James B. “Jim” Erben began his career in the financial services industry in 1992 and shortly thereafter created Erben Associates, a firm dedicated to serving the needs of privately held business owners, corporate executives, and successful individuals. The firm has earned the trust of hundreds of clients by developing, implementing, and maintaining sustainable solutions to protect and transfer their assets, and create opportunities for them to establish lasting legacies.
BEI: Why did you decide to work with business owners to help them exit?
Jim: Why did Al Capone rob banks? This is where the money is. But in all seriousness, I started working with business owners over 20 years ago. We didn’t really start gaining momentum in the Exit Planning industry until about 2004.
Over the years, I started comparing Exit Planning to skydiving. My job is to pack my client’s parachute, take them up in a small plane, nudge them out of the door of the plane at 13,000 feet, and have them land in the grassy meadow below. The key to having success in Exit Planning, similar to skydiving, is that I always pack a backup parachute for each of my clients in case of emergencies.
For example, when one of my clients tragically passed away from COVID-19 this past year, we thankfully had the proper plan in place to protect the business and the business owner’s family during this crisis. I take a lot of pride in protecting business owner’s life’s work and families.
BEI: Tell us about an unexpected challenge you have encountered working with business owners. How did it impact you or your practice and how did you overcome the problem?
Jim: I have spent my entire career trying to figure out a way to overcome the hesitation from business owners to start thinking about exiting their businesses. Far too often advisors are faced with the questions from their business owner clients, “Why do I need to hire you, I am not ready to exit my business yet?”
I commonly use this example to portray the benefits of Exit Planning. I tell my prospects and current clients to imagine that they have a twin that is running an identical business, in the same industry, and has the exact same family dynamics as they do currently.
I then ask them which twin is most likely to have a smooth ownership transfer and live a life of comfort after they decide to sell their business. The twin that starts planning for their future today as opposed to the twin who doesn’t even begin thinking about Exit Planning until the day they are ready to sell the business.
A well-thought-out exit strategy can sometimes take years to develop. One of my clients, for example, started planning in 2008. They had created the most comprehensive plan I had ever seen during our many years working together. During the sale of the business the past year, the wife of the business owner told me that she didn’t know what they would have done without me on their team.
Stories like this make the long hours and extensive planning all worth it. I am driven to see a family is able to rest easy and enjoy the rest of their lives after the sale of their life’s work because they were able to plan efficiently.
BEI: How has your involvement with BEI impacted your practice?
Jim: I have used the BEI marketing materials on a daily basis to help expand my client base over the past few years. The bimonthly Automated Newsletter Marketing System that gets sent out to my list of subscribers continues to regularly bring me new business.
I have also really enjoyed all of the conferences. Every year I get a chance to meet with a variety of partners, clients, and meet a few new folks in the industry. This is also where I met BizEquity and was able to get on their advisory board a few years back.
The entire BEI team has also been very helpful and supportive. I know I have a direct phone number of a few staff members at BEI if I need any type of assistance.
Erben Associates was named #19 on the Austin Business Journal’s Top Austin-Area Financial Planning Firms in 2018. They were also ranked #111 in 2018 on the Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Financial Services Company List.
Erben Associates consecutively made the Inc 5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2018, 2019, and 2020.Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on all current Exit Planning news and trends.