I learned a great deal from my personal business exit and wish I knew then what I know now. In retrospect, my company's management team made its share of innocent mistakes exiting the company. In the late '90s, we spent several years and more than a quarter of a million dollars wandering the exit path with merger and acquisition consolidators, private equity groups and an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) adviser; finally, we decided to use a management buyout.
With the advice of an experienced exit planner, we could have reduced our costs 70 percent; defined our goals and produced a holistic report laying out our options, bottom line after-tax pricing and income replacement; and structured an exit to address tax and estate issues.
So what does this mean for you? Don't make the mistake of thinking you know everything about business transfers because you have been involved with one in the past. My company's most recent transition was our third buyout into our fourth generation. My message to you is simply: You don't know what you don't know.