1. Sever the emotional connection.  You should see your business as an asset that has commercial value, rather than a result of many years of blood, sweat and tears.

2. Clean up the balance sheet.  You don’t want to have personal assets and substantial contingent liabilities (such as employee long service leave, annual leave, etc.) sitting on your balance sheet when you are exiting.

3. Put a detailed plan together.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, particularly when it comes to using sale proceeds to fund your glorious retirement.

4. Enlist the help of external specialists.  You may see spending money on accountants, lawyers, investment bankers or corporate advisors as excessive, but it is the best investment you can make to maximise your result.

5. Take your time.  Allow between 12 and 24 months for preparation before exiting.

6. Move out of the business.  As the managing director of the business, start dedicating a significant proportion of your working effort to working on the strategic aspects of the business.

7. Reduce over-reliance on specific clients.  If more than 15% of your revenue is sourced from one client, there is an over-reliance and inherent risk for a prospective purchaser.  Clients have low barriers to exit and are more often than not happy to switch firms given the right opportunity.

8. Diversify your income streams.  The inherent risk profile of a business decreases if it generates reasonable percentages of its revenue from diverse and annuity income sources.

9. Minimise reliance on business owner(s) for revenue generation.  Most owners of SME firms are in revenue-generating roles, with many out-performing the rest of their team.  If you plan to retire from the business this situation must be reversed, otherwise there is too much risk for a prospective buyer.

10. Systematise the business.  Document or automate every policy, procedure and process in the business to support the attainment of a state of self-sufficiency.  This serves to minimise the reliance on the business owner, but also increases the pool of prospective buyers to include investors with no recruitment experience.

Andrew Cassin is an Exit Advisor and Business Broker licensed in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. His company, Acquisiti is premium business brokerage and advisory firm, providing services aimed at maximising the exit result for its clients. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Business and has pursued post-graduate studies in financial services, corporate governance, mergers & acquisitions, and change management. For more information contact Andrew via email at enquiry@acquisiti.com