We're planning ahead on a exit strategy for our small business. I have never believed it to be the sort of business that could be sale-able. And a lawyer we had met with (to discuss other questions) didn't think it would be either.. but I'd like to explore this possibility so that maybe we could benefit in some way or at least make some changes that might at least give us the option to do this in the future. I don't know where to find specifics about this for our field, but general advice is appreciated.
We provide behavioral services to children with autism (mainly military families) and have been in business for about 5 years now. We never had a real business plan, as the business has just evolved and grew naturally by itself with little up front expense. We transitioned into an office space last year and have 4 full-time clients and three full-time employees. Our annual profit is around $150-$180k and has consistently gone up every year.
Several years ago, before focusing on my own company, I helped several other companies with their start-up. After 5 years, those companies were both bought out for very large sums of money (both also had 50-70 clients more than us!) It is becoming increasingly common in our industry for corporations to seek out larger private agencies to buy. It is also something that is becoming vilified in our field to sell out to these large "soul less" corporations that don't truly care about their clients...and I have to agree!
We offer several aspects that makes us very different and more appealing to clients over our much larger competitors. But growing larger would also alter the setting that we have created for our company, and is the reason why our clients come to us in the first place. The only downside to being small is that when one client leaves, we do feel it. And although losing a client that we haven't been able to replace hasn't be an issue yet, we do worry about the worst case scenario, as our clients are military families who move every 3 years. We have never marketed before because we rarely have openings, but we are beginning to branch out more in the community so we can have more assurance about a continual stream of clients (we have relied only on word of mouth and client referrals for the last few years!)
Just fading out over the years was the initial exit plan. But we have acquired so much stuff..that it would be such an amazing opportunity for someone else to just jump in. I was thinking of just offering it to one of employees who would have the proper credentials if she is still with us at that point, but benefiting financially would be ideal considering all the years of energy that has gone into every aspect of the business. I'd probably prefer to make it sale-able to a private individual who has a dream of starting a clinic but doesn't want to go through the initial start-up process. In your opinion, do we have a business that is saleable at all? Are there small measures we could take (without compromising the things that make us different) that would at least give us the option of selling at some point rather than just fizzling out or giving it away? Any options that we haven't considered?
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