Exit Planning

24th January 2017

We have set up a specialist corporate finance team to offer bespoke services in business exit planning, including assisting with:

  • Deciding how you are going to exit:
    1. Purchase of own shares, where eligible and not all shareholders wish to exit,
    2. Recruit a capable and ambitious middle manager, to run the business day to day (perhaps with the promise of some form of future equity and/or growth shares), so that you can ‘step back’
    3. Natural family succession to the next generation (as a gift or for consideration), including via setting up a Family Investment Company (FIC),
    4. MBO
    5. Public flotation (IPO on AIM or LSE).
    6. Trade sale:
      • Industry related,
      • Private equity related,
    7. Transfer ownership to the workforce, via setting up an Employee Ownership Trust (in its purest form, as a type of ‘co-operative’ or in a hybrid form, with share options to key management being issued in parallel).
    8. Trade cessation (either gradual, as activity naturally reduces, or ‘big bang’), followed by company liquidation or dissolution. I suggest you calculate the numbers for this first, as it is the fall-back position if another type of exit cannot be created.
  • Timing the exit:
    • To fit in with your personal goals.
    • To fit in with when business is ready & strong – ie, show a record (ideally, 3 years) of growing maintainable earnings and profits.
    • To fit in with fertile market conditions.
  • Exit tax planning , including, where relevant:
    • If shares owned by parentco, to ensure (consider non statutory advance clearance from HMRC ?) entitlement to Substantial Shareholdings Exemption:
      • Ensure subsidiary for at least 12 months
      • Ensure trading status test not in doubt (consider extracting property, surplus cast, etc, pre sale)
    • If shares owned personally, to ensure entitlement to be taxed at the 10% business asset disposal relief rate of CGT (previously named Entrepreneurs Relief)
    • To ensure entitlement to Enterprise Investment Scheme CGT exit tax relief.
    • To ensure avoidance of possible De-grouping charges.
  • Deciding whether you are selling the business as a self contained company (ie shares) or just the individual business assets (including goodwill).
  • Creating the ‘ideal’ business for a purchaser:
    • Diversifying your customer base, so that no more than 15% of revenue is derived from your largest customer.
    • Creating a model where customers purchase your product or service more than once per year and pay up-front.
    • De-personalise the business model, so that you do not need to customize products, services or methodologies for individual customers.
    • Creating a business model where you product or service is easily teachable to your staff.
    • Supplying a product or service which is highly valued by your customers/clients.
    • Once you specialise in something, you can then hire specialist staff.
    • Make something unique about your process, so that you ‘own’ it when pitching.
    • Have a sales team of at least two, to create natural internal competition (these should be people who are good at selling products, not services).
    • Having a scaleable business.
  • Structuring the business to operate without you:
    • Establishing strong middle management. Motivate them with a long-term incentive plan. Only give away equity as a last resort.
    • Creating financial controls for post sale, when you are no longer involved. Setting up this structure will involve ‘systemising’ all of the aspects of managing the business, so that, one by one, they do not require your input and creating a long term financial incentive for key individuals to stay with the company.
    • Creating a ‘prospects channel’ where no more than 10% of new revenue is a direct result of your personal sales efforts.
    • The more the business can operate without you, the less likely that part of the sale consideration will be an earn out or deferred consideration.
  • Control over the occurence, timing and disclosure (eg ‘Exceptional’?) of discretionary spends
  • ‘Tidy up’ the business:
    • Formalising existing customer, employment and other trading relationships.
    • Ensure all legal and tax compliance is up to date.
    • Eliminate potential deal-breakers (eg. ongoing litigation).
    • Cessation or splitting of loss making activities.
    • Remove ‘personal’ and ‘mixed’ transactions and assets from the business.
    • Ensure most efficient/saleable structure.
    • As most purchasers will try and structure the deal so as to fund the purchase price out of future ‘target’ profits, the balance sheet should be handed over in a condition that will be conducive to such finance raising.
  • Creating a culture which minimises staff turnover.
  • Optimising the ‘Picture’ presented of you on the public record:

    • Submitting full (instead of abbreviated) accounts at Companies House.
    • Improving the information that can be found on you through simple desktop research (your website, blogs, etc)
    • Ensuring that your accounts are prepared with accounting policies that are consistent with industry norms.
  • Preparing a ‘sale pack’, ready for purchaser due diligence.
  • Find an advisor for whom you you will be neither their largest nor their smallest client. Make sure they know your industry.
  • Strategies for attracting approaches from potential purchasers (try and create competition into this process).
  • Creating the sale team and documentation and preparing for a smooth due
    diligence process.

The earlier the grooming process commences, the better and the more robust the company will appear under future due diligence scrutiny. Instruct us to undertake this corporate finance work and you can rest assured that all of the multi facets of this complex area will be taken care of, to your best advantage. Experience, contacts and inside knowledge are the pre-requisites of good corporate finance advice.

Disclaimer - All information in this post was correct at time of writing.
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