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Jan 15, 201909:54 AMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

Unpacking stage one of value maturity: Identify

(page 2 of 2)

Business assessment: The business assessment is the next logical step in Identify. In the assessment, key aspects of the business are reviewed to detect the risks that threaten the company’s sustainability and transferability. Generally, eight key aspects of the business are reviewed — leadership, planning, sales, marketing, people, operations, finance, and legal — and scored to provide an overall profile of company risk and readiness.

The assessment risk score and the valuation work hand in hand. Value is the mathematical equivalent of perceived risk, reward, and transferability. The assessment dives deeper to discover and clarify the risk factors you can improve in your business to impact your value.

It’s best to undertake the business assessment as a management team in a facilitated discussion. Together as a group, you and your managers discuss aspects of the business that you rarely talk about due to the daily pressures of your “real work.” However, these very discussions are the real work of leadership, worthy of airing perspectives, debating, and creating shared understandings. Make sure your facilitator is skilled in keeping the conversation on track, drawing all participants into the conversation, and challenging you all when too much of your own Kool-Aid has been consumed.

Action plan: The first two steps are all about discovering the strengths, weaknesses, and risks within the company. After taking these steps, you may see your company mission and vision differently. Your goals, objectives, strategies, and action plans will change. In this final step of Identify, you and your team clarify, refine, and document these fundamental business plan elements in writing. Whether you refer to this document as your business plan, action plan, or strategic plan is not important; what is important is that you have a plan that you share, communicate, and use as a filter in your decision-making going forward and to guide your efforts as you graduate to Stage two: Protect.

Identify on its face is straightforward. Your goal is to identify what you have and what you want to do with it. Straightforward, however, is not the same as simple.

Business owners who embrace and undertake the Identify stage know that they need to routinely challenge the status quo, which is anything but simple. These men and women, like you, are the bold ones — willing to have these discussions and do the work of discovery. Recognize it will demand openness and vulnerability. While these aren’t the first words that come to mind when describing yourself as the stereotypical intrepid, successful entrepreneur, they are your mark as a courageous leader.

Armed with such courage and the information you assemble in the Identify stage, you’re ready to move on to Stage two: Protect.

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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”

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