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For nearly every entrepreneur getting started, one of the last things on their mind is an exit strategy for when and how they will sell their business. And while it’s not the most encouraging topic to think about and plan, a thoughtful and well researched exit strategy can have a dramatic impact on the overall sale price and enjoyment when the times comes to sell.

Even if you are completely satisfied in owning and running your business, you should strongly consider working with a business consultant or trusted mentor to create an exit strategy and plan around how and when to sell your business. This includes creating contingency plans for what to do if you face a major medical issue and can’t work, or if the career of a spouse suddenly requires relocation. Planning for worst-case scenarios will give you peace of mind, while also setting you up for receiving the best offer when you decide to sell.

When you do start approaching the desire to do something else or retire, there are several factors that will be important for potential buyers, and will ultimately influence the amount you sell your business for.

Sell Your Business “On Your Own Timeline”

Anytime you can be in complete control and not have to sell a business under strain or duress, you create a more competitive environment and have the luxury of waiting for an appealing offer. It’s best to plan ahead by 12-18 months before listing your business. This will allow you to make sure you have a confident and capable staff in place, which is often a key piece outside buyers will look for in a purchase.

If your business is part of a franchise company, you will likely need to work with the franchisor to co-select the next buyer and make sure they are approved by the corporate company. This added step can significantly slow down the time it takes to find a new buyer and have them attend any required training programs.

Get Outside Advice

Make the investment in hiring someone to audit your business and perform a SWOT analysis and financial audit of your profit and loss statement. If these are areas that have not been a major focus previously, bringing in an outside expert will help you determine a reasonable price for your business, and at the same time, identify areas that could be improvement and add value. You can think of you business like a house. In some cases, you need to make minor enhancements to place the business in the best light as outside investors or individuals are looking. Be prepared to answer dozens of questions. For anyone making a significant investment, they will want to do their due diligence and make sure they feel comfortable about the purchase.