An exit strategy is an important consideration for all business owners, but it’s often overlooked until significant changes are necessary, especially for startups and SME businesses that are just getting started.

Screen Shot 2022-10-13 at 11.39.26

There are a number of ways owners can plan their exit strategy, and different strategies work for different businesses and are dependent on the changes you want to make and why - which can be overwhelming. However, without planning an exit strategy that informs business direction, entrepreneurs risk limiting their future options and risk the future of their business altogether. 

In the first session of the StartUp Awards StartUp Academy in collaboration with BT - Sam White, multi-award-winning entrepreneur and CEO of Freedom Services discussed her entrepreneurial journey and tells her story of how she exited her business - giving her expert knowledge and advice.

Sam joined Dylan Jones Evans, founder of the StartUp Awards to discuss how you can create a successful exit plan, how to know when it’s the right time to exit, and things she has learnt along the way. 

Kicking off the conversation Sam explained how mindset is so important, and how she was able to get into the mindset of selling her business. 

“After a near-critical event in 2013, I pivoted the business by setting up another one. I moved into insurance rather than just claims and set up an underwriting arm so that I could move into a new area, but also feed the existing business. When that went well, it made me feel a little bit more confident in the sense that I could build on things and I didn’t just have to be the first business I started,” she explained. 

“In order to move forward, you have to let go. You’ve only got a finite amount of time and resources. If you can release capital and release time, you can start to think, is there anything else that you are more passionate about or would like to be involved in? Currently, all of your time, your energy and your finances are embedded into whatever your business is, so getting into the mindset of selling when the time is right can help you free up time to do what you want.” 

Sam went on to discuss how being a founder who has built up the business themselves can come with a lot of pressures, which can be another reason why business owners are reluctant to sell or exit. 

Her top tip? Make sure your business is in the best place it can be before you exit! And don’t be afraid to bring in some help to get your team to that place. 

“I think most businesses operate very much on the surface level - they’re like superficial romantic relationships where everybody pretends that everything’s fine but there’s no real emotional intimacy and it results in a level of dysfunction. 

“I’ve always tried to shine light into my own dark corners to work out where my behaviour could be affecting the business because, as the leader in the business, even the slightest movement or change will have a huge impact on the overall organisation, Particularly in a founded run business, because you’re wielding an inordinate amount of power, and if you get things wrong, it can be quite destructive.

“An issue, particularly in our society, is that we hold up this idea about CEOs being like godlike figures on pedestals that have all the answers and are going to drive people through crises and manage everything. The reality is that not all problems can be solved by an individual. Problems are better solved by groups. This is why I brought in a coach to work with me personally for a couple of years when I was trying to kind of get myself into the best possible space to be the best leader I could be for the team

“I knew I eventually wanted to step to one side, and to do this I wanted to get the team to the best possible place and dynamic to feel okay to leave.” 

Ready to know more? Watch the full conversation here.

The StartUp Academy Series will take place over 10 weeks, with a number of different topics covered by experienced entrepreneurs, in conversations set to inspire. Find out more and sign up for the next webinars here.