak with your business lawyer or a financial professional.
  • Speak with your investors . Approach your investors and stakeholders to share your intent to exit the business. Create a strategy that advises the investors on how they will be repaid. A detailed understanding of your finances will be useful for this, since investors will look for evidence to support your plans.
  • Choose new leadership . Once you’ve decided to exit your business, start transferring some of your responsibilities to new leadership while you finalize your plans. If you already have documented operations in practice in your business strategy, transitioning new responsibilities to others will be less challenging.
  • Tell your employees . When your succession plans are in place, share the news with your employees and be prepared to answer their questions. Be empathetic and transparent.
  • Inform your customers . Finally, tell your clients and customers. If your business will continue with a new owner, introduce them to your clients. If you are closing your business for good, give your customers alternative options.

The best exit strategy for your business is the one that best fits your goals and expectations. If you want your legacy to continue after you leave, selling it to an employee, customer or family member is your best bet. Alternatively, if your goal is to exit quickly while receiving the best purchase price, targeting an acquisition or liquidating the company are the optimal routes to consider.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here .

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Home » Business Plans

How to Write an Exit Strategy for your Business Plan

Does your business plan contain a fail-proof exit strategy for you? If NO, here is a detailed guide on how to write an exit strategy for a business plan. Unless you are a joker of a business owner, chances are you came up with a solid business plan at the start of your business. I mean, you conducted your market analysis, and you developed strategies to plan and grow your business.

If you really did all of that, then you are right on track. But one thing you are less likely to have done is planning an exit strategy for your business. And you should do this as soonest as possible if you are yet to. Most people write plans on how to start a business but majority fail to write plans on how to exit their business.

What is an Exit Strategy?

An exit strategy is a method by which entrepreneurs and investors, especially those that have invested large sums of money in startup companies, transfer ownership of their business to a third party, or by which they recoup money invested in the business.

Some forms of exit strategies include, being acquired by another company, the sale of equity, a management-employee buyout et al

Why Prepare an Exit Strategy?

What happens to your business if eventually you die today or get involved in a ghastly accident that incapacitates you? Now I know that nobody prays for bad events or circumstances but one reality of life is that you can never know what’s coming ahead of you. The same holds true in business.

“Prepare for bad times and you will only know good times.” – Robert Kiyosaki

But there are a lot of would-be business owners who love their businesses and would think that having an exit strategy in their business plan is unnecessary. However, there is still a need to have an exit strategy in your business plan. There are two very real and practical reasons why you need to plan an exit:

  • Outside investors want to collect their return. Remember that equity investments are not like loans with interest. The investor sees no return until he cashes out, or the company is sold. Even three years is a long time to wait for any pay check.
  • Entrepreneurs love the art of the start. Assuming your startup takes off, you will probably find that the fun is gone by the time you reach 50 employees, or a few million in revenue. The job changes from creating a “work of art” to operating a “cookie cutter”.
  • If you are seeking for investment from venture capitalist (VC) or angel investors, then an exit strategy is a must have. Even if you’re a small company, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and to actually have an idea of how you will transfer ownership of the business down the line, sell the business, or make a return on your investment.

So just as you had a plan for starting your business, you should also have an exit strategy for transforming your business into cash, should in case you lose interest in the business or run into problems later. Without wasting time, here are the four commonest exit strategies you can choose from and incorporate in your business plan:

6 Types of Exit Strategies You Can Consider and Choose From

1.  initial public offering ( ipo ).

Taking your business public is a very expensive and time consuming exit strategy, as it usually attracts huge accountant and attorney fees. But it can be very rewarding. Offering your business to the public has one simple implication: you are no longer the boss, your stakeholders are. And you will be giving reports about the business to the board of directors and stakeholders.

If you just cannot afford to let go of your business ( by selling it ), then you can relinquish a portion of your shares by taking it public. However, this exit strategy is not recommended if your business doesn’t value up to $10 million. In that case, consider other exit strategies.

For smaller companies that have already begun expanding—like restaurants that have franchised—an IPO may be a good way for the owner to recoup money spent, though it is worth noting that he or she may not be allowed to sell stock until the lock-up period has passed. Examples of restaurants on the stock market include Buffalo Wild Wings and BJ’s.

If this is your main exit strategy from the get go or you want to at least have the option of going public later, the easiest way to get listed is to seek investors that have done it before with other companies. They will know the ins and outs and can be able to better prepare you for the process.

The process of getting on an initial public offer can be long and arduous. If you do succeed in winning over the hearts and data-centric minds of Wall Street analysts, you’ve still got to conform to the standards set by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, you will have underwriting fees you’ll need to pay, a potential “lock-up period” preventing you from selling your shares, and even with all of these, there is still a risk that the stock market could crash.

While an IPO may be a suitable route for a company like Facebook or Microsoft, you should consider whether or not you want to weather the headache of tailoring business decisions to the market and to what analysts believe will do well.

2.  Sell your business

Selling a business to another individual or company is the most common exit strategy for any business owner. This option is very easy because it can be conducted between the two parties involved without all the government regulations and oversight that comes with an IPO. As expected, if you decide to sell your business, you will be receiving cash in exchange for it.

But valuing your company is the trickiest part of any sale; as sometimes, knowing the right amount to sell your business for can be very difficult. One way to avoid selling your business for less is to get more than one appraisal of the business ( seek out some business appraisal companies to help you with this ). This way, you will be confident that you are selling for the right price.

If you are concerned about how the business would fare after you have sold it ( though this isn’t binding on you ), you’d want to sell only to a buyer that knows and understands the business and has the experience to carry on the brand’s legacy. And, depending on the closeness between you and the buyer, you can agree on payment by installments.

3.  Acquisitions and mergers

Even though acquisitions and mergers are commonly used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between both terms. An acquisition occurs when one business acquires another business. For example, Company A buys Company B and still continues running under the name of Company A but now has the strength and value of both companies combined.

A merger, on the other hand, occurs when two businesses come together to continue as a single company. A change of name usually happens after a merger. For example, Company A and Company B merge to form a new company called Company A-B. Most of the time, businesses that engage in a merger or acquisition are in the same industry and see multiple benefits in merging together or acquiring one another.

When you decide to go into a merger or acquisition deal, you can negotiate price and terms. You can request that your employees ( if you have any ) be kept on for a certain period or that your management team be retained. You can also negotiate final and annual payouts. If you cannot handle these negotiations yourself, hiring an agency would be your best bet.

4.  Liquidate your assets

This is the least desirable of all exit strategies, but sometimes the most necessary. This strategy can quickly bring in a lump of cash, and it doesn’t involve any negotiations or losing control of your business. You simply close the business and end it. If you like, you can decide to resuscitate it again some other time.

Most of the time, business owners liquidate their assets because of huge debts. In such cases, the proceeds from the sales of assets are used for settling debts, and the remainder ( if there’s any ) would be taken by you or divided among your shareholders. Liquidating your business may usually include selling your office building, office furniture and electronics, company cars, and other assets. Usually, you would sell at market price, and you may not make much profit.

5. Management buyout

If you built a business that you want to continue even after you are gone, you can consider turning to your employees. That’s right—not only will they have a good idea of how things are run already, but they will have intimate knowledge regarding company culture, corporate goals, and a pre-existing determination to make it work. This form of exit strategy is a good idea if you are someone who really wants to keep his or her legacy alive.

There is still an option of giving the business to your family members, but this has some disadvantages. For instance, the family members who inherit the business may not understand the business, have no interest to do the needful in order to ensure that the business survives or they could even descend into bitter rivalry over who gets what at the detriment of the business.

6. Family succession

If you family members are quite knowledgeable about your business, then they may be the best people to pass it to. If you would like to pass on your business to your children or any other family member, you should make sure that they have the prerequisite skills, are competent and have the success and future of the business at heart. This will make it a lot easier to retire.

Having reviewed the various exit strategies that are available to business owners, here is how you can write a business plan exit strategy.

How to Write a Business Plan Exit Strategy

A. detail your most likely exit strategy.

Firstly, you have to write in details your most likely or preferred exit strategy. Will you like to go public, sell it to another company, sell it to your employees or just liquidate it. Take some time to review the various options that are at your disposal and document your preferred choice.

b. Prove Your Exit Strategy

This step is very important, and it involves justifying the exit strategy you choose. For instance, if your exit strategy is to go public, then show other companies in similar markets or positions that have successfully gone public in the last three to five years. Research and find out the names of those companies, the dates they went public and the returns their investors received.

In the same vein, if the exit strategy you think is right for your business is to sell it off, you should make a list of potential buyers. Discuss not only who they are and their current financial positions (e.g., estimated total revenues if a private company), but the reasons they’d want to purchase a company like yours. You should also show other companies these firms have acquired in the past and at what price points.

Finally, as much as possible, show other companies that were similar to yours that were recently acquired. As much as possible, determine the sale price of these companies and the returns their investors might have received upon their acquisitions.

Even if you don’t plan to sell your business in the future, keep in mind that circumstances may force you to do just that. And you will end up badly burned if you end up doing it the wrong way. So, choose the most appropriate exit strategy for your business and structure it carefully. This way, even if you lose your business later, you will lose gladly.

As you can see, writing a business plan is no easy task. But after having read this eBook, you should now understand that it is well worth the effort. Aside that it better prepares you to deal with some of the shortfalls any entrant into a new market will experience, a business plan gives you a leg up on your competition through better research and insights gained from the process.

If you follow each step as outlined in this eBook, you will be able to come up with a business plan that will market your idea to investors / lenders in the best way.

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Business Exit Strategy: Definition, Examples, Best Types

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

What Is a Business Exit Strategy?

A business exit strategy is an entrepreneur's strategic plan to sell his or her ownership in a company to investors or another company. An exit strategy gives a business owner a way to reduce or liquidate his stake in a business and, if the business is successful, make a substantial profit. If the business is not successful, an exit strategy (or "exit plan") enables the entrepreneur to limit losses. An exit strategy may also be used by an investor such as a venture capitalist in order to plan for a cash-out of an investment.

Business exit strategies should not be confused with trading exit strategies used in securities markets.

Key Takeaways

  • A business exit strategy is a plan that a founder or owner of a business makes to sell their company, or share in a company, to other investors or other firms.
  • Initial public offerings (IPOs), strategic acquisitions, and management buyouts are among the more common exit strategies an owner might pursue.
  • If the business is making money, an exit strategy lets the owner of the business cut their stake or completely get out of the business while making a profit.
  • If the business is struggling, implementing an exit strategy or "exit plan" can allow the entrepreneur to limit losses.

Understanding Business Exit Strategy

Ideally, an entrepreneur will develop an exit strategy in their initial business plan before actually going into business. The choice of exit plan can influence business development decisions. Common types of exit strategies include initial public offerings (IPO) , strategic acquisitions , and management buyouts (MBO) . Which exit strategy an entrepreneur chooses depends on many factors, such as how much control or involvement (if any) they want to retain in the business, whether they want the company to be run in the same way after their departure, or whether they're willing to see it shift, provided they are paid well to sign off.

A strategic acquisition, for example, will relieve the founder of his or her ownership responsibilities, but will also mean the founder is giving up control. IPOs are often seen as the holy grail of exit strategies since they often bring along the greatest prestige and highest payoff. On the other hand, bankruptcy is seen as the least desirable way to exit a business.

A key aspect of an exit strategy is business valuation , and there are specialists that can help business owners (and buyers) examine a company's financials to determine a fair value. There are also transition managers whose role is to assist sellers with their business exit strategies.

Business Exit Strategy and Liquidity

Different business exit strategies also offer business owners different levels of liquidity . Selling ownership through a strategic acquisition, for example, can offer the greatest amount of liquidity in the shortest time frame, depending on how the acquisition is structured. The appeal of a given exit strategy will depend on market conditions, as well; for example, an IPO may not be the best exit strategy during a recession, and a management buyout may not be attractive to a buyer when interest rates are high.

While an IPO will almost always be a lucrative prospect for company founders and seed investors, these shares can be extremely volatile and risky for ordinary investors who will be buying their shares from the early investors.

Business Exit Strategy: Which Is Best?

The best type of exit strategy also depends on business type and size. A partner in a medical office might benefit by selling to one of the other existing partners, while a sole proprietor’s ideal exit strategy might simply be to make as much money as possible, then close down the business. If the company has multiple founders, or if there are substantial shareholders in addition to the founders, these other parties’ interests must be factored into the choice of an exit strategy as well.

how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

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Your business exit strategy in 9 steps

You’ll leave your business some day, so how do you make sure it’s on the best possible terms?

A small business exit strategy in a binder

What is a business exit strategy?

An exit strategy is a plan for wrapping up your involvement in a business. For most people, that means readying the business for a change of owner. Executing a well thought-out exit strategy can increase your sale price, while ensuring the business continues to thrive after you’ve left. This can also be called succession planning. What does it involve?

Succession planning definition and goals

The aim is to leave your business in the best possible shape for a new owner. That means it should be operating at peak profitability, the books should be spick and span, and all your processes will be written down so a stranger can come in and run the place. Oh, and the business won’t need you anymore – no matter how important you once were.

It takes years to do all this. That’s why it’s never too soon to start on your succession plan, or exit strategy.

How to sell a business

Business advisors and brokers recommend these nine steps to help get a succession plan in place.

1. Pick a target buyer

There will be different priorities depending on who you're selling to. If it's family, take pains to make everything transparent and fair. You don’t want the transaction to cause tension or conflict between children. If you’re selling to employees, be prepared for staggered payments. They’ll probably start with a deposit and pay you the rest from business income. If you sell to the highest bidder, then get all your records in order as otherwise they won’t have any idea how you operate, or what sort of money you make.

2. Decide how fast you’ll want out

Some buyers, such as family or employees, won’t have the cash to buy you out straight away. You might have to keep an interest in the business and stay involved to protect your investment. If that’s the case, you’ll need to negotiate consulting fees. If you want a clean break, you’ll probably be better off selling on the open market. That may not work if you have a client services business, however. Buyers of those types of businesses will expect you to stay around to help ensure clients don't leave.

3. Get your accounting sorted

Smart buyers will ask to see at least two years worth of clean and dependable financial records. If your bookkeeping isn't all it could be, get it fixed now. And if there’s something you can do to improve profitability, do it as soon as possible. You want that upswing to show in your accounts as a sustainable trend rather than as a recent spike. Use our balance sheet template to help get things in order.

4. Make yourself redundant

No one’s going to buy your business if it can’t survive without you. If you have employees, give them the training and authority they need to succeed. Scale back your involvement. Be less available to customers and clients. Delegate big decisions. Go into work less often.

5. Ensure your business is a well-oiled machine

Ensure you have formal (and efficient) processes for getting work done. Who does what, when, and how? Make sure there are protocols to guide all this. Potential buyers will be impressed if some things in your business happen automatically.

6. Write down how everything happens in your business

Write a “how to” manual for your business, so that a stranger could pick up the reins and run everything tomorrow. Record every process, including admin. Make a note of the steps you follow for each of these tasks. While you’re at it, write formal job descriptions for employees. And create templates for tasks that are repeated in your business.

7. Figure out how to drive up the valuation of your small business

What are the things that make your business great? Do you have a really outstanding product? Loyal customers? Amazing intellectual property? Find the strengths in your business and grow them, so that they become even more valuable. Similarly, figure out the biggest holdbacks and fix them. You’ll need someone from outside the business to provide this assessment. Get your accountant involved. If they don’t have the particular skills you need, they may be able to recommend someone who does.

8. Get a guideline business valuation

You won’t know what you’ll get for your business until the day it’s sold, but you can get a rough estimate. Ask for a professional opinion. Your accountant should be able to introduce you to someone, or you could search for a local business broker. A guideline valuation will help satisfy your curiosity and set realistic expectations. If they predict a lower price than you’d hoped, you might delay your exit, and spend some time building value in the business.

9. Work on a sales pitch

Buyers need to be excited by your business, so come up with an elevator pitch that captures the essentials. Craft a story that explains why you got started, how you’ve grown, and what you’ve achieved. Paint a positive picture of the future, too, but keep it real. Incorporate stats and facts to support what you’re saying.

Exits happen

Exiting your business is inevitable. It will happen whether you’re in control of it or not. So make a plan now and start getting your business ready for the next owner. It’ll help you command a better price, and increase the chance that your business survives. Learn more about selling your business.

And remember that anything you do to benefit your future buyer, will also benefit you. You’ll have a more efficient, profitable and easier to manage business.

It’s never too soon to build a business exit strategy. Speak to your accountant or business advisor today. If you don’t have an accountant, look for one in the Xero advisor directory .

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

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Exit Planning Explained - Process, Strategy, and More

If you are a business owner, you may have wondered what will happen to your business when you decide to retire, sell, or transfer it.

How will you ensure you get the best value while exiting the business? How will you protect the interests of your family, employees, customers, and other stakeholders?

In this guide, we will explain the exit planning process, the different types of exit strategies, and the role of advisors in the exit planning process. We will also provide tips and best practices for creating and executing a successful exit plan.

You may also want to look at a few success stories from our past clients for some inspiration before you start reading.

What is Exit Planning?

Exit planning is the process of preparing for the eventual transfer or sale of a business while considering the owner's personal and financial goals. It involves implementing various decisions and actions that enable a smooth and organized exit.

Exit planning is not a one-time event but a dynamic process that adapts to the business owner's and business's changing needs and circumstances. It requires a clear vision, proper assessment, and a strategic approach.

What Are The Benefits of Exit Planning?

Exit planning can benefit the business seller in many ways, from safeguarding their interests to facilitating a smooth deal when the time comes.

By planning ahead, the owner can increase the attractiveness and profitability of the business and reduce the risks and liabilities that may lower the business's value . The owner can also optimize the timing and structure of the exit and take advantage of the tax incentives and exemptions that may apply.

Business owners can ensure that their personal and financial goals are aligned with the goals and vision of the business and that they have a clear and realistic roadmap for achieving them.

One can anticipate and mitigate the potential challenges and obstacles that may arise during the exit process, such as legal disputes, regulatory issues, and emotional stress. They can also prepare for the transition and the future by securing their income, assets, and lifestyle and exploring new opportunities.

The owner can ensure the continuity and stability of the business by developing and retaining key employees and managers and transferring the knowledge and skills essential for the new ownership's success.

One can achieve a sense of accomplishment by exiting the business on their terms and conditions. The owner can also enjoy a smooth, stress-free exit and a rewarding and satisfying future.

Whether you are planning to exit your business in the near or distant future, exit planning is a vital step you should consider.

TL;DR - Overview of the Exit Planning Process

Exit planning is the process of preparing for the eventual transfer or sale of a business. It can be a planned event or arise from a contingency where a business owner wants to change ownership for some reason.

Developing a good exit plan that covers factors like tax compliance and stakeholder share is crucial, and a good M&A advisor can help both parties build terms and negotiate a fair deal.

What Role Do Advisors Play in the Exit Planning Process?

Rightly known as Certified Exit Planning Advisors, these professionals can provide expert advice and guidance to the business owner during exit planning. They can help the owner with various aspects of the exit planning process, such as:

Assessing the current situation and identifying the objectives and preferences of the owner

Exploring and evaluating the different exit strategies and options

Developing and implementing a customized and comprehensive exit plan that meets the needs and expectations of the owner

Coordinating with other advisors and stakeholders involved in the exit process

Monitoring and adjusting the exit plan as needed to respond to changing circumstances and opportunities

Exit planning advisors often work with a team of other professional who help in the process, who may include:

Accountants: They can help the owner with the financial and tax aspects of the exit, such as valuing the business, structuring the deal, minimizing the taxes and fees, and preparing the financial statements and reports.

Lawyers: Lawyers can help the owner with the legal aspects of the exit, such as drafting and reviewing the contracts and agreements, protecting the intellectual property and confidential information, resolving disputes and claims, and complying with the laws and regulations.

Brokers: They help with the marketing and selling aspects of the exit, such as finding and qualifying the potential buyers, negotiating the terms and conditions, facilitating the due diligence and closing, and maximizing the price and value.

Bankers: Bankers can help the party with the financing and funding aspects of the exit, such as securing the loans and equity or arranging escrow.

Consultants: They can help the owner with the strategic and operational aspects of the exit, such as improving the business's performance and sustainability.

Advisors can play a vital role in the exit planning process, providing the owner with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary for a successful and satisfying exit. The owner should pick suitable advisors, maintain control and responsibility over the exit planning process, and make the best decisions for themselves and their business.

Exitwise can help you find the right advisors for your exit planning and build the right M&A team for a successful team. Check out our detailed explanation of how our process works and how we can help create your dream M&A team.

5 Key Steps in Developing an Exit Plan

Developing an exit plan helps you achieve your personal and financial goals and ensure a smooth and successful exit from your business.

Here are five key steps that you should follow to create and execute an effective exit plan:

Step 1: Establish Your Objectives

Identify your reasons and motivations for exiting the business and your desired outcomes and benefits. Consider your personal, financial, and professional goals and your family, lifestyle, and succession preferences.

Step 2: Determine the Value of Your Business

Estimate your business's current and potential value based on various valuation methods and market factors. Identify your business's value drivers, detractors, and the opportunities and threats that may affect the value. You can use our business valuation calculator for an accessible overview of your business's current value.

Step 3: Choose Your Exit Strategy

Explore and evaluate the different exit strategies and options available, such as selling, merging, passing, or liquidating the business. Weigh the pros and cons of each option and select the one that best suits your objectives, situation, and market conditions.

Step 4: Develop Your Exit Plan

Create and implement a comprehensive and customized exit plan outlining the specific actions and initiatives needed to execute your chosen strategy. Include a contingency plan, a timeline, and a budget for prompt execution.

Step 5: Execute Your Exit Plan

Execute your exit plan with the help of an exit planning advisor to ensure maximum compliance and value. Monitor and adjust your exit plan to respond to changing circumstances and opportunities and ensure success and satisfaction.

8 Exit Planning Strategies Explained

Check out these different exit strategies, and you may get an idea of what best suits your business.

1. Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)

A strategy where the owner sells some or all of their shares to a trust set up for the benefit of the employees. The employees become the business owners, and the owner receives cash and tax benefits. This strategy can be used to reward and motivate the employees and preserve the business's culture and legacy.

2. Merger with Another Business

In this arrangement, the owner combines their business with another business with complementary or synergistic assets, capabilities, or markets. The owner receives shares or cash from the merged entity and may retain some control or influence over the business. This strategy can create value for both parties and increase the chances of success in the future.

3. Management Buyout (MBO)

MBO is a strategy where the owner sells their business to the existing management team, who may use debt or equity financing to fund the purchase. The owner receives cash and may retain some equity or involvement in the business. This strategy can be used to transfer the ownership to the people who know the business best and to ensure continuity and stability.

4. Initial Public Offering (IPO)

IPO is a strategy where the owner sells some or all of their shares to the public through a stock exchange. The owner receives cash and may retain some ownership or control over the business. IPO strategy can raise capital and enhance the business's reputation and visibility.

5. Selling to a Third Party

Here, the owner sells their business to an external buyer, an individual, a group, or a company. The owner receives cash and may negotiate the terms and conditions of the sale. This strategy can be used to maximize the business's price and value and exit the business quickly and thoroughly.

6. Family Succession

The business owner transfers the ownership or control of the business to their family members, who may be their children, siblings, or relatives. The owner may receive cash, shares, or other assets from the family and maintain some involvement or influence in the business. This strategy can be used to preserve the business's legacy and culture and maintain ownership in the family.

7. Recapitalization

It is a strategy where the owner restructures the business's capital structure by changing the mix of debt and equity. The owner may use the debt or equity issuance proceeds to pay themselves a dividend or reinvest in the business. This strategy can increase the return on equity and prepare the company for a future exit.

8. Liquidation

In liquidation, the owner sells the assets and liabilities of the business and distributes the proceeds to themselves and other stakeholders. The owner may receive cash or other assets and terminate business operations. This strategy can be used when the business is no longer viable or profitable or when the owner wants to retire or pursue other interests.

What Are the Tax Implications of Different Exit Strategies?

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for general guidance only and does not constitute professional tax advice. You must consult a local tax professional before making any final decisions regarding tax matters.

The tax implications of different exit strategies can vary depending on the structure of your business, the nature of your exit, and the applicable tax laws. Here are some common exit strategies and their tax considerations:

Selling the Business

Selling your business can lead to capital gains and regular income taxes. Depending on how long you've held the business, capital gains may be classified as short-term or long-term, each with its tax rate. Additionally, you might be subject to depreciation recapture taxes if you've claimed depreciation deductions on your business assets.

Passing the Business to Heirs

Succession planning involves passing on your business to family members or other heirs. While this strategy can potentially lead to estate taxes, the tax implications can be minimized through careful planning, including using trusts and gifting strategies.

Liquidating the business

Closing down your business involves liquidating its assets and settling its liabilities. This process can trigger capital gains, ordinary income taxes, and potential taxes on any accumulated earnings in the business.

Merging or Acquiring

Mergers and acquisitions can lead to a range of tax implications, including taxes on gains from the sale of assets or stock, changes in ownership structures, and potential changes in tax attributes like net operating losses.

Exit Planning Statistics

Let’s look at some exciting findings from recent surveys and reports on exit planning statistics:

According to the BEI 2022 Business Owner Survey , 16% of business owners plan to exit their businesses in fewer than five years, 37% plan to exit within 5–10 years, and 47% plan to exit in more than ten years. When asked how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their plans to exit, more than 50% said it made no impact. Only 11% said it made them want to exit their business sooner.

The EPI 2023 State of Owner Readiness Research report says that 52% of business owners include written detailed personal planning in their exit strategy, compared to only 9% in previous surveys. This indicates that owners consider exit planning earlier in their ownership lifecycle and expect their advisors to support those efforts.

Data from the Gitnux 2024 Succession Planning Statistics estimates that only 30% of small businesses successfully sell, leaving 70% without a buyer or successful plan for what happens next. The report also suggests that owners with a formal succession plan are more likely to achieve higher business value, lower taxes, and greater personal satisfaction.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This comprehensive FAQ section will guide you through the answers to some common questions about exit planning.

When Should an Owner Start the Exit Planning Process?

Owners may have different objectives, timelines, intentions, and market conditions for their exit. However, a general rule of thumb is to start the exit planning process at least 3 to 5 years before the desired exit date. It allows enough time to assess the current situation, explore the options, develop and implement the plan, and execute the exit strategy. Starting the exit planning process early also helps increase the business value and reduce the risks and uncertainties.

How Does Exit Planning Affect Business Valuation?

Exit planning can positively impact the business valuation, as it can motivate the ownership to improve the business's performance and sustainability and enhance its attractiveness and profitability for potential buyers or investors. Exit planning can also optimize the exit's timing and structure and take advantage of the tax incentives and exemptions that may apply.

Can Exit Planning Help in Reducing Business Risks?

Exit planning can help reduce business risks, as it can help anticipate and mitigate the potential challenges that may arise during the exit process, such as legal and regulatory issues, market fluctuations, and operational disruptions.

Exit planning is a vital process for any business owner who wants to maximize the value of their business and achieve the best potential deal for their exit. There are various benefits of exit planning and several strategies to carry it out. It all depends upon the buyer's and seller's preferences and objectives.

Let us help you with your exit plan if you need more assistance. We will help you create a team of experienced and professional M&A advisors who can guide you through every step of the exit planning process. Contact us now to schedule a consultation .

Brian graduated from Michigan Technological University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and as Captain of the Men's Basketball Team. After a four-year stint at Deloitte Consulting, Brian returned to school to get his MBA at the University of Michigan. Brian went on to join his first startup, a Ford Motor Company Joint Venture, and cofound a technology and digital marketing services agency. Through those experiences, Brian embraced the opportunity to provide M&A education and support to his fellow business owners as they navigated their own entrepreneurial journeys.

Find Your M&A Expert Today

Let Exitwise introduce, hire and manage the best, industry specialized, investment bankers, M&A attorneys, tax accountants and other M&A advisors to help you maximize the sale of your business.

8+ SAMPLE Exit Strategy Business Plan in PDF

Exit strategy business plan, 8+ sample exit strategy business plan, what is an exit strategy business plan, 4 types of exit strategies business owners should know, how to create an exit strategy business plan, what are the common reasons why an owner decides to sell his or her business, how do you deal with your customers in the event you decide to close your business, what are the factors that need to be considered when creating an exit strategy plan.

Exit Strategy Business Plan Template

Exit Strategy Business Plan Template

Exit Strategy Business Planning in PDF

Exit Strategy Business Planning in PDF

Printable Exit Strategy Business Plan

Printable Exit Strategy Business Plan

Exit Strategy Business Plan Example

Exit Strategy Business Plan Example

Exit Strategy Private Business Owners Planning

Exit Strategy Private Business Owners Planning

Printable Exit Strategy Business Planning

Printable Exit Strategy Business Planning

Sample Exit Strategy Business Plan

Sample Exit Strategy Business Plan

Successful Exit Strategy Business Plan

Successful Exit Strategy Business Plan

Standard Exit Strategies Business Plan

Standard Exit Strategies Business Plan

4 types of exit strategies business owners should know  , step 1: executive summary, step 2: business narrative, step 3: provide a current market analysis, step 4: exit strategy, step 5: financial statements, share this post on your network, file formats, word templates, google docs templates, excel templates, powerpoint templates, google sheets templates, google slides templates, pdf templates, publisher templates, psd templates, indesign templates, illustrator templates, pages templates, keynote templates, numbers templates, outlook templates, you may also like these articles, 5+ sample investment company business plan in pdf.

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Exit Strategy

how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

It is an undeniable truth that risk is consistent in a company and its ventures. Whatever business it is, there is always a chance that it will not fulfill its goals. That’s why Exit Strategies are necessary. This strategy ensures that there is a place for you to bounce back. That your failures can become learnings instead. However, if you’re a new businessman and find yourself lost in creating your Exit Strategy. You’ve come to the right place. We can assure you that you can craft the most exceptional exit strategy using our ready-made samples and thorough guide below. Check them out.

10+ Exit Strategy Examples

1. exit strategy template.

Exit Strategy Template

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2. Business Exit Strategy

Business Exit Strategy

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3. Sample Exit Strategy

Sample Exit Strategy

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4. Exit Strategy Example

Exit Strategy Example

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5. Project Exit Strategy

Project Exit Strategy

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6. Basic Exit Strategy

Basic Exit Strategy

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7. Exit Strategies for Business

Exit Strategies for Business

8. Exit Strategy in PDF

Exit Strategy in PDF

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9. Covid-19 Exit Strategy

Covid 19 Exit Strategy

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10. Business Exit Strategy Example

Business Exit Strategy Example

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11. Exit and Sustainability Strategy

Exit and Sustainability Strategy

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What is an Exit Strategy?

An exit strategy is a strategy that a business founder plans when certain conditions happen within the company. In this way, the founder can still provide him or herself a leeway when unwanted situations surface.

What are some exit strategies?

The art of commerce has been around since then. The economy became an aspect of governance that dictates the rise and fall of nations. Nonetheless, it is necessary for business individuals to always have a margin when things don’t go right. So listed below are some of the strategies that people can use.

Management Buyout

Management Buyout happens when a business or corporation’s executives combine their assets to acquire the whole or part of the business. In this way, they will be fully responsible for their investments and fight hard to keep the company afloat.

Outside Sale

As the name suggests, Outside Sale or private equity is about selling part or the whole company to an unaffiliated group or individuals. In this way, the company’s shares are not open for the public, but only to a few individuals.

Initial Public Offering

The IPO is a type of exit strategy that does not provide you with immediate liquidity. However, your profits will be better in the long run. This is the strategy that allows outside investors to your company. Although they can only buy limited stocks, you still have more influence within the company.

Transfer to Family

According to  CNBC , at least 16 percent of company owners expect to pass on their work to their families, which could also be you. If you think that what you created is better for your family , then you can do this strategy.

How to Create an Exit Strategy?

Whether you are a startup with venture capital for an ambitious endeavor or an old merchant past his prime, one thing is certain. You need an exit strategy. In this way, you can still be sure that you have a roof above your head, whatever happens. If you’re here to learn how to create an Exit Strategy, we provided you with excellent tips that will surely help you win.

Step 1: Know Your Position

How much money do you have personally? How about the company? You should liquidate your finances before you start determining the type of exit plan you want to have. Not only will you save yourself for your exit, but you will also keep your influence within the company.

Step 2: Choose a Fitting Plan

Although there’s a lot of exit strategy in the market. People even sell strategy templates for them. However, it is your decision to choose the most appropriate plan. Do you go with succession or IPO? And if IPO, do you think you have the perfect pitch deck for investors and M&A?

Step 3: Meet Your Investors

If your company already has investors, you should make sure to meet them and inform them of your decision. Some of them may opt to liquidate their funds, and that could be depressing. However, they also, like you, have exit strategies.

Step 4: Tell The Team

The people you are wholly responsible for in the entire business is your team. This not only involves the management but also the regular employee. So make sure that you tell them, and you inform them of the change in the leadership . You should make sure that you already have new leadership before you do the meeting.

Step 5: Notify Your Costumers

If your business involves millions of customers, most of them wouldn’t really care or mind leadership change. However, for a company that produces limited products, your customer deserves a note. By doing this, you uplift your company’s professionalism in the market and keep the new administration’s customers.

Why are exit strategies important?

Exit strategies are important to ensure that there will be a smooth and peaceful transition within the company. It also ensures the continuity of the company as a whole. Lastly, it guarantees the previous leader’s reward for his success.

Is an IPO an exit strategy?

Yes. An IPO is an exit strategy as it allows the founder or the leader to leave the spot. In this way, the joint venture or project can keep on even with less input from the previous executive. An IPO also allows the business stocks to go public, which guarantee’s investment for any upgrades.

What is an exit plan?

An exit plan is the same as an exit strategy. Basically, you’re planning to leave the company to other people while ensuring that it will not have any slides in the transition.

With the rise of capitalist, the business world became invasive. However, it does not necessarily mean that they won’t allow themselves leeway when the going gets. In fact, it’s the opposite exit strategies are necessary to keep the market competitive. Whether you are looking at the real estate, transportation, beauty, and food industry, companies’ going and coming are necessary.


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FREE 10+ Exit Strategy Samples in PDF

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Do you want to stop managing your business? Or does your business seem to not operate well? What helpful strategies that will guide you to minimize damages? To answer these questions, you need to have adequate knowledge about strategic planning, especially when it comes to exit strategy.  But what if you are not yet fully knowledgeable about this matter? In this article, we are glad to help you gain insight for your successful exit with the use of our guide and downloadable plan samples . Keep on reading!

Exit Strategy

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exit strategy template

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exit and sustainability strategy

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business exit strategy template

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covid 19 exit strategy template

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sample exit strategy format

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sample project exit strategy

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basic exit strategy template

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formal exit strategy

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standard exit strategy template

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The book “ Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors ” explains that an exit strategy is a vital  management tool that has the purpose of helping an owner of a commercial organization or company to properly exit in the business industry. It should be built into the structure of the company from its earliest days. It appears to be a prerequisite to defining the practical way to finance the company.

When your business is ready for angel investment, you should need to have a clearly articulated exit strategy and plan. Typically, many entrepreneurs out there haven’t openly express their exit strategy as they acquire financing from venture capital investors.  

Thus, use this plan as a guide to prevent you and your business from having potential financial damages in the future..  In this section, we provide some valuable tips that you should think consciously in developing your own plan: 

As you start developing an exit strategy , you need to to prepare an accurate account of your finances, both personally and professionally. How will you determine your company’s value and salability? You need to examine your company’s historical financial reports . 

To do this, add up the value of everything the business has such as all equipment and inventory and subtract any liabilities and debts of your business. Using the balance sheet of your company is a great way to determine the financial worth of your business.

There are many options of exit strategies such as an exit through a management buyout (MBO), family succession, franchising, a public flotation route, sell through a trade sale or a close down. Think carefully on several different exit strategies to determine your best option. 

If you feel that time finally comes to transfer the business on to an heir, your exit option is a family succession. Or if you need to exit your business because it is insolvent, your exit route will be through liquidation.

3.  Discuss with your investors

Start a thorough discussion and have an agreement with your investors and stakeholders as you share your intent to exit the business in a certain period of time. Develop an effective strategy that clearly conveys your suggestions and recommendations to the investors on how they will be repaid.

After finishing your discussion and making decisions with key individuals of your company, it’s now the time for you to select wisely in appointing the new leader or owner of your business. Before you start transferring some of your responsibilities to new leadership, inform your employees about this matter and then you can now finalize your plans.

The 5 exit strategies are liquidation, liquidation over time, keeping your business in the family, selling your business to managers or employees, and selling the business in the open market.

Some examples of exit strategies are being acquired by another company, the sale of equity, or a management or employee buyout.

An exit strategy provides a business owner a method to reduce or liquidate his stake in a business. If the business is successful, create a considerable profit. If the business is not successful, an exit strategy or exit plan allows the entrepreneur to minimize losses.

Based on an article , the sale of shares to the company’s predominants is a well-known exit strategy for angel investors who hold equity ownership positions while the sale or merger of the company is a usual exit strategy for debt-holding investors. 

Therefore, avoid thinking in delaying your exit planning. Most business owners think that they are too young or  they will not be selling their business for several years. However, it is never too early to begin planning, specifically with regard to structural, continuity, and risk management issues. You’ll never know what might happen to you or your business partners or shareholders.  To assist you in your journey, you can learn and apply the tips mentioned here. Plus, you can download our samples  in this article.

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  1. How to Create the Exit Strategy Section of a Business Plan

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

  2. Exit Strategy Templates

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

  3. FREE 10+ Exit Strategy Samples in PDF

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

  4. How to Write an Exit Strategy in Your Business Plan

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

  5. Business Exit Strategies (With Examples)

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf

  6. Business Exit Strategy Template

    how to write an exit strategy for a business plan pdf


  1. 😲 You Won't Believe How Many Businesses Have No Succession Plan

  2. Strategic Safeguards #shorts

  3. What is Winning Business Strategy?

  4. How To Write A Business Plan In 10 Simple Steps!

  5. What YOUR Business Plan Needs!

  6. Efficiency in Leadership #shorts


  1. How to Write a Business Exit Plan

    You leave the firm cleanly, plus you gain the earnings from the sale. Liquidate: Sell everything at market value and use the revenue to pay off any remaining debt. It is a simple approach, but also likely to reap the least revenue as a business exit plan. Since you are simply matching your assets with buyers, you probably will be eager to sell ...

  2. PDF 3-11 Small Business Exit Strategy

    At the end of this module, you will be able to: Identify business exit strategy options, including various selling options or liquidation, and advantages and disadvantages of each option. Identify ways to make your small business more marketable to potential buyers. Identify additional considerations in selling or closing your small business.

  3. Business Exit Plan & Strategy Checklist

    An exit strategy, as the term implies, is a plan to assist you in exiting your business. All exit plans will vary, but they all contain common elements. The three common elements that all business exit strategies should contain are: A valuation of your company. The process of valuing your company involves three steps, the first being an ...

  4. How to Create an Exit Strategy Plan

    The main goal of the ESC is to document the essential building blocks of your exit strategy and create a shared language for communicating and iterating on your exit plan. I recommend that you lay out the ESC on one page to focus on what is absolutely critical and essential. I recommend that you include the following essential building blocks ...

  5. How to Develop an Exit Plan for Your Business

    Steps to developing your exit plan. Because leaving your business can be emotional and overwhelming, planning a proper exit strategy requires diligence in time and care. To plan an exit strategy that provides maximum value for your business, consider the six following steps: Prepare your finances. The first step to developing an exit plan is to ...

  6. PDF Your Exit Plan

    exceeded. An exit strategy may be executed for the purpose of closing a business that is not generating profits. In this case, the purpose of the exit strategy is to limit losses. An exit strategy may also be executed when an investment or business venture has met its profit objective. Other reasons for executing an exit strategy may include a ...

  7. PDF What's Your Exit Strategy

    Each case will require lots of different planning, legal and financial advice. You may also need to develop a succession plan. An Exit Strategy: What You Need To Know And Why (cont.) • An Exit Strategy will take time and may evolve over time. But you need to start in one direction and adjust course as necessary.

  8. How to Write an Exit Strategy for your Business Plan

    Firstly, you have to write in details your most likely or preferred exit strategy. Will you like to go public, sell it to another company, sell it to your employees or just liquidate it. Take some time to review the various options that are at your disposal and document your preferred choice. b.

  9. Business Exit Strategy: Definition, Examples, Best Types

    Business Exit Strategy: An entrepreneur's strategic plan to sell his or her investment in a company he or she founded. An exit strategy gives a business owner a way to reduce or eliminate his or ...

  10. Your Business Exit Strategy In 9 Steps

    Record every process, including admin. Make a note of the steps you follow for each of these tasks. While you're at it, write formal job descriptions for employees. And create templates for tasks that are repeated in your business. 7. Figure out how to drive up the valuation of your small business.

  11. Exit Strategies: How to Plan a Business Exit Strategy

    Level Up Your Team. See why leading organizations rely on MasterClass for learning & development. Planning an exit strategy for your business or investments can help you better manage your financial goals and prepare for all outcomes to mitigate losses.

  12. Business Exit Planning

    Step 4: Research different types of exits. Make sure you research the pros and cons of different types of exit strategies before you begin writing your exit plan. Step 5: Write your exit plan. Once you've chosen the exit strategy for you, be sure to include detail on the following, and what will happen to them as part of the exit strategy, in ...

  13. PDF Exit strategies for owners of a private company

    Telling the story of the future of the business is the foundation to a good exit process. The right information—interpreted and presented correctly and directed strategically—unlocks the basis for value and builds confidence in the projected performance. 1. Align the business. objectives with sale objectives.

  14. Business Exit Strategy

    A business exit strategy ensures that company managers have systems in place for recording essential information on a regular basis. 2. Get a better understanding of revenue streams. An exit plan requires that one keeps consistent and up-to-date data regarding the business' performance.

  15. Exit Strategies

    Examples of Exit Plans. Examples of some of the most common exit strategies for investors or owners of various types of investments include: In the years before exiting your company, increase your personal salary and pay bonuses to yourself. However, make sure you are able to meet obligations. It is the easiest business exit plan to execute.

  16. Exit Planning Explained

    Step 4: Develop Your Exit Plan. Create and implement a comprehensive and customized exit plan outlining the specific actions and initiatives needed to execute your chosen strategy. Include a contingency plan, a timeline, and a budget for prompt execution. Step 5: Execute Your Exit Plan.


    Start with a cogent and concise one sentence statement of the business idea. A sentence that is so clear and appealing that the reader can immediately visualise or 'see' the business. You can then go on to describe: The market at which you are aiming. The specific benefits offered by your product or service.

  18. 8+ SAMPLE Exit Strategy Business Plan in PDF

    Step 1: Executive Summary. An executive summary summarizes what the exit strategy business plan is all about. Its main goal is to capture the reader's attention and to invite them all the way to read through the whole document or presentation. In an exit strategy business plan, the executive summary should explain the reason why there is a ...

  19. Exit Strategy

    Step 3: Meet Your Investors. If your company already has investors, you should make sure to meet them and inform them of your decision. Some of them may opt to liquidate their funds, and that could be depressing. However, they also, like you, have exit strategies. Step 4: Tell The Team.

  20. FREE 10+ Exit Strategy Samples in PDF

    An exit strategy provides a business owner a method to reduce or liquidate his stake in a business. If the business is successful, create a considerable profit. If the business is not successful, an exit strategy or exit plan allows the entrepreneur to minimize losses.

  21. PDF Rough Guide to Exit Strategies

    1. Programme design stage. Draw up an exit strategy in consultation with both beneficiaries and partners. Include exit criteria: i.e. steps that have to be completed before Oxfam withdraws. Set a timeline for hand-over. Link the exit strategy to sustainable programme objectives.

  22. PDF Exit strategies and sustainability

    i.e. the practices and values which guide an organisation from design of the exit strategy to behaviour throughout the process. Such principles might be formalised or be implicit. The existing literature and guidance materials on exit strategies in international cooperation frequently recommend principles for good practice. Examples include:

  23. PDF Tool 12: Developing an Exit Strategy

    Tool 12: Developing an Exit Strategy The "exit strategy" is the plan that clarifies how the WSI will end or transform (e.g., once goals have been achieved, or at the end of the project or funding cycle), or that provides for the withdrawal of participants. Fostering sustainability and mitigating risks of failure lie at the heart of