Selling a Business: The Types of Buyers and Exit Strategies

Discover the art of selling a business with insights on buyer types and exit strategies. Navigate your business transition wisely. Explore the 4 exit strategies for your business journey. From M&A to IPOs, discover your path to a successful exit.


Tanya Kabuya

9/14/202310 min read

What are the 4 exit strategies for your business
What are the 4 exit strategies for your business

Business owners often wonder, "Why do people leave their businesses?" This question leads us into a world of various reasons and important strategies.

It's crucial to have a plan for leaving your business, which we call an "exit strategy." Think of it as a map that guides you when it's time to move on. This map helps you make a smooth exit.

For businesses like coaching and advisory services, the exit plan is even more crucial. These businesses often rely on the knowledge and expertise of their founders. So, leaving isn't just about money; it's about passing on what you know to keep things going.

People leave their businesses for different reasons. Some want to try new things, while others face challenges. Many simply want to enjoy the rewards of their hard work. In a changing world, being ready to exit is a smart move.

So, the question now becomes, when do you know the right time to start thinking about selling your business? It’s definitely not when you’re sixty-five years old and ready to retire! It's not when you're burned out from running the business, or when life conditions have changed dramatically.

Selling your business is a monumental decision that should be approached strategically and well in advance. This article will guide you through the various types of buyers and exit strategies to consider when the time is right.

Related Article : Taking an Investor's Perspective on Your Coaching Business

Business vs. Job: Building a Valuable Business

Entrepreneurs sometimes make a puzzling mistake when building a business. They focus so much on making a lot of money right away that they end up with a business that isn't very valuable in the long run. Let's unravel this mystery.

The error often happens because they're more interested in quick profits than in building a business that will last. When they do this, they unintentionally ignore important things that make a business truly valuable.

Here's what they miss:

  1. Building a Strong Brand: Entrepreneurs sometimes rush their business to market without creating a unique and memorable brand. This means they miss out on connecting with customers who want something special.

  2. Protecting Ideas: In today's digital world, having unique ideas, patents, or special ways of doing business is crucial. Ignoring these protections can leave a business vulnerable to competition.

  3. Planning for Growth: Some entrepreneurs only focus on making money now, without thinking about how their business can grow in the future. This shortsightedness can limit a business's potential.

  4. Sustainability: Not taking into account the business's capacity to maintain its operations efficiently. Neglecting to implement sustainable practices within day-to-day operations can also have detrimental effects. Ensuring that your business's operations are built to withstand the test of time is paramount.

Rushing for the quick money without thinking about the long-term value of their business, entrepreneurs damn themselves to having a profitable job.

Owning a business inherently offers more value than having a job. Albeit a lucrative one. A number of business owners believe they own a business, whereas the business cannot exist if they cannot work for 90 days. This is self-employment, and this type of business makes it very hard to be bought.

The Freedom of Ownership

Being your own boss is appealing, and many entrepreneurs cherish the autonomy that comes with self-employment. However, if your aim is to create a business with lasting value, one that can be sold in the future, it's essential to transition from a very lucrative job that is self-employment to a business model.

Timing is Key When It Comes To Selling Your Business

The timing of your business sale is crucial. While it's possible to expedite the process and sell within six months, the ideal timeline is around three years before the actual transaction. Why three years? Think of it as a strategic runway. It allows you to make substantial adjustments to your business operations, financials, and market positioning. To put it simply, it's like preparing a house for sale - a well-maintained, well-presented house typically sells at a higher price than one that's rushed to market.

Related Article : Lifestyle Businesses vs. Building a Company for Exit

Demystifying Business Exit Strategies: Navigating the Sale

Wondering about the exit strategy when selling a business, especially in fields like coaching and advisory? Let's break it down into simpler terms.

Imagine your business journey as a map. The exit strategy is the path you take when you're ready to move on. In coaching and advisory services, where knowledge is often the key asset, it's a bit like finding the right way to pass on what you've built.

Start by thinking about what you want from this exit. Is it about money, or is it also about ensuring your work continues in some way? This decision sets the direction of your journey.

Next, consider who might be interested in taking over. It could be another company looking to expand (strategic buyer), an investor seeking a good opportunity (financial investor), or even your own team (management buyout). Each choice comes with its own set of complexities, like different paths on your map.

In fields like coaching and advisory, your knowledge and relationships are vital. This means you'll need clear agreements in place, making things a bit more detailed.

So, selling a business and finding your exit strategy is like conducting an orchestra. You're orchestrating all these different elements to create a harmonious exit. It's a step-by-step process, like writing a song, where every note matters. And when it's all done, you'll have composed a successful exit plan.

Related Article : Explore Private Equity Fund Types

What are the Four Types of Exit Strategies For Businesses

In the business arena, charting the right course toward a graceful exit is a strategic imperative. The question that arises is often "What are the exit strategies available to business owners". This unfolds a treasure trove of options, each with its own unique nuances and implications.

  1. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): This strategy involves joining forces with another entity, often through a purchase or merger. It's like to a cosmic collision, resulting in the birth of a new celestial body – a conglomerate. M&A can unlock synergies, pool resources, and create a more formidable market presence.

  2. Initial Public Offering (IPO): The IPO route is like to launching your ship on the public sea. It transforms your private entity into a publicly traded company. We are familiar with the New York Stock Exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and a number of others around the globe. When a private company IPOs, the business owner more or less cashes out his chips from the business,along with investors that initially invested in the private money market. This voyage attracts investors far and wide, infusing capital while subjecting your enterprise to the scrutiny of the stock market.

  3. Management Buyout (MBO): In an MBO, the helm of the ship transfers from the current owner(s) to the existing management team. It's like passing the baton in a relay race. This transition often fosters continuity and preserves the company's legacy.

  4. Liquidation: Picture this as closing the curtains on a theatrical production. Liquidation is the dissolution of the business, converting assets into cash. It's a somber finale, often seen in failing enterprises, where creditors and stakeholders claim their share of the pie.

Each exit strategy is a distinct constellation in the business galaxy, guided by your objectives, industry dynamics, and market conditions. Navigating this celestial chart requires a strategic compass and a keen understanding of the cosmic forces at play.

Related Article : Unveiling the Reasons Behind Coaching Business Failures and Strategies to Ensure Longevity

Types of Buyers of Businesses

Understanding the diverse types of buyers and their motivations is crucial for shaping your sales strategy.

Strategic Buyers

Strategic buyers come in various forms, each with distinct agendas. Some keep their intentions covert ("turning off the light"), while others openly express interest ("keeping the light on"). These buyers typically see value in acquiring your business because it complements their existing operations. Consider a tech startup specializing in AI, which attracts the interest of a tech giant eager to enhance its AI capabilities.

Financial Buyers

Private equity firms represent a prominent category of financial buyers. They range in size from boutique firms managing under $100 million in funds to mega-firms handling assets exceeding $10 billion. To illustrate, if you own a mid-sized manufacturing company, a large private equity firm might express interest in acquiring your business to bolster its portfolio of industrial enterprises.

Financial buyers often employ roll-up strategies. This approach involves acquiring multiple smaller companies in the same industry to create a more significant, more competitive entity. It's akin to building a mosaic, where each smaller company contributes to the creation of a more valuable whole.

Alternative Buyers

Alternative buyers offer various paths for exiting your business. These include:

  • Owner-Operator: Imagine you own a flourishing restaurant and decide to sell it to a passionate chef eager to continue its operation, introducing their culinary expertise.

  • Management-Led Buyout: Your current management team may express interest in acquiring the business, ensuring a seamless transition and preserving the company's culture.

  • Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP): Transitioning ownership to dedicated employees through an ESOP not only rewards their commitment but also secures the company's future.

  • Initial Public Offerings (IPOs): Consider the example of a tech startup with groundbreaking innovations. Going public through an IPO allows the company to raise substantial capital to fund further research and development.

  • Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC): SPACs provide an unconventional route to going public. A privately held company merges with a publicly traded shell company, bypassing the traditional IPO process.

When to Consider Different Buyers

Determining the right buyer type depends on several critical factors, including your business's readiness, size, and personal objectives. Here's a more comprehensive look at when each buyer type might be the best fit:

Strategic Buyers

  • Consideration Factors: Strategic buyers are typically interested in your business because it complements their existing operations or fills a gap in their portfolio. Consider engaging with strategic buyers when:

    • Your business has unique capabilities, technologies, or assets that align with the buyer's strategic goals.

    • Your business operates in an industry where consolidation is common, and larger players are actively seeking acquisitions to strengthen their market position.

  • A great example would be, suppose you own a regional chain of organic grocery stores. A large national supermarket chain may express interest in acquiring your business to expand its presence in the organic food market.

Financial Buyers

  • Consideration Factors: Financial buyers, such as private equity firms, are primarily motivated by financial returns. They often seek businesses with solid financials and growth potential. Consider engaging with financial buyers when:

    • Your business has a proven track record of profitability and can demonstrate the potential for future growth.

    • You're open to remaining involved in the business or taking on an advisory role after the sale.

  • If for example, you run a mid-sized manufacturing company with consistent profitability and a clear growth strategy, a private equity firm specializing in industrial investments might see your business as an attractive opportunity.

    As mentioned, roll-up strategies are often the MOAT for financial buyers and are suitable for businesses in fragmented industries with numerous small players. If you run a coaching business, you can quickly identify why they are an attractive purchase in this case as the industry is indeed fragmented, and your business operates in an industry where consolidation is underway, and larger entities are actively seeking to consolidate smaller companies to achieve economies of scale. Private equity firms with expertise in the online education space, one that comes to mind is acquisition owned by the Hormozis might be interested in rolling up multiple online education practices into a larger network, creating synergies and streamlining operations.

Alternative Buyers

  • Consideration Factors: Alternative buyers offer various paths for exiting your business, often with unique benefits. Consider alternative buyers when:

    • You have a specific vision for how you'd like your business legacy to continue, such as keeping it in the hands of dedicated employees or your existing management team.

    • Your business model and culture are particularly attractive to certain buyer categories, such as employees who have been integral to your success.

  • The perfect example in this case would be If you own a successful tech startup with a strong company culture and a loyal employee base, you might explore an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to transition ownership to your dedicated team while preserving the company's ethos.

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)

  • Consideration Factors: Going public through an IPO is a significant step, and it's ideal when:

    • Your business has a compelling growth story and requires substantial capital infusion to scale operations, expand, or fund research and development.

    • You're prepared to meet the regulatory requirements and disclosures associated with being a publicly traded company.

    • Your valuation is closer to a billion and investors who initially invested in the private market want to exit

  • An example would be a technology startup with groundbreaking innovations and a substantial need for capital that might opt for an IPO to raise funds for research, development, and market expansion. Going public through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) represents a compelling exit strategy for business owners looking to transition from private ownership to a publicly traded company, and also serves as an exit strategy for early investors and venture capitalists who have supported the company during its growth phase. They can realize returns on their investments by selling their shares to the public.

Ideal Business Size

The ideal size of your business for attracting different types of buyers varies according to the buyer type and industry. In the healthcare sector, a small but innovative biotech startup might attract the attention of a larger pharmaceutical company seeking groundbreaking research to enhance its product pipeline.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the foundation of a successful business sale.

Set a Strategic Plan

Crafting a comprehensive strategic plan is similar to charting a course. Whether you engage a professional facilitator or assemble your executive team for planning sessions, consistency is key. Imagine it as preparing for a cross-country journey: you need a well-defined route to reach your destination.

Report Results

Accountability is paramount. Implementing a formal reporting process offers real-time feedback, and is similar to using a GPS for navigation. It helps you track your progress and make necessary adjustments to stay on the right path. This is something we work closely with our clients to help them establish as a practice.

The Power of Boards

Boards, whether independent or advisory, provide invaluable guidance. Picture them as a team of experienced navigators on your ship, helping you navigate through complex waters and make informed decisions.

Preparing for Exit

As you embark on the journey to prepare your business for a potential exit, we invite you to explore the possibility of partnering with our expert advisory team. At Wizz Digital Academy, our Advisors have a wealth of experience in helping businesses like yours navigate the complexities of selling a business, ensuring you achieve the best possible outcome.


Selling a business is a multifaceted process that requires thoughtful planning and strategic decision-making. Understanding the various types of buyers and exit strategies empowers you to make informed choices. The right time to start thinking about selling your business is now, not when you're ready to retire. By following a strategic plan, being accountable, and seeking guidance from our expert Advisors, you can maximize the value of your business and embark on a successful transition.

Book a Consultation with Our Advisors

Ready to explore what the journey to a buyable business could look like with our expert support? We invite you to book a consultation with our Advisors team today. Let us help you navigate the path to a successful business sale. Schedule your consultation today to explore what your journey could be like.

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