Business Exits Report -

Unfolding the Key to Success


15th July 2020


Arbuthnot Latham is a proud champion of entrepreneurship and the many benefits it brings to our economy and communities. Our teams work in partnership with entrepreneurs and are embedded in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the UK.

Welcome to our Unfolding the Key to Success report, which focuses on UK entrepreneurs – the people who make business happen, create jobs and generate wealth.

With Unfolding the Key to Success, we aim to shine a light on the myriad factors influencing entrepreneurs at different stages of their journeys. Whether a natural progression from an entrepreneurial family background, or a desire to move out of the corporate world, everyone has their own story to tell.

From inception to exit, we explore the experiences that define business founders and uncover the motivations that shape their ambitions at various stages of their entrepreneurial journeys.

We hope you enjoy the report.

Our key findings

1. Entrepreneurs consult a diverse ecosystem of trusted advisors

A business exit has important implications for entrepreneurs’ personal wealth and lives beyond – and those who have exited are approximately 7 times more likely to involve a private banker in the process than those who are yet to exit (29% vs 4% respectively). Despite strong intentions, only 19% say they had a plan in place to protect their wealth post-exit.


2. There is a disconnect between expectation and reality when it comes to business exits

Entrepreneurs anticipate that when the time comes, the decision to leave their business will be personal – perhaps because they have reached a certain age or have stopped enjoying their role. In reality, they often end up exiting more pragmatically, because they have found a suitable successor to take their place.

Origami swan
Origami unicorn

3. There is no such thing as a perfect exit process

Only 22% of entrepreneurs reported that they were perfectly happy with the way the business exit process went. 3 in 5 (59%) would have sold later or earlier; with others identifying factors such as finding the right buyer and gaining a better understanding of the risks involved as key considerations.


4. Prior to an exit, founders usually believe they are stepping away for good

Yet 83% remain connected to their firms in some way – most commonly, as advisors or Non-Executive Directors. Almost two-thirds perceive this continued involvement to be stabilising for their former firms in the long-run.

Origami ship

5. Most business founders do not retire in the traditional sense

92% continue their involvement with the business world in some capacity. The quest for time remains elusive, as many find themselves channelling their expertise and capital into mentoring, angel investments and philanthropy.