My end goal is to sell my company: how do I plan a successful exit strategy?

Start by organising the business so it can run effectively without you – you may need some external support to do this. Think of it as making yourself redundant.

No one wants to buy a business where the sales and relationships are served by a single point of failure: you. It’s not robust or good business. Start developing and adding to your team, encouraging people to step up – if appropriate, share your vision so they can feel motivated to support it (although that won’t always be appropriate).

If you cannot share your vision then recruit or promote people to gradually take on the roles you’ve been fulfilling. This includes being the ‘face’ or ‘faces’ of the business so, in terms of marketing and PR, clients and your wider audiences start seeing and engaging differently.

Remember, no one person can be you. With the mantra of ‘no one does it like me’, every staff member will be doomed to fail. Instead, the mantra should be ‘this person has the potential to take the next steps in their own way – not my way – and that’s what I want’.

Knowing when the time is right to sell and how to prepare for it

Start by involving key staff in decision-making and perhaps pay them a responsibility allowance. If you think you can’t afford to, then you’re thinking too small – you can’t afford not to.

If you can’t go on holiday for a week without being surgically attached to your mobile phone and your laptop, you’re not ready. Keep focused on the end goal and practise letting go.

The interim goal could be to take a two-week holiday and your team are only allowed to call you in exceptional circumstances. If you are being called several times a day, this shows your team are not confident without you being around. That’s your fault and your ego has got in the way. Do something about that. Then move that ‘holiday’ up to a month.

Once the business continues to grow and new business is coming in without you (and maybe you can’t remember the names of your clients), then you are ready.

Should you stay or should you go?

It all comes down to what you want money-wise and in terms of involvement. Do you want a lump sum or a regular income? Do you want a clean break or to be involved for a fixed period of time as a chairman or non-exec director?

Remember you can’t have it all ways, so decide and get clear on what you want. This helps team members in the know to work towards that goal.

A word of warning – most companies will want you to hang around once the sale takes place, for continuity etc.

At the same time, start to invest energy in your next adventure, whatever it may be. It could be more time with the family, more time travelling, relaxing or investing in other businesses or becoming a philanthropist.

Finding the ‘one’

In finding the right buyer or investor for your business, I recommend going back to what you want: money and involvement. Go back to your values – your core values – and the legacy you want to leave behind. Connect with people who can give you what you want.

This process is not sentimental – it’s business – and sentiment does not have a financial value, so you’ll need to grow a thick skin in these negotiations.

Actively seek out the people who will give you what you want internally or externally and only those people. Treat the sale as a sales strategy and apply all the skills you have towards securing the right deal for you – and the business.

Linda Davies-Carr, who has more than 30 years’ experience working with FTSE 100 companies at executive and board level, is the founder of The Master Fixer coaching company.