Denial in NOT a River in Egypt

Or, WHY Don’t Owners Plan for Exit?

DenialRecently, I posed a question to my board of advisors, a diverse group of fellow professionals who work with small business owners. WHY aren’t business owners interested in discussing Exit Planning?

One person, an attorney who’s also a small business owner, remarked “That’s the hardest subject there is for business owners!” “Why’s that?,” I asked. “It’s something EVERY Business Owner needs!”

The banker in our group offered that her clients are just too afraid to even look at exit planning for fear of what they might find. That behavior is kind of like cancer. Denial can kill ya.

Am I equating your business with your life? No, but some business owners might. Regardless, if you own a business you spend a lot of your life working in (and thinking about) it. The single biggest reason small businesses fail, in my opinion, is denial. None of us is an expert in everything, but sometimes we act like it. We don’t know what we don’t know, most especially when (or how) to hire an expert to help us see what we can’t – or won’t.

Sometimes it’s humbling. Or scary. But would you rather know about a problem while there is still something you can do about it?

We’re fortunate to live at a time when if you catch some cancers early enough, you can be cured completely and live a productive and happy life. If you ignore that nagging pain, or weight loss, or that mole with the uneven borders, you can die.

If you ignore those warning signs a business offers – counting too much in one customer, not watching your cash flow, or any number of other indicators – it can kill your business.

As my husband just asked me, “You mean if you plan to plan tomorrow, you may not have a tomorrow to plan?” Groan factor aside, Yes. That’s exactly what I mean. Exit planning can be done at startup (ideally) and reviewed regularly, or it can be done later. But NOT doing it is sure to hurt you, at least in the pocketbook. And the best news is, it doesn’t have to be long or laborious.


So while you or your dermatologist is checking those moles for melanoma, do yourself a favor. Do a regular exit plan check. If you don’t have one, MAKE one. There are advisors out there who can provide good guidance. Or you can just make a list of what you think exiting might look like for you. Please write it down! It isn’t engraved in granite: it SHOULD be reviewed and changed over time, and it will surely help you achieve your dreams.

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