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Cory appears in the Top 100 Innovators & Entrepreneurs and the Top 100 Business Leaders magazines.

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Cory Tanner

“Middle-market business owners are the backbone of America. It’s our job to make sure
they’re rewarded for their contribution to America’s economy.”

Consider this: Over 4.5 million U.S. businesses representing more than $10T in value will transition within 10-15 years—each one built on a lifetime of sweat, work, and passion. Yet when it’s time for them to exit their businesses, only an estimated 20-30% that go to market will sell. For Cory Tanner, founder of Utah-based Exit IQ, who, himself, has owned and exited middle-market ventures since 2012, this is completely unacceptable. And as the leader of a firm that has turned this 80% failure rate into a 90% success rate for hundreds of privately held middle-market ($5m-$500m) companies over the last 15 years, he knows of what he speaks.

“For these business owners, their business is like family that they’ve nurtured and grown over decades, yet they’re easily taken advantage of by knowledgeable acquisition teams driven to get the lowest price,” Cory says. “As entrepreneurs ourselves, who have personally experienced the challenges and frustrations of exiting our own businesses, our goal is to protect them from the sharks and create the opportunity for owners to exit their business when they want, how they want, and for the optimum price.”

To accomplish this, Cory, an Advanced Exit Planner (AeXP), works with Exit IQ’s experienced team to strategically design and execute the optimum exit strategy for every business. Whether navigating an outside third-party sale, transferring ownership internally, or executing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), Exit IQ quarterbacks the entire professional advisor team and stays with their clients well beyond the transaction, helping them invest the proceeds into a sound investment portfolio. “What drives us is trying to make sure these business owners receive the highest value for their business, rewarding them for the creation of new innovations and their contribution to the economy,” he shares.

As Cory leads Exit IQ through unprecedented demand from businesses owners across the country, the principle upon which the company was built remains unwavering: Humanity. “This is what we stand for, and as we grow, we want to continue to make a positive contribution in the lives of those that are the lifeblood of America.”

Here, Cory discusses the biggest problems—and fears—American business owners face when exiting and how Exit IQ is not only eliminating them, but changing the landscape in their favor.


Cory, for business owners considering an exit, what are some of the most common problems they face?

If I had to break it down into two bullet points: The current M&A industry is insufficient and broken and business owners are not prepared. Most owners will go through an exit once in their life, with no experience. Many don’t prepare because they don’t know the key components of an optimum exit plan, what advanced preparation is critical, how buyers will value their business, or if the net proceeds from the sale will provide the income needed to sustain their lifestyle. This makes them easy targets for experienced acquisition teams whose only goal is to get the lowest price. Many owners seek professional help from their CPA or attorney; however, they’re only specialists in a very small part of the exit process.  With no quarterback this oftentimes loses the business owner millions due to rushing to market with no advanced preparation. Also, owners don’t know how to evaluate and select all the advisors needed: Exit Planner, CPA, M&A and estate planning attorney, valuation specialist, executive compensation specialist, etc.

We’re solving these with our proven disciplined process that designs and executes the optimum exit plan for every business. We quarterback the entire professional advisor team, and stay with our clients through the five stages of advanced preparation, the close of the sale and onto the next chapter of their lives.

Does your own experience as an entrepreneur give you a deeper appreciation for your clients’ fears and perspectives?


It absolutely does. I think the three greatest fears that you feel as a business owner are loss of control, concern for your employees’ jobs, and what will life be like after the sale.

First, every business owner fears loss of control. You work every day with your employees toward a common goal. When you enter the transaction stage unprepared you suddenly feel like you have no control, and that’s terrifying. Imagine you’re in an ocean full of sharks, a ton of buyers trying to get the lowest price. You don’t have experienced advisors, and every investment banker is claiming they can sell it, even if they’re not qualified. Second, fear for your employees’ jobs, and this is often a dealbreaker. Many owners have, along with their top-tier management teams, worked for decades to build the company. It’s the fear: “If I sell, are they going to fire the people who helped me build this?” Finally, fear of life after the sale. Business owners go to work every day for 10, 20, 30 years. The business is their pride and joy, their identity and where they have 80-90% of their financial assets. As they approach the close of the sale, the fear hits them. “What do I do now?”

At Exit IQ our proven disciplined Five Stage Process and Implementation Road Map eliminates these three fears and dramatically increases the odds of success for every business owner.

With all this in mind, how does Exit IQ eliminate these issues for business owners?


First, we are an advocate for our clients to select the right investment banker/business broker. This is a critical decision and must be a high-trust relationship. After comprehensive due diligence, we present the top 2-3 from our national network who meet with the business owner, and the owner makes the final decision on who they want to work with. Then we organize the Exit Advisor Roundtable, typically  comprised of an M&A attorney, investment banker, valuation expert, compensation specialist, and the business owner’s CPA. We quarterback the implementation team to execute the optimum exit strategy, and we assist the owner in evaluating the financial and non-financial structure of each offer. It is not always about money for our clients. Oftentimes, it is also about culture, employee security, business legacy, and future contributions to the local community. Our goal is to execute the ultimate exit and then assist every owner to manage their financial resources well into the next stage of their life, whatever that may look like. We are there from the critical preparation stage, through the sales transaction, and into their next life as they make the transition from business entrepreneur to successful investor.

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