Another year is coming to a close and how many of us business owners took the necessary time to work "on" our business versus "in" our business? Business owners eventually come to the realization that they need to establish an exit strategy that consists of three primary exit objectives:
• The date you wish to exit;
• The amount of cash you want upon exit; and
• Your choice of successor.
Although all three objectives are important, let's look carefully at that second objective: How much cash will you need from the sale of the company to enjoy a financially secure post-business life. For most owners this is a great starting point for determining when, or if, they can leave their businesses.
Peter the 58-year old (fictional) owner of Landscaping, Inc. engaged his financial advisor to:
• Set a realistic assumption for a rate of return on Peter's investments;
• Research actuarial information to determine average life expectancies for both he and his wife; and • Help him and his wife agree on and establish an acceptable post-exit annual income amount.
As part of this process, Peter and his advisor reached the critical question whose answer would determine Peter's ability to retire on his terms: What must the value of Peter's business be if Peter is to leave, as he desires, at age 63? Like Peter, your resources are likely both in the business and outside of it. You need to know the value of both so you can determine if there is a gap between the amount of money you will need in the future and the amount you have today. This gap must be quantified and-to exit successfully-you must create and implement a plan to close that gap. Most owners retain an experienced financial planner to help with this project.
Peter and his advisor used the following process:
First: Peter and his wife (Pam) agreed on their future annual income needs. They believed that they could live on $200,000 per year (95 percent of their current income) and would require that level of income for approximately 30 years (based on their life expectancies).
Second: Peter and his advisor, using their agreed-upon estimate of a projected rate of return, calculated that Peter's non-business investments assets would be worth approximately $500,000 in five years (Peter's desired exit date).
Third: Peter's advisor calculated that the amount of investment capital needed to pay Peter and his wife $200,000 per year for the duration of their lives (based upon current actuarial tables and assuming a seven percent investment return*) beginning five years hence is approximately $3,000,000. Thus the net (after tax) sale proceeds from the sale of the business must be $2,500,000, or between $3,000,000 and $3,500,000 pre-tax.
Fourth: The business is today worth between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000.
Bottom Line: The gap between what Peter has today and what he needs to retire on his terms is about $2,000,000. Therefore, Peter must increase the value of his company by at least $2,000,000 if he is to exit on his terms. This is why Peter needs at least five years to plan and why he must start today.
Many of you can identify with Peter's situation because you face the same challenges. Peter knows what he has to do and he's found the motivation to start the planning and preparation necessary to leave his business in on his terms. Have you? How big is your gap? For Peter, and perhaps for you, five years is a tick away. It's time to get busy. Maybe it's time to set a realistic New Year's resolution by committing to start the exit planning process while you still have time.
Article presented by Tad M. Lyle, Planning Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org, a member of Business Enterprise Institute’s International Network of Exit Planning Professionals.
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