Kevin Manley on Exit This Way™ / by Kerri
Listen to Kevin Manley on Exit This Way™
Kevin Manley, Managing Partner at The Exit Advisors and Manley Strategic in Daytona Beach, FL. returned to join host Kerri Salls on Exit This Way™ for part 2 of Entrepreneur to Exit Planner, It’s All About Value.
Kevin Manley, founder of The Exit Advisors and Manley Strategic, is a noted business & exit strategist and entrepreneur. Kevin holds an MBA, a Masters in Engineering, and a CExP. He has founded, advised, and/or invested in a variety of companies in consumer electronics, medical technology, philanthropic technology, real estate development, etc. In 1995 Kevin co-founded Yesmail.com, an online e-marketing solutions company. He and his co-founders took Yesmail public in 1999, and sold it to CMGI in 2000 for over $700M. This 5-year process involved name changes, strategic focus changes, smart advisors, luck, great timing, and great people.
Kevin helps owners of both startups and established businesses maximize their company’s value and formulate a plan to grow their business, leverage their talent, improve their focus, utilize technology, enhance overall stability, and develop and implement an exit/transition strategy.
Entrepreneur to Exit Planner, It’s All About Value
Kevin was an entrepreneur in the heyday of technology, and now is an exit planner working with owners to create value in terms of positioning for an exit.
What makes your perspective unique as an Exit Planner/Exit Strategist?
Kevin says exit planning is just a different mindset thinking about your business to get to the exit, and that’s the hard part of being an exit planner. In a startup, if you’re raising money, you have to think about the exit upfront, build in to your business plan. So, Kevin talks to owners about their business entrepreneurially, to show them what it looks like from another party’s perspective.
Building value – what does that mean to you and what does that mean for clients?
Kevin gets owners started on the process of rethinking the business operating without them. His simple examples included: recurring revenue, stability and predictability of cash flow, risk. In terms of risk he pointed out lack of customer diversity, of being hit by a bus, not having passwords written down somewhere to address business continuity concerns.
Kevin will lead the discussion with an owner starting with value and increasing that value to make their business more valuable to a third party.
Kevin gave some easy practical steps to put in place for basic continuity planning such as succession planning with basic instructions to successor/spouse in case of an owner’s death. He recommended that ideally an exit planner should be brought in as soon as that succession plan, 8-10 years out, is just a glimmer because it can take that long to groom and transition to successors.
Universal Exit Objectives
Kevin shared what he called the Universal Exit Objectives
- When do you want to leave?
- How much do you need?
- Who do you want to succeed you?
He said that if an owner writes down the answer to any one of these three questions, they join the 8% of all owners who have written anything down. And only 12% of owners have had a discussion about their exit with their professional advisors.
In the decision to reduce risk, he recommends that owners want the option to transfer ownership to their children, to insiders or to a third party. Transfer to a third party is always an option in an effective exit plan. When owners assume liquidation is their exit plan and they intend to ride it out until they can’t, he tells them, that essentially they have not plan.
Every business needs an exit plan. Why?
Exit planning is a valuable and necessary service to give owners more options. Kevin has asked owners who have successfully exited their businesses: what was the trigger to start planning? What did it take to be ready to speak with an exit planner?
The answer was they had to get to a point of thinking about: ‘What’s next for me? What’s next for my life, outside the business?’ If owners can’t see that, there’s no reason to make any changes. He’s found that scare tactics from the outside, and he mentioned a few, don’t work.
Kevin educates owners that an exit planner is owner-centric, focused on what the owner wants to have happen as an owner of that business, whereas some of your other advisors; your accountant or attorney for example, may be more reactive to what is happening in the business.
He says that for smaller companies, early exit planning can make manageable changes result in a huge difference for the owner.
Kevin has seen that if owners have thought about an exit, it’s usually just down one path, as if it’s their only path. Put an exit planner in the mix and you can identify several paths to consider. Owners don’t usually take time to consider an alternate path, or as Kevin did at Yesmail, change their business model.
He suggested ways to create recurring revenues or productize what you have. You could end up getting acquired for that one product.
Kevin suggests that an exit planner comes in to a company to have those conversations, to explore options, because they always have their eye on the exit. ‘We talk about the business today but talking about value and sellability with an eye on the exit.’
In contrast, he made the distinction that a business coach or turnaround coach is worried about keeping you in business, helping with your executive team and leadership issues. Whereas, as an exit planner, Kevin will keep an eye on those things too, but always with a focus on how you the owner will exit the business.
Kevin went on to offer tips on personal income tax planning to consider before and after an exit and full circle back to value and the importance of getting a third party business valuation.
Listen to Kevin’s full interview here.