Most people start an online business for the freedom, autonomy, and money that come with entrepreneurship—but what they often find instead is the feeling that they’re running on a hamster wheel and can’t jump off. For those looking to exit their business, it’s a different kind of challenge. They don’t know where to start and have no idea what their business is truly worth.

Joe Valley wrote his new book, The EXITpreneur’s Playbook, to shift the mindset of business owners from entrepreneur to EXITpreneur. After all, the majority of all the money entrepreneurs ever make from their business comes on the day they sell—so it’s important to get the exit right. In the book, Joe shares his experience in all facets of exiting an online business through direct experiences and real-life examples, with clear math and logic. I recently caught up with Joe to learn what inspired him to write the book and his favorite he shares with readers.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

I’ve spoken with thousands of online entrepreneurs over the years. They are all driven, smart, and successful. They absorb complex topics and turn them into successful businesses. Still, the complexities of preparing a business for a successful and maximum value exit escape the vast majority of them. Why? There was no resource guide, book, or single source of information that covered EVERYTHING that needs to be covered. Sure, I could speak with each of them one by one—and I have, with thousands of them. But even then it’s a conversation and so much can get lost and misinterpreted, even over a dozen calls and P&L reviews.

I was a guest on a podcast for ecommerce entrepreneurs. The host was not just a podcaster, but a highly successful ecommerce entrepreneur. His audience trusted and respected him. During our interview, we let the conversation flow and covered a variety of topics. Near the end of the podcast, the host tried to recap some points we had discussed earlier and got them all wrong. Not because he is not a very bright and successful entrepreneur. But because the topic and level of details discussed are complex and not easily understood.

It was at that time I determined everything needed to be in writing—so I wrote what is now referred to as “the ultimate resource guide when selling an online business.” Ecommerce business owners can refer back to the book as needed, and learn as they go.

They are, after all, a little busy running their online businesses.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

If there is any single thing I want online entrepreneurs to do, it’s set an exit goal. Once an exit value is set, it leads to the question of “how close or how far am I from my goal?” And that inevitably leads to an education that will help the business owner understand the value of what is likely their most valuable asset, their business.

Setting an exit goal and understanding your business’ value will motivate you in a way that is hard to comprehend unless you’ve done it. A little more than two years ago, I began a valuation process with a business owner who had a great brand. Yet he felt his business was hardly sellable. He and his partner had worked for several years to build the brand, yet they took little money out and that made it feel like an unsuccessful venture.

Within a few hours, they realized the business was in fact worth much more than they had hoped. Within a couple of weeks, they set a lofty, yet achievable goal. Once that was set, they worked towards that goal with laser focus. The tough days got easier, the disagreements diminished and they didn’t feel like they were simply grinding it out day after day.

Since then they have reset their exit goal to a higher number—twice. Why? Because they are enjoying the day-to-day operations of the business and realize how much more they can do to build a great business, for a great buyer to take over at a great price.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

I’m an entrepreneur and have been self-employed since 1997. Over the last 24 years, I’ve had some incredible successes and a few epic failures. With each one, I learn—and do my best to share—what I have learned with others. Here’s the most important thing I have learned as an entrepreneur. Becoming successful never happens when you only think about yourself.

The best success stories I know of occur when the business owner thinks of others first. They have the “help first” mentality and often create long-lasting relationships by giving something away for free. I’m not talking about a product or service hook. No, I’m talking about advice and honest opinions that help others achieve their goals. By way of example, today when I am speaking with someone that wants to buy an online business, I’ll make sure they know all of the best resources to see all listings from all brokerage firms, not just mine. If I am really going to help them, and not just myself, that’s the only right thing to do.