Going from the Big Picture to More Immediate Tasks

January 26, 2017Exit Strategies, Selling a Business

Did you know that elephants can weigh up to 7 tons? Not only that, they can grow to stand 13 feet tall. You might be asking what this has to do with exiting a business. In the productivity world, there is a saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” As I’m sure you’ve heard, the answer is, “One bite at a time.”

Despite not knowing anyone who has actually eaten an elephant, I do know countless business owners who have charted out elephant-sized goals and successfully accomplished them. The difference between the successful business owners and those who failed at their desired tasks didn’t boil down to skill or luck. It hinged completely on their ability to break down a large task, such as eating a 7-ton elephant, into small bite-sized pieces and then build out a time frame to accomplish that task.

I’m here to tell you that exiting your company is the business equivalent of eating an elephant. And you are still running your business on top of that.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. What it does mean is that it is essential to break down all the elements of your exit into small, manageable, delegable tasks with specific deadlines.


Developing Smart Goals

Business owners are no strangers to setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific goals. How else do you think they built a business?

The challenge comes when defining what they want when it comes to selling their business.

It’s not merely enough to want to transition out of your business. What does your “win” look like when exiting your business? You need to create answers for questions such as:

In fact, this particular goal-setting process combined with outlining all the necessary steps to get the business ready for market is so in-depth, at Exit Consulting Group we allocate the first one to two months of selling a business to this task alone.

We build out objectives in four main areas: products and services, operations, financial, and legal. For example, in products and services we might have the goal to diversify customer concentration. The legal aspects might read navigating the bylaws related to selling your business outlined in your corporate documents.

Check out our guide to better understanding the four main areas you need to work on in your business prior to exiting.


Breaking It Down To Bite-Sized Tasks

Those overarching goals move you closer to the goal of exiting your business, but writing down “diversify customer concentration” isn’t exactly actionable. Next you need to review each of the big goals and break them down into bite-sized tasks. Aim for a checklist of items that you can slowly cross off as you accomplish.

For example:

Diversify customer concentration so no client exceeds 30% of the total revenue source:

  • Increase current client contracts by 10-15%
    • Call two existing clients each week to discuss additional ways you can service their account.
    • Bring in 3-5 new clients
      • Follow up with all past clients
      • Cold call two prospects a week
      • Attend industry conference
    • Conduct market analysis to determine new service opportunities

The aim is to break down your big goals into tasks that you can literally check off as you accomplish them.


Assigning Time Frames

You can write down an endless list of tasks, but if you don’t assign a time frame to accomplish them by, you will perpetually be too busy to accomplish anything. It’s not as if you have an extra ten hours a week as it is. The beauty is, though, that a task will take as long as you give it. If you give yourself until the end of Q1 to increase your current client contracts, by the end of March you will have ramped up your current receivables.



You are not the only capable person in your business. If you are, you won’t sell your business. That means you employ talented individuals to whom you can delegate tasks. Additionally, you should have a team of experts helping you through your exit-specific tasks, such as a lawyer to help review your legal documents and a transactional CPA to oversee the financials.

Between your employees and your exit team, you should be able to delegate a large majority of tasks. In fact, this is a positive exercise toward slowly removing you from the day to day of your business.

All in all, by now you should have been able to break down some of the big picture aspects of exiting into bite-sized pieces with specific time frames and delegated to capable team members.

For example:

(Q3) Diversify customer concentration so no client exceeds 30% of the total revenue source:

  • Increase current client contracts by 10-15%
    • (Account Manager Q1) Call two existing clients each week to discuss additional ways you can service their account.
    • Bring in 3-5 new clients
      • (Sales Manager Q1) Follow up with all past clients
      • (Sales Manager Q1) Cold call two prospects a week
      • (Owner, Sales Manager Q2) Attend industry conference

That is how you eat an elephant.

We recommend starting to outline your goals for exiting your business two to three years prior to when you want to exit. This gives you the ability to truly define what your “win” is, as well as implement all the changes you need to do to get your business to that point.

To jumpstart your exiting process, connect with our team at Exit Consulting Group. We help successful business owners with everything from defining the best exit scenario and preparing the business, to finding a buyer and completing the transaction.