With a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation as well as two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, business coach, and consultant, Kerry Boulton has become Australia’s most respected exit strategy advisor. As founder and CEO of The Exit Strategy Group, she won the 1992 Telstra Business Award for Total Quality Management and was named Innovator of the Year by the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship in 1999. With the goal of creating strong, positive businesses that provide real value, Kerry equips business owners with essential steps for overcoming challenges and ensuring their financial freedom. A professional EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) Implementer, she taught business for six years at Swinburne University and has authored two books, The Uncensored Truth about Exit Strategies and Million Dollar Pay Day.
Why is an exit strategy so important?
Because we’re human. Whether we like it or not, we are not immortal, and one day everyone will exit their business- so you can never be too prepared. Now, I’m not saying you need to exit your business at a particular time, but it’s important to think about how to build value and make your business transferable to the next person, as well as having buy-sell agreements and business succession agreements in place. In my case, everything was going swimmingly with our second real estate business until 2018 when my husband’s bowel cancer returned. Fortunately, I knew what to do, and we applied the strategies I teach. We were ready to exit, and when he passed away, the documents we had in place were invoked in terms of business succession.
It’s also important to think of yourself. Everyone needs to have a sense a purpose after moving on from a business, because a life without purpose is no life at all. This has been proven by the sad statistics involving people who retire – most often, men – who pass away within a few short years. Of course, there’s also the benefit of being able to cash out or cash in at any time when you have your business ready, as was the case with our first businesses and particularly, our real estate company.
When should people start thinking about an exit strategy?
Ideally, when they start their businesses, but it’s never too late. You’re the most important investor in your own business. For example, if you were to look at buying shares in a company on the stock market, you would have an opportunity to sell those shares at some point down the road. So, as the most important investor in your own business, you need to give yourself that option.
When you did you start The Exit Strategy Group?
In 2011, I realized there was a gap in the market, and no one was talking about exit strategies. It was not only a great niche, but there was also a significant need for people to learn these strategies, especially baby boomers like myself. Many people don’t want to face their mortality, and some just don’t know where to start.
What kinds of businesses do you work with?
Usually, businesses of reasonable sizes with between five and 200 employees. My biggest client was $50 million, but I do a minimum of around $1 million in sales turnover. I primarily work with service businesses, but I have manufacturing clients as well.
Has your entire career been in business coaching?
No. In fact, I am currently in my fifth reinvention. I first learned the importance of giving business investors exit strategies in 1987 when I bought a division of the public company I’d been working in as general manager. We had 83 staff in five locations around Australia and 120 international agents, and my plan was to grow the business and sell it to an international group within five to 10 years. I was there for nine years before retiring the first time, in 1996.
What made you decide to come out of retirement?
I’d been retired for two weeks, and I was already bored. Although I love my children, I was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mum. A friend approached me about starting a business coaching company, and I remained in that role for nine years before retiring again to spend more time with my children and to help my husband with the real estate business. It became highly profitable, and in 2007 someone made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. Like I tell my clients, having a business ready at any time puts you in a good position. So, when the opportunity arose, we took it, and the financial crisis occurred the very next year. My husband was then diagnosed with bowel cancer, and I looked after him while he recovered. A year later, I returned to my passion; working with business owners, and my husband became involved in growing another real estate business at the same time.
What do you think shaped you into the person you are today?
I’ve always believed it’s important to know where your passions and strengths lie, and my strengths come from my personal education. I left school at age 15 because my father was ill, and I cared for him at home before he passed away. As a result, I had to teach myself or learn by working alongside people who mentored me. That’s why I call my education QBE-qualified by experience.
Tell us a bit about the books you’ve published.
The Uncensored Truth About Exit Strategies covers 10 myths every business owner must know before creating their exit plan. Hard copies are available for free on my website or at http://www.FreeExitStrategyBook.com.au My second book, Million Dollar Pay Day, is a how-to book about all the do’s and don’ts involved in getting your business ready for your exit. This one is also available from my website for the cost of postage and handling.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I’m actively involved in a local community sports club called South Melbourne Districts. I’ve been secretary for 15 years, and I also run the Cricket Blast Program, which I helped implement 24 years ago to teach little kids how to play cricket. The club now has over 2,000 members. In winter I become a short-order cook as “Queen of the Canteen” for our senior football games.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I see myself continuing what I’m doing now; working with business owners and nurturing them through the process of creating valuable businesses. I love working with business owners and seeing the results they get, so I will continue advising for as long as I can.
Founder and CEO
The Exit Strategy Group
P.O. Box 5107 Middle Park
Victoria, Australia 3206