The following is a short list of reasons why you, as a business owner, refuse to plan your business exit.

1. Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the unknown, or fear of change, is a key source of Exit Planning aversion.  You may have said: “I don’t know what the future will hold, so I will stay here in the present.”

Solution:  An Exit Plan is a “living document.”  It can be changed, and it probably will be modified over the years.  If the marketplace changes, the Exit Plan can and should be changed.  Making the Exit Plan a “living document” will allow for a sense of control, which can help overcome this common hurdle.

2. Unsure of what you want. As a business owner, you may be too busy to consider what you want for the future.  The day to day running of your company keeps you wrapped up in the present.  Perhaps you have even said: “I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for 30 years.  I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a place to go in the mornings.”

Solution: Even if you don’t want to admit it, the notion of life after business can be terrifying.  Thus, the Exit Plan is built with lots of flexibility.  For example, keeping a minority interest in the company, staying on as the Chair Emeritus, or including in the Exit Plan arrangements to continue to be available for consultations.  A business exit does not have to occur in one fell swoop.

3. The company is your identity.  After founding and running a successful business, it is natural to feel that the company is an extension of yourself.  It may feel that:  “If I retire, I won’t be anybody anymore.”

Solution: The Exit Plan could entail where you serve as an ambassador for the company by doing speeches, attending trade shows, and promoting new products and services.  There are many ways to still feel  “related” to the company without all of the “headaches of ownership.” In essence, you can have fun without the daily responsibilities.

4. You are the only one who can run the Show.  Founding business owners often feel that they are the only ones who can keep the business up and running. On the surface, it makes sense: “Without me, the company will fold. I’m the only one who can make things work.”

Solution: The Exit Plan will assist in advising the need to surround yourself with quality people. It will show the importance of your ability to “mentor the younger managers” until they develop a management style that keeps the business on an even keel.  This responsibility helps in you actively taking part in creating the future, both for the company and yourself.

5.  You may feel you never want to retire.  For some, work is more than a means to wealth: It is the reason for waking up in the morning.  You may have said: “I want to die at my desk.  I have no other interests other than my company.”

Solution: This feeling often coincides with the need to care for your employees.  Often times, the employees feel like family to you. This is an important key for starting the exit planning process. The Exit Plan will show you a way to assure that the team you have put together is set up for success.  This will allow you to think ahead to when you no longer captain the ship (due to death, incapacitation, or otherwise).

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The Cornerstone team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisers who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. As a member of the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), Cornerstone is an authorized distributor of BEI’s content and Exit Planning Tools. We developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit, call (910) 681-1420 or email