Exit strategies

Planning Effective Exit Strategies for Business Owners

Why do over 80% of business owners not have a clear exit plan, risking loss of millions?

For business owners, planning an exit is key to ensure a smooth and profitable handover. Such plans are vital in the UK, setting the stage for a smooth changeover. They range from passing the business to family to selling it outright.

Starting to plan for an exit early aligns company goals and sets a positive future direction. No matter when or under what conditions, a good plan ensures the best return and keeps the business’s legacy intact.

Creating a strong exit plan means looking at the benefits and downsides of each option. From the often challenging mergers and acquisitions to family handovers with deep knowledge but potential skill gaps, each path has its challenges and rewards.

By choosing smart strategies, UK business owners can boost their profits, efficiency, and position in the market. Such planning increases the business’s worth, making exiting smoother and less risky.

Keep reading as we explore each exit strategy. We’re here to guide business owners to successful transitions.

What is an Exit Strategy?

An exit strategy is how a business owner plans to leave their company. It includes different methods like passing the business to a family member or selling it. This is a key part of business planning. It helps owners leave their business while trying to get the best financial outcome or keeping the business’s legacy.

Common exit strategies include Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), being bought by another company, or the management buying out the business. Having an exit strategy is important even before starting a business. It helps shape how the business grows. For quick exits, being bought out offers fast access to cash. Yet, the success of an IPO can depend greatly on the market’s condition at the time.

Different businesses need different exit strategies. For example, a partner in a health practice might sell to another partner. Meanwhile, some may need to sell everything if the business can’t go on. Venture capitalists often want to see an exit plan before they invest in a new business.

Big companies usually prefer merging with or being bought by another company. This is to ensure both owners and shareholders benefit. In tough times, declaring bankruptcy may be the only option, which could mean selling off assets. Investors have their own ways of leaving investments, aiming to reduce losses and increase gains.

Types of Exit for Strategies

Business owners have many exit strategies to choose from, each serving different needs and situations. In the UK, the main methods are management buyouts (MBOs), passing the business to family, going public with an initial public offering (IPO), and merging or being bought by another business (M&A).

Management and employee buyouts offer a way to keep the business going, but finding the right person for the job is tough. Handing over the business to family sounds good because it keeps the legacy alive. Yet, it might not work if there’s no one in the family fit to take over.

Going public with an IPO is seen as prestigious and can bring in a lot of money, but it comes with heavy rules. Meanwhile, getting involved in UK mergers and acquisitions might bring success but it’s usually a long and expensive gamble.

Sometimes owners sell off their assets for quick cash, but this rarely leads to a big payout. It’s important to weigh personal goals against the market’s condition for a successful and profitable change.

Checking out different exit plans helps business people choose the best path forward. This can make the change smoother and more profitable. Often, they’ll work with transition managers who guide them through the tough spots of each option.

Merger and Acquisition (M&A) Deals

Merger and Acquisition (M&A) deals help businesses grow and get ahead. Most companies choose M&A for better exits during tough economic times. Now, merging with another company or forming partnerships is getting more popular than traditional deals. This is because companies want to strengthen their place in the market.

There are big benefits for business owners in M&A deals. One key advantage is having control over the deal, which might raise the sale price. Yet, knowing how to negotiate is very important. About 47% of these deals don’t succeed due to financial or operational problems found in the checking stage. And 57% fail because of issues with management or not fitting well together.

For Canadian firms looking at the US market, M&A deals are a good exit plan. Public companies just starting out often face a tough time selling shares right after going public. That’s why getting help from professionals like advisors and lawyers is crucial for a smooth deal.)Uk mergers and acquisitions

Big deals like Google’s buyout of Android and Disney’s purchases of Pixar and Marvel show how successful M&A can be. The merger of Exxon and Mobil shows the big wins possible. These deals can take months to close, with more time needed to merge everything afterwards.

M&A deals offer many pros like less competition and more efficiency. They help companies grow and diversify. But, each type of merger has its own perks and challenges. So, it’s vital to plan well and manage the merger carefully for the best outcome.

Family Succession Planning

Many business owners find that a smooth family business transition is their preferred way to leave. Succession planning is key for keeping the UK business legacy alive. It ensures the company’s ethos and vision survive through generations. The process involves much more than just giving a new family member the keys.

A successful handover takes years of careful succession planning. This approach prevents unexpected financial issues, like big tax bills during the transfer. Good planning looks at tax effects early to keep taxes low when giving the business to someone else.

Valuing the business correctly is another important step. Knowing the company’s real value is crucial when passing it to a family member. This knowledge helps owners get the most financial benefit and share things fairly among everyone involved.

It’s vital to prepare the next generation well for taking over. Good succession plans include proper training for future leaders. Adding trusted employees to the changeover helps add skills and keeps things stable.

Finally, starting succession planning early leads to better results. It usually needs 12 to 18 months to do it right, ensuring a smooth change without hurting business. A solid plan keeps the business running smoothly and achieves the goals of the person leaving.

Management Buyouts (MBO)

Management buyouts (MBOs) happen when a company’s own management buys a large part or all of the company. The managers know a lot about how the company works, its culture, and its goals. This makes MBOs interesting for hedge funds and big investors because they can make the company run better and be more profitable.

An MBO shows that the management believes in the company’s future and wants to keep things running smoothly. To finance an MBO, managers might use their own money, get loans, and look for seller financing. Figuring out how much the company is worth is very important, and both sides want a fair deal.

But MBOs can be tricky. There might be issues, like if managers try to lower the future growth on purpose to buy the company cheaper. It’s key to check if the management team is really up for leading. They need to be good at making decisions, planning for the future, and taking on new responsibilities.

For an MBO to work well, it must be done right and legally. The management team has to start thinking differently. They need to come up with the strategies themselves and deal with the risks that come with owning the business.

When looking at an MBO, consider how capable the management team is, the company’s financial state, and how it might affect the workplace and culture. It’s also important to think about how to pay for it and what the future might hold. A detailed check is crucial to make sure the new leaders can help the company grow.

Initial Public Offering (IPO)

An Initial Public Offering (IPO) marks when a private company goes public by selling its shares. It’s an essential step for firms wanting to gather funds from the UK stock market. To go public, companies must either be very sound in their business basics or reach unicorn status, which means being valued at about $1 billion.

Ipo process

Various economic situations and new advances in sectors have greatly shaped the trends of IPOs. A clear example is how the 2008 financial crunch led to fewer companies going public. However, embracing an IPO brings merits, including enhanced openness and better conditions for loan agreements than private entities.

Underwriters play a key part in the IPO path, handling tasks from market research to finalising the details. Firms might work with one or more underwriters for different IPO stages. Their job makes sure the company sticks to the rules and appeals to investors.

The IPO process is demanding and comes with high expenses and many regulations. Yet, it opens doors to the wider public investment arena. This move increases a company’s visibility, prestige, and image. But firms must balance these benefits with drawbacks, including the need for regular reports and sharing business secrets.

Completing an IPO usually takes half a year to nine months. Nonetheless, there are other ways like direct listings or De-SPACs to join the UK stock market. Each option has its own timeframe and expenses, so companies need to think carefully about their strategy.

The Role of Business Valuation in Exit Strategies

Business valuation is essential for exit strategies. It helps in figuring out the financial worth of a company before selling or transferring. Experts believe that a preliminary, independent business valuation is a smart choice for owners planning their exit. It is estimated that about 60% of the final price comes from this first valuation step.

The cost of getting a business valued is usually between £4,000 to £12,000. This investment can greatly increase financial returns. Detailed valuations help owners make better decisions, plan, recruit, and draw in investors. These steps are key to unlocking financial success when exiting. Owners aiming to pass the company to someone inside the company often seek help from experts in business valuation.

A lack of preliminary valuation can lead to negative outcomes, like losing money or not meeting goals. An independent valuation sets up future planning. It can lead to more income for the owner after the sale. This early step is crucial for successful exit planning.

In places like India, many factors influence business valuations. These include market situations, industry trends, and the legal setting. The SEBI lays down rules to make valuations fair and clear, especially for merging or buying businesses. Even though it’s complicated, getting expert advice and choosing the right method is important. It helps make choices that fit the exit strategy well.

Business valuation is key in deciding when and how to exit. It aims to boost financial gains and ensure a smooth changeover. This is especially vital for family businesses. They need clear and just valuations to keep family bonds strong during the planning.

Developing a Flexible Exit Plan

For business owners, making a strong and flexible exit plan is vital. It helps secure a profitable move when they decide to leave. Setting initial goals early is important. This lets them adjust their plans as market trends and personal needs change. Surprisingly, only 48% of entrepreneurs planning to exit their business have a clear exit strategy. This shows the importance of early exit plan development.

Stories of success like Uform show the value of being flexible. Uform saw its growth shoot up by 40% per year with BGF’s investment. This highlights the benefits of planning ahead and adapting. The Coaching Inn Group also thrived under BGF’s guidance. Its network grew threefold and was acquired by RedCat Pub Company in 2021, showcasing successful UK business contingency planning.

Putting a good exit plan into action means setting clear goals. It also involves choosing the best time to leave. It’s wise to reach out to potential buyers or investors early on. This can greatly impact the sale. Take HeleCloud as an example. With support from BGF for acquisitions, it was bought by SoftwareONE in 2021. This move shows how targeted investments can improve exit opportunities.

It’s also crucial to have backup plans ready for any sudden problems. Research by Startup Genome reveals a small 1.5% of startups get exits worth over $50 million. This requires careful planning and the ability to quickly adapt. With Europe making up 38% of global startup exits by 2023, UK business contingency planning can give businesses an advantage.

In today’s changing market, being adaptable in your exit plan reduces risks and increases value. Planning ahead for possible challenges is key. For instance, being ready for M&A activity drops or making the most of IPO market rises is essential. These steps lay the groundwork for a strong and profitable exit strategy.


Exit planning success hinges on strategic foresight, careful planning, and resilience to market shifts. UK business owners must combine personal and business goals with the right exit strategy. This ensures a smooth and profitable handover. Common exit strategies like IPOs, acquisitions, and MBOs help guide this process effectively.

Larger businesses often prefer mergers or acquisitions as their exit plan. These can be very rewarding for owners and shareholders. Each exit strategy, like the 1% rule or time-based exits, has its own benefits depending on the situation. For example, using exit multiples to calculate a company’s terminal value is a common financial technique.

Exit plans are crucial for entrepreneurs dealing with challenges like health issues or economic downturns. Effective strategies, such as transferring the business to a family member or selling it, can secure profits and adapt to market changes. This ensures long-term success and stability. Having a solid exit plan in the UK can lead to profitable outcomes and protect the business’s future.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


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