Do You Have An Exit Plan?

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for!”

Have you thought about what you’ll do when you retire from your interior design career? How many of you have been building a successful business with the thought of selling it when you decide to retire. Many small business owners who are 60 simply close their doors, when they could have sold the businesses if they had simply planned ahead.

So how might you plan ahead?

As a successful business owner you are a strategist. You set up your annual budgets and marketing plans each year – you set future goals and you plan for contingencies. That same type of strategic thinking should be directed toward your retirement.

Each year as you put together your marketing plan, be sure to ask yourself if you are marketing yourself or your firm. If you have established a “brand” and a “culture” it should be about the firm, not just identified with you, the owner/CEO of the firm. Whether large or small, if you create a strong team in your business, you will become known for your firm, not just for the name and identity of the owner.

Plan ahead so that you have someone on your team with a serious interest in purchasing the business and will succeed you in your role.
If that person is not currently part of your team then you need to begin the search. Remember they need to be a good fit for your team as they will eventually take over your role. You might want to have them purchase the business over time – giving them the opportunity to financially invest in the firm as you gradually work your way out. This will provide the opportunity to introduce them into their eventual role as CEO – allowing for a seamless transition for your team, your clients and your

If you don’t feel there are gaps in your team then start filling the skills gaps as early as possible. Understand your unique skill set to identify which members of the team will be able to fill those gaps.

Don’t look at the exit as the end. Just because you are turning over control of your business does not mean the door has to close on your involvement with the business. You might set the contract up so that you gradually phase out of the business and then go on to be a consultant after the business is sold.

Be sure to meet with your financial advisor to set a course for the time that you will want to retire, and find someone to give you an estimate as to the value of your business. Remember your business includes the relationships you have developed over the years with vendors as well as clients and within the community.

And one final suggestion: pick up John Warrillow’s book, Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You


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