From Startup to Exit: 6 Questions Every Business Owner Should Answer

As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and growth of your company. Whether you plan to retire, pursue new ventures, or simply want to ensure your legacy, preparing for the eventual sale or transition of your business is essential. There are key questions that a business owner should be considering now regardless of how close or far away they are from transitioning their business.

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  1. What is the Value of the Business?

Knowing the true value of your business is a fundamental starting point in the exit planning process. A professional valuation can provide insights into the current worth of your company, taking into account assets, revenue streams, profitability, and future growth potential. Understanding the business’s value will help you set realistic financial goals for your exit and identify areas for improvement to maximize value before the sale.

  1. How Much Do I Need to Sell the Business For to Maintain My Lifestyle?

Selling your business involves more than just achieving a certain sale price. It’s crucial to consider all the financial implications, such as commissions, legal fees, and taxes that may significantly impact your net proceeds. A comprehensive financial analysis will help you determine the minimum selling price required to maintain your desired lifestyle after the business sale.

  1. Who Are Potential Buyers?

Just like marketing your products and services, selling your business requires understanding your potential “customer” – the buyers. Identifying potential buyers can be challenging, but it’s vital to think beyond the obvious choices. Will it be a competitor looking to expand their market share? A private equity firm seeking to invest in your industry? A key employee or a family member interested in taking over? Understanding your potential buyers will help tailor your exit strategy accordingly.

  1. How Dependent is the Business on You as an Owner?

A business heavily reliant on its owner can be a major turn-off for potential buyers. If the company’s success is intrinsically tied to your presence, it creates uncertainty and risk for buyers, which can negatively impact the business’s value. To break this dependency, start delegating responsibilities and empowering your team to operate independently. This will not only make the business more appealing to buyers but also strengthen its long-term sustainability.

  1. How Do I Create a Recurring Revenue Model?

A recurring revenue model with predictable income streams can significantly enhance your business’s attractiveness to buyers. Whether it’s through subscriptions, service contracts, or maintenance agreements, recurring revenue provides a stable cash flow and demonstrates the potential for future growth. Consider how you can shift your business model to incorporate more recurring revenue elements to make it more appealing during the exit process.

  1. What Makes My Business Distinctive in the Marketplace?

Buyers are often drawn to businesses with proprietary technology, unique intellectual property, or a strong brand presence that creates a distinctive advantage in the marketplace. Identifying and leveraging these strengths will help you position your business as a valuable investment opportunity. If your business lacks distinctive advantages, consider investing in research and development or strategic partnerships to enhance its market appeal.


As you plan for your eventual exit, keep in mind that it’s not just about ensuring a smooth transition for the business but also securing your financial future and leaving a lasting legacy. With early planning and strategic foresight, you can set yourself up for a rewarding exit and take pride in the legacy you leave behind.

By addressing key questions and taking proactive steps to maximize your business’s value and appeal to potential buyers, you’ll position yourself for a successful and rewarding exit. Remember that exit planning is a journey that requires careful consideration, and seeking professional advice can be invaluable in guiding you through the process.

Linda Ruffenach

Founder / Chief Strategic Officer at Execuity. Linda is an experienced entrepreneur, skilled facilitator, and bourbon badass. Her 20+ years of C-level experience enables her to relate to the challenges business owners face every day. As the former CEO of a $100 million international enterprise, she has been through almost every stage a company can experience from fast growth, rapid decline, to complete transformation. In addition to running multiple businesses, Linda is Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Louisville's School of Business, leading and mentoring undergrad and graduate students on their path to business ownership Linda’s superpower is turning strategy into results.