Small business owners all wonder at one point or another about the the ideal business exit strategy option for their business. Whether you are currently running a business or are considering buying one, your exit strategy should be part of your planning process. It’s your end goal and will help you make numerous decisions — a million little ones and quite a few big ones, too — along your journey to a profitable outcome.

Without exception, every business owner asks us some version of the question: How can I get the most money out of my business when I retire? 

We all get there at some point and having a business exit strategy plan in place is the best way to ensure you build your business in a way that maximizes the return on your investment of time and money — maybe of your entire life — so you can retire in the best possible position. 

Here are Four Common Exit Strategy Options for School and Daycare Businesses:

1. Liquidate the Business

Small businesses that are largely dependent on the performance of a single individual and have few-to-no assets to sell may will find this option tempting. The business was primarily an income source, which is all some people want from their businesses. Liquidation is certainly the fastest way to get out of the business. At the end of the school year (assuming leases and other liabilities are taken care of) you can basically clear the space and go home.

Because it provides no post-retirement income we do not recommend this option. If for reasons that make sense to your lifestyle and needs, you choose this as your exit strategy, make sure you save and invest your income properly while running the business so you can retire with adequate income and assets to live as you like.

2. Pass it On to a Child

This is the dream for many business owners — to pass the family business on to the a child (or to the children). You can groom your family successors in the right way and maybe even still keep a hand in the business in an advisory or other capacity. It sounds like a great idea. It’s not just a business. It’s a legacy! …and so on.

As a strategy, it’s not one to start with from day one because there’s a very good chance your children will not be interested in running the business. Additionally, it takes a lot of work. Statistically, the second generation does not run the business nearly as well as the first (about 70% go out of business) and almost all family businesses go out of business with the 3rd generation (almost 90%).

However, at some point it might seem like the best path for your business and family. If so, make sure your successor has the same dedication to the business as you, knows the same network of vendors and colleagues, and understands all the intricacies and nuances of the operational, financial, and promotional aspects of the business.

3. Keep Your Business (Let your managers run it)

If your school or daycare is in an exceptionally stable market and you have exceptional systems  and even more exceptional management in place — that is, the business can basically run itself — then you might consider keeping the business and the income that comes from it.

You will want to tighten up your systems even further to ensure the smoothest possible operation by your management and employees. You also must clarify your own role in the business for your management team so they know without doubt what they need to handle themselves (hopefully everything) and when they should reach out to you for help. A worst-case scenario with this option is one where your spend 20 hours a week working during your “retirement”. For most business owners, it’s tough to stay out of the way because they feel like they can “do it better” themselves. In addition to the risk of being sucked back into the business regularly — and it will only be to put out fires — you will not reap the rewards of the single large payout you could get upon the sale of your business.

That said, if you have such amazing systems in place that the business can run itself, then you are in a prime position to sell your school or daycare business the maximum amount of return which brings us to the next option…

4. Sell Your School or Daycare Business

For most business owners, selling the business is the preferred exit strategy and it’s easy to see why. With the right planning in place, they can get out of the business cleanly and professionally and walk away with a big pile of money and even a retirement plan in place.

For school and daycare owners, there are often two parts of the sales equation: the business and the real estate. If you own both elements, you are starting in the right place sell your business successfully. There are certainly more factors to take into account. Like any business, in an ideal world your school or daycare will have certain elements and characteristics in place such as:

  • It should be profitable and have strong cash flow
  • You should have consistent enrollment
  • You are in a stable and growing market
  • All of your licensing and regularly requirements are in place and recorded
  • You have systems in place for operations, marketing, finances, management, EVERYTHING
  • You have strong, reliable leadership, management, and employees in place (not including yourself)

In summary, buyers prefer to buy a business that already runs itself. They want to buy “the system” and the cash flow it brings in. Ideally, you can hand over the proverbial keys and walk away. 

That said, there are plenty of buyers — most actually — who are willing to buy businesses with only most of those elements in place. They may already be running a similar business and can bring over what they know works OR maybe they wanted to do something their own way, anyway.

The value of real estate is often overlooked or undervalued by the seller of school and daycare businesses. If you own the real estate your school or daycare (or multiple locations) is on then you have even more options for selling your business, especially when looking for the kinds of large school and daycare business buyers we work with. You can learn more about the Bailey Routzong system for selling school and daycare businesses here. 

The Best Exit Strategy for You

Ultimately, the best exit strategy is the one that fits your hopes, dreams, and goals the best. That might mean being able to walk away quickly or it might mean maximizing the sell amount and earning continued income from the sale of your real estate and business. If you are interested in learning more about options for getting the most out of the sale of your school or daycare business contact Bailey Routzong.

Bailey Routzong has been helping school and daycare business owners maximize the value of their businesses — and what they get out of them — for more than 20 years. See what our clients have said about us after selling their businesses with Bailey Routzong. 

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