From the minute you hit the dirt to hoe the rows for your startup, keep your exit strategy in mind. As you rush to execute, do so with future vision. Assemble a strong startup team, attract customers, drive revenue, ever mindful of the ultimate evolution of the business—your exit strategy. Your vision for a successful exit will help you set priorities and outline tactics to take you there. Here are four key steps to take in sowing your startup seeds for cultivation in a successful exit.
PLAN. Part of your overall startup business plan should outline a possible exit outcome. List companies who would aim to acquire your startup. Note why they would be interested—how you would fit in their development roadmap. Outline what would happen post-transaction, where your company would fit in the organization. And, consider when they might choose to make the purchase. In light of this insight, establish relationships with potential acquirers.
BUILD. Create a business that attracts buyers. With the end in mind, build your company to fill a compelling need for your customers. Execute every step of the way to your vision. Attract potential acquirers with excellent execution. When an acquisition opportunity comes to you, it is leverage. And, negotiating the sale of your company to accomplish a satisfying, successful exit is all about leverage.
TRACK. Protect your plan, your process, and your progress. Make sure all patents, trademarks, and copyrights are appropriately filed. Document agreements with suppliers, service providers, and employes. Outline equity compensation and awards for employees and stakeholders. Have a clear picture of your liabilities and assets. Good record-keeping will provide clarity of business dealings. From financial statements to filing systems, business documentation will support a smooth sell when the time comes for your startup to go public or be acquired.
ALIGN. Manage expectations of stakeholders so that interests do not cause conflict. Communicate your vision and your exit intentions. Outline the anticipated return on investment and the probable timing. Keep interests aligned with regular transparent communication about potential outcomes. Get to know Mergers and Acquisition influencers who could foster a transaction.
Balance relentless execution of your vision and keep mindful of the long term goal so you are set up for a successful exit.