Select the Right Exit Path Series- Part 3: Selling to Third Party

As discussed in the previous issue of Grow and Protect Your Business, it is important to select your successor early in the Exit Planning Process. In the past two issues, we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of transferring ownership to children and selling to other owners or employees. The last scenario that we will look at during this Exit Planning Review™ series of articles is the sale to a third party.

The market has indicated that 20 percent of businesses are for sale to a third party, but only one out of four actually sells. For businesses above $10 million per year; however, the odds improve to 50 percent.1 In a retirement situation, a sale to a third party too often becomes a bargain sale – most often the only alternative to liquidation. This option becomes necessary in many situations because owners fail to create a market for their stock through sale to family members, co-owners or employees.

The following are advantages to selling your business to a third party, as well the disadvantages associated with this type of exit plan. It is important to compare the advantages and disadvantages of this type of transfer scenario when choosing your target successor.


  • If the business is properly prepared for sale, you can get cashed out. Many owners don’t realize this. Unless you are truly a "Mom and Pop" business, you should get the majority of your money from the business at closing. Therefore, the fundamental advantage of the third-party sale is receiving immediate cash. This ensures that you attain your fundamental financial objectives and, perhaps, avoid risk as well.
  • A second primary objective discussed in earlier articles – treating all children equally – also is easier to achieve because you can eventually just divide the money among them on an equal basis without having to worry about who is going to run the business, etc.
  • Often an unanticipated advantage in selling to a third party is the ability to receive substantially more cash than your CPA or valuation specialist anticipated because the market is "hot."


  • Regardless of what the buyer says, the personality and culture of your business will undergo a radical change. The buyer would not buy the business unless convinced that the company can be improved through change. Maintaining the culture of the business is normally best achieved by selling to someone other than an outside third party.
  • If you do not receive the bulk of the purchase price in cash at closing, your risk can be substantial. The best way to avoid this risk is to get all the money you will need at closing so that anything you carry is "gravy."

Through proper planning, you typically can minimize the disadvantages associated with a sale to a third party and leverage the advantages associated with this type of exit path. As we have discussed in the past few Grow and Protect Your Business issues, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of transferring the business to each category or potential purchaser: family member(s), co-owners, employees and outside third parties. Each method contains not only related characteristics, but also substantial and often dramatic differences. We have provided you with a good snapshot of what each scenario has to offer so that you can have a basic understanding of the common potential exit paths. It is important to note that each departure method has many detailed components and circumstances that you should discuss with your advisors before proceeding down any of the discussed exit paths.

If you have any questions about selecting the right exit path or would like additional information about any of the exit paths discussed during this series of Exit Planning articles, please contact us to discuss your particular situation.


Take care and have a good day,


ABOUT LEGACYHP: Our passion is our mission -- To position our clients into a positive, energized, posture -- within your businesses and within your lives -- So that you manage change confidently, take decisive action, and enjoy life's journey Today... while you enjoy building your Legacy for Tomorrow.

Notice: The information contained in this article is general in nature and is not legal, tax or financial advice. For information regarding your particular situation, contact an attorney or a tax or financial advisor. The information in this newsletter is provided with the understanding that it does not render legal, accounting, tax or financial advice. In specific cases, clients should consult their legal, accounting, tax or financial advisor. This article is not intended to give advice or to represent our firm as being qualified to give advice in all areas of professional services. Exit Planning is a discipline that typically requires the collaboration of multiple professional advisors. To the extent that our firm does not have the expertise required on a particular matter, we will always work closely with you to help you gain access to the resources and professional advice that you need.

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