If you’ve built up a successful business, deciding whether or not to sell it is a difficult choice to make. Yet, every business owner must have their exit strategy firmly in place.
You’re sure to already know the classic exit strategy options – finding strategic buyers, an equity sale, or possibly going public for a larger small business. Some owners decide that they’ll just wind down their business entirely. There is, however, a different option – the ESOP or Employee Stock Ownership Plan. This could be the perfect exit strategy if you want your business to stay rooted in its locality and its staff meaningfully employed.
What Is An ESOP?
In simple terms, an ESOP is a tool that can be used by a retiring business owner to sell their company to its employees. They are becoming more popular worldwide thanks to the many benefits that they provide. The Corporate Business Solutions team will explain some of those advantages here.
A Flexible Timeline For Exit
Everyone knows that most Baby Boomers aren’t retiring when they get to 65 anymore. They enjoy working and are happy to carry on as long as they remain in good health. This trend looks set to continue for many more years to come since more people today are seeing their work as an extension to their personal life.
ESOPs allow business owners to carry on playing an important role in their business, but with added flexibility to begin reducing their value within it by transferring value to its employees. With a long transition period, the owner can educate and mentor key people to take over their new roles.
Not only does an ESOP enable a more flexible departure, but it also enables owners to start accessing their retirement capital via the liquidity of transferred shares to employees.
Getting Money Out
Every exit plan hinges on being able to turn the business as an illiquid asset into cash. For your employees to purchase shares in the company, it has to be valued professionally at FMV (Fair Market Value).
As long as the company is currently profitable and looks set to continue in that vein, your employees are unlikely to mind paying fair prices for share. Although some owners believe their employees won’t be able to afford to purchase their company, they find many different financing tools are available that facilitate the process.
Studies have shown that a lot of owners of small businesses end up regretting the sale of their company a short while after the deal is closed. Some even regret the decision when they got the price they wanted for the sale.
A major reason for regretting the decision is that their exit plan has failed to address issues such as legacy and succession. For a lot of business owners, it’s very important to be reassured that the values and culture they put in place will carry on once they have left.
An ESOP helps to ensure the business moves forward with those people who have already shared the owner’s values and vision. More importantly, research has shown that ownership by employees also results in better business outcomes such as improved engagement, retention, and productivity.
Would An ESOP Suit Me?
Not every business owner will find employee stock ownership the right solution since it requires a willingness for financial information to be shared and a more participative management style. However, for those business owners who are keen to have a more flexible timeline for their exit, to obtain a fair price for their sale and a way of leaving their legacy intact, the idea of an ESOP is certainly worth exploring.