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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • August 2018
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What is exit planning?

From the dawn of time, business owners have sold their businesses just like they would sell their homes:

“Alright, I’m sick of doing this, I want to retire.”

*Contacts business broker.* *Business broker lists the business for sale.* *Interested parties make offers.*

Everything goes pretty smoothly until an offer is accepted: “Sweet, I have offers. I’ll accept the highest one.”

*Accepts best offer.* *Interested buyer conducts due diligence, finds a bunch of things wrong with the company.* *Offer is “renegotiated.”*

“Damn it. That’s a lot lower than before.”

At this point, the business owner is exhausted after spending months negotiating the deal. They feel mediocre and insecure due to all the nit-picking that the buyer is doing. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place — backing out means restarting the whole painstaking process and trying to find a new buyer, but moving forward means accepting a reduced offer.

“I just want this to be over with. Tell them they have a deal.”

*Deal closes.* *Business owner goes to meet with accountant.*

“Oh shoot. I forgot about taxes.” “Pay off debt? I thought the buyer was assuming my debt!”

And that is why 75 percent of business owners who sell their business feel “profound regret” about when, why and how they sold within 12 months of the sale.

Don’t sell a business like you would sell a home. Selling a business is like way more difficult than selling a home.


  • When you sell a home, you have thousands of potential buyers.
  • When you sell a business, you have a handful.
  • When you sell a home, your buyers are not highly educated and are emotional or feeling when making their decisions.
  • When you sell a business, your buyers are highly educated and rely on concrete facts when making their decisions.
  • When you sell a home, an accepted offer may lead to a closing in a matter of days (and that offer is unlikely to change).
  • When you sell a business, an accepted offer may lead to a closing in a matter of months (and that offer is likely to be renegotiated along the way).

Practice makes perfect

Your kid wants to get better at basketball. What do you tell them? “Practice! You need to get your butt out on the court instead of playing Fortnite all day.”

Heed thine own words. You want to exit your business smoothly? Here’s what I tell you: “Practice! You need to put the time in and plan out your exit if you want to avoid disaster.”

Exit planning offers business owners an opportunity to learn, practice and strategize in a safe environment. It offers business owners the opportunity to simulate the due diligence experience so they can correct areas of concern before a potential buyer ever sees them.

Some law firms will conduct due diligence on your company and tell you what to do in order to sell your business for more money. Business owners get a “report card” and a detailed list of action items that they would be wise to accomplish before listing the company for sale.

Succession planning

But what if a business is being passed to family or management team? In that case, is there anything to practice?


Basically, all the same principles apply and we are faced with the additional challenge of helping your successor obtain financing.

Business owner beware

Exit planning is a new practice, and it is becoming “trendy” among advisors who see it as an opportunity to generate new business. 

Kelton Dopp

Kelton Dopp started his career as a Financial Advisor, prior to joining Epiphany Law’s team as a Project Specialist in 2017. One of his greatest passions in life is finding ways to make the complex simple. Epiphany Law, LLC. Is located at 4211 North Lightning Drive, Appleton. For more information, email [email protected] or call 920-996-0000.


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