Exit Strategy

Bradford Toney
Updated At


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What is an Exit Strategy?

An exit strategy is a strategic plan developed by a business owner or an investor intending to sell their ownership in a company. The strategy is typically designed with the objective of minimizing the potential damages that could be caused to the business or personal wealth during such a transition.

There are numerous types of exit strategies to consider. These include:

Selling the business to a strategic buyer: This is usually another company in the same industry that sees value in purchasing the business. This value could arise from a variety of factors, such as eliminating competition, acquiring unique aspects of the business like intellectual property, or achieving economies of scale.

Selling to a financial buyer: This could be a private equity firm or an individual with significant resources looking to invest. Financial buyers often seek profitable, well-run companies they can acquire and possibly grow over a defined period.

Management buyout (MBO): In an MBO, the company’s management team purchases the business. This presumes the team has the necessary financial resources or can secure them.

Initial Public Offering (IPO): An IPO involves selling a portion of the business to the public. This strategy not only provides a feasible exit route but also helps raise capital for the business.

Liquidation: This is the process of closing a business and selling all its assets. It’s usually the last resort when a business is failing, and no other exit strategies are feasible.

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Exit Strategy vs. Succession Plan

While an exit strategy and a succession plan might seem similar, they serve distinctive purposes. An exit strategy is a plan for a business owner or investor to reduce or entirely eliminate their investment in a business. It’s usually designed keeping a financial and strategic perspective in mind.

On the contrary, a succession plan deals with the continuity aspect of a business. It focuses on identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they exit due to retirement, resignation, or other reasons. The goal of a succession plan is to ensure the smooth functioning and future success of the business, irrespective of who leads it.

How to Calculate 'Exit Value': Calculating the exit value, an essential component of an exit strategy, involves several steps.

Estimate future cash flows: Project the business' cash flows for a reasonable number of upcoming years. This is usually done based on historical data and industry trends.

Determine a discount rate: This rate represents the risk associated with these future cash flows. Higher the risk, greater the discount rate.

Discount future cash flows: Apply the discount rate to each projected cash flow to calculate their present value.

Sum up discounted cash flows: The addition of these gives you the exit value of the business.

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Why is an Exit Strategy Important?

An exit strategy is critical for a few key reasons:

Risk Mitigation: It prepares for potential risks and minimizes their impact.

Value Maximization: It helps to maximize the financial return to the business owner or investor during their exit.

Planning: It provides clarity and a roadmap for how, when, and to whom the business will be sold.

Investor Attraction: Many investors look for well-defined exit strategies before investing as it reflects the business's foresight and planning abilities.

In simple terms, an exit strategy is a plan made by a business owner or an investor detailing how they will sell their stake in the business. It’s vital for mitigating risks, maximizing returns, ensuring effective planning, and attracting investors. Whether selling to a strategic buyer, a financial buyer, going public via an IPO, or any other route, having a well-drawn exit strategy is a crucial aspect of business finance.

  • Hayes, A. (2023a, March 20). Exit strategy definition for an investment or business. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/exitstrategy.asp
  • Hargrave, M. (2020, July 10). What is management buyout (MBO)? Definition, reasons, and example. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mbo.asp
  • Ashford, K. (2024, January 26). What is an IPO? Forbes Advisor. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/initial-public-offering-ipo/
  • Kenton, W. (2022c, November 29). Succession Planning Basics: How It Works, Why It's Important. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/succession-planning.asp
  • Aidev. (2022, October 18). What is the difference between an exit plan and a succession plan? BPM. https://www.bpm.com/insights/what-is-the-difference-between-an-exit-plan-and-a-succession-plan/
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