Recap: Exit Strategy Secrets that Build Value

Mark DaymanContinuing Family Business Radio’s record of on-point topics for family-owned businesses,  Mark Dayman of Cap-Val LLC joined hosts Pat Romboletti and Meredith Moore on Thursday, May 6th to discuss exit strategies and company valuations.

From his perspective of working for a national appraisal-litigation support-exit strategy firm, Mark shared the good news that many deals are still being done today, albeit often in distress situations. “Buyers are looking for the low-hanging fruit,” he acknowledged. So now is a great time to make sure you don’t end up in that situation and instead come up with your personalized exit strategy. For family-owned businesses, “…the real objective is to build value over time,” he pointed out.

According to Mark, there are three main ways to build value:

  • Identify your “value worlds,” that is, the people or entities that will most likely buy your company, and then plan accordingly. For instance, if you plan to sell to family members, you will probably use fair market value, which is one of the lowest standards of value. At the other end of the spectrum, you might seek a strategic transaction (targeting a business concern that sees the value of your company and prefers to buy a going concern rather than build a similar company from scratch). Other value worlds include management buy-outs and employee stock ownership programs (ESOPs).
  • Enhance your company’s ability to produce income. Many owners think the first way to improve cash flow is to reduce expenses. And while it’s certainly important, a better way, according to Mark, is to work on the top line—ask and answer the fundamental question, “What are we selling to whom and at what price?” Another practical way is to clean up the P&L. For example, take out the personal luxuries, such as lake houses and boats. “Don’t operate as an incorporated personal checkbook,” Mark said.
  • Reduce the risk in your business. Simply put, the higher the risk, the lower the value. There are many factors that will reduce risk, but one very important way is to create transparency by making yourself obsolete. (Swallow hard, entrepreneurs.) Buyers want to know, want to see, that the business they’re buying will survive once the founder is gone.

We took an interesting turn in the discussion about risk. In general, large businesses are perceived as less risky than small businesses. Mark said there are several reasons for this assumption. For one, it is presumed that large companies control their markets better. Also, they are perceived as having greater control over their production and distribution. Additionally, it is assumed that a large company has its second layer of management in place and therefore its existence is not dependent on one person.

Good news for small/smaller companies! You can address these issues, in the appropriate scale and ratio for the size of your business, thus building value and being competitive with the big guys. Start with a business plan. Set up a Plan B. Clean up your problems, especially any litigation. All things within the grasp of any business of any size.

Mark also discussed the team of trusted advisors best suited for developing an exit strategy action plan. No surprise to see a CPA and attorney. But he pointed out that a good financial planner—for both the company and your personal matters—is a good idea. Also a coach for key executives is often helpful. Finally—”Sometimes it’s not the owner’s best friends. You need right answers, not easy answers,” he said.

This illuminating conversation is available in its entirety as a download. You will appreciate Mark’s straight talk and insightful observations. Including his encouragement that now is a great time to plan an exit strategy. “The bad economy is forcing you to run your business more efficiently than ever and there’s money available for good value,” he said. “Take control.”

Mark A. Dayman, CPA/ABV/CFF, CVA, CapVal-American Business Appraisers, LLCThe McLean Group LLC Investment Bankers  , 3525 Piedmont Rd  BLDG 7  STE 300, Atlanta, GA  30305, Telephone: 678-662-6478, mdayman@capval-llc.com

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