Finish Big – How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top

Information from this article has been mined from the book “Finish Big” by Bo Burlingham, by permission of the author.

“Every entrepreneur exits.  It’s one of the few absolute certainties in business.  Assuming you’ve built a viable company, you can choose when and how you exit, but you can’t choose whether.  It’s going to happen.  You can count on it.”

While this is a fact, it still often comes as a shock to business owners.  With their heads down, focusing on the daily activities of their business, many owners don’t look up and strategically plan for their future.  Decisions about their exit are often made by forces outside of their control – health, owner fatigue, age, burnout, or a loving spouse encouraging them to retire.  When unplanned, the owner also isn’t in control of timing, price and net proceeds at the close.

However, it doesn’t need to end this way.  With thoughtful planning an owner can be in control.  Here are the five elements of a good exit, as outlined by the author:

  • Owners felt they’d been treated fairly during the exit process and appropriately compensated for the work they’d put in and the risks they’d taken to build their business.
  • They had sense of accomplishment. They could look back and know that through their businesses they’d contributed something of value to the world and had fun doing it.
  • They were at peace with what had happened to other people who’d helped them build their businesses – how those people had been treated, how they’d been rewarded, and what they’d taken away from the experience.
  • They had discovered a new sense of purpose outside their businesses. They had new lives that they were fully engaged in and excited about.
  • The companies they’d created were going on without them and doing better than ever. They could take pride in the way they’d handled one of the most difficult tasks faced by an owner: succession.

Of course, good outcomes don’t just happen.  Most owners have never gone through the process before.  The owners interviewed for the book, those whose experiences were summarized in the five elements above all started from the same place, trying to figure out how?

They asked themselves, and others, the same questions we discuss with many business owners – Where do I even begin?  For that matter, when should I begin?  What are my options?  How much should I be looking for?  What role models are out there, if any?  What pitfalls should I be aware of?  How do I identify and qualify potential successors or potential acquirers?  What sort of outside help do I need?  What will I do after I leave?   And on and on….

We at Sunbelt Business Advisors can help to answer many of these questions.  If you are considering selling or transitioning your business over the next few years, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation meeting to discuss your exit goals and aspirations.

You can also learn a lot about the process by purchasing Finish Big on Amazon at




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