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Small Business Owners: Are You a Lifer or an Exiter?

Recent research completed by Eyes Wide Open identified the characteristics of people most likely to find themselves trapped in their business. This article will help you discover if you are one of the people who will have choice and flexibility around how and when they work in their business.

Lifers are people who are so intrinsically tied to their business it's like a life sentence. The business is so dependent on them that they can't stop working or pursue other interests because if they did the business would fail and their quality of life dramatically affected. Exiters, on the other hand, are people who have freedom from their businesses. A successful business sale, or a year's holiday in the Maldives, is only a phone call away. These people can walk away from their business and it will continue to thrive. It's rarely a black and white diagnosis.

Most business owners will sit somewhere on the continuum between being a Lifer or an Exiter. The research by Eyes Wide Open revealed 10 characteristics that distinguish Lifers from Exiters. These characteristics have been developed into a Quiz to help you quickly determine if you are at risk. Here are some sample questions:

1. Do you define yourself by the business you are in? e.g. Do you find yourself saying "I am a??"

2. Do you have hobbies or interests outside the business?

3. Do you consider working very long hours as an inescapable 'fact' of being in business?

4. Does 30% or more of your business income come from a single client?

How do you think you would fair? Are you more of a Lifer or an Exiter?

Getting Out - Successfully!

There are 3 key steps to improving your chances of a successful exit.

1.Strategically decide WHAT you want to have happen

2.Plan HOW you are going to make it happen

3.Actually GET ON with making it happen

When Eyes Wide Open talked about these 3 steps with business owners there was a wide variety of reactions. Some people said:

  • They had planned and managed their exit from the outset
  • The discussion was completely irrelevant to them since they were happy to work for the rest of their living days
  • The solution will show itself when the time comes
  • Had done some thinking about it but not really actioned anything yet

The research uncovered 6 tactics business owners use to successfully exit their business. These tactics ensured the right planning was done and action taken to increase the chances of getting a desirable result from the business. The tactics included:

  • Developing a Life Plan
  • Diversification
  • Building a 'Carrot' and
  • Creating Enough Pain for Change

Time is of the Essence

Exiting your business may not be a burning issue for you right now. The daily management of money, compliance, customers and employees often takes priority over some event that might happen in the future. You may scarcely have the time to plan for today's events let alone dedicate resources to something that may not show fruit for a very long time. By choosing to do nothing you're leaving your destiny in the hands of fate. Many of the changes you may need to make will take time to implement. So getting started today is essential to ensuring you have choices tomorrow.

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Jeff Jones, CEO Total Construction

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