It might seem like an odd or even counterintuitive question to ask; what is my Exit? But it is not. It is a question that any successful leader should always have the answer to. Now, let’s be honest, a leader that will ‘always’ have that answer will be as rare as the hen’s teeth. However, with proper planning and honest thought, leaders can ensure they are prepared for when the question will inevitably be asked of them.
If you haven’t looked at this question before now maybe it would be useful to examine what ‘Exit’ means. For some it may mean leaving it all behind. Selling up “lock stock” and moving to a warm climate with umbrellaed drinks. For others, it might be a merger, growing your business through integration with another and freeing you up to be a resource but not a leader in the day to day running of things.
In my business, in our work with clients, we deal a lot in “why”; Why do we follow these steps? Why do we do things this way? Why do I use this supplier? The ‘Why’ of the Exit question is just as important. Knowing the right time to grow, sell or merge is key to strategizing in business and so is knowing the right time to leave.
Setting your own Goals and Targets are critical to preparing to answer the Exit question. Lifting your head above your day-to-day focus on operations, taking time out of keeping the wheels turning to get a true perspective on yourself is key. Some may feel that this is a selfish or unhelpful pursuit because it isn’t focussed on the greater good.
I would challenge this.
Simply put, any leader who is not driven by their own success will not inspire others to follow. Leaders need to use their own unwavering ambition as the fuel that feeds the energy of their teams to deliver on goals and drive for growth. Articulating this drive through personal goals and milestones is the key to unlocking the answer to the question ‘What is my Exit?’.
Spending time understanding what your motivations are for being in your business is the first step. Like the ‘Why’s’ mentioned above, you need to sit down and use the Lean Tool for establishing ‘Root Cause Analyses’ known as the ‘5 Why’s’ exercise on yourself:
- Why did I start this business?
- Why did I choose this sector?
- Why do my team work with me?
- Why do clients buy from us?
- Why am I still in the business?
Once you have built this understanding, you ensure that it is what feeds your company’s culture and values. If these are lived by you and shared within your organisation they will be lived there too. This will be the foundation on which you build.
Next up, set a target valuation for what you feel your business is worth. Be ambitious with this and factor into the equation the time you feel you will need to invest, the resources you are willing to risk and the sacrifices you are happy to make. When you settle on that number lock it away.
Once you are this point you need to begin to focus on the health of your business, keeping in mind that you are always in the shop window. With this in mind, you need to be sure your organisation is optimized by identifying and implementing areas for improvement. Doing this will ensure you are in the best possible position to capture the value you have set for your Exit.
You don’t want to walk away leaving value for someone else now do you?
Now, build a strategy to delivery on your Goals. Drive your business toward achieving the target, whether that is valuation, sales growth, market share or another metric. When you reach this Goal then you could dictate the answer to the Exit question. If you are honest with yourself about what you want to achieve from your business then whenever you decide to finally make the decision to Exit, in whatever form this takes, it will be the right time.
So, simply put, achieving your Goals is your Exit.