Be Proactive: Avoiding Exit Planning Mistakes

Fri, 04/21/2023 - 08:00

Written by: JDewing2

The foundation of an Exit Plan relies on extensive planning and solid implementation. At the cornerstone of a functional Exit Plan, your job as the business advisor is to guide the business owner so that the business can live on after the owner exits. 

For small-business owners, retirement planning is not as simple as saving a certain amount of money in a retirement account. A significant part of retirement planning is Exit Planning, which involves creating a strategy to transition out of the business while maximizing its value. 

So, what can you do to set your client up for success when exiting their business? First and foremost, you should help your client create a timeline for the exit process. This timeline should include both short-term and long-term goals, such as:

  • When the owner plans to retire 
  • How long it will take to transition out of the business 
  • When the new owner will take over

Additionally, you as the advisor should help your client establish a plan for handing off the business to a chosen successor. This plan should include an:

  • Overview of the business 
  • Organized financial review
  • Assessment of the business’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Next, you should help your client review their financial documents, such as their balance sheets, cash flows, and income statements, to ensure that they are up-to-date and accurate. With the right planning and guidance, your client can successfully transition out of their business and maximize its value.

Guiding your business-owning client throughout the Exit Planning Process is essential to a successful exit. Due to differing business exit strategies, many business owners fail to plan for the exit of their business, or make mistakes when planning their exit strategy. 

In this blog post, we will discuss tips to overcome the most common mistakes small-business owners make when planning their exit strategy. 

Tip 1: Proactivity is Key

Many small-business owners start planning their exit strategy when they are already close to retirement age. However, Exit Planning should start long before retirement. Business owners should invest in building a strong culture, optimizing processes, and building revenue from day one. This will not only make it easier to leave when the time comes, but it will also make the business more valuable to potential buyers.

It is important for business owners to assess how well a potential hire's values and work ethic align with their own during the recruitment process. Generous training, pay, and benefits can also show hard-working employees appreciation and create a healthy culture. This is especially true for key employees as they are an integral part of the value drivers for the business.

Streamlining operational aspects of the business can help increase the value of the business to potential buyers. Business owners should also work on expanding their product or service offerings or increasing the markets in which they do business to create a diversified revenue stream. In a previous blog post, we dive into Proactive Business Advising.

Tip 2: Identify a Business Successor

Selling a company is not the only way to exit the business and retire. Business owners should consider having a trusted business partner or family member take over the day-to-day operations of the business. This can help create a family legacy and ease the transition for the business owner, which can satisfy the non-financial goals of many business owners. 

However, it is important to make this plan clear well before retirement to allow time to train and coordinate with the successor. Check out our blog post for helpful tips on Selecting the Best-Suited Successor to the Business Owner!

Tip 3: Become Indispensable

Building a business model around oneself as the central component can delay retirement and make it harder to transition the business to someone else. Business owners should empower others to take their place as often as possible. This could include being more of a mentor than a boss, memorializing policies and procedures, and delegating tasks appropriately. If the majority of the business value is with the owner directly through knowledge and client relationships, the business itself won’t be valuable to another owner.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, it is never too early for your clients to plan for a business exit. Developing a plan to transition out of the business doesn't have to be a stressful process. It is important to make sure that the successor is properly trained and given time to adjust to the new role. 

Additionally, business owners should become more of a mentor to empower others to take their place and should document policies and procedures to make the transition easier. Planning for retirement may seem daunting, but it is essential for the future of the business. By avoiding these common mistakes, small-business owners can maximize the value of their business and ensure a smooth transition out of the business when the time comes.

Help your clients create  an internal transition team to help with the process. The team should include members from different areas such as finance, operations, and marketing. This team can help to identify any areas of the business that need to be addressed prior to the transition. 

Furthermore, create a timeline for the transition and create a list of goals that need to be achieved to share with the advisor team. With clarity around the goals and expectations of each member, you'll ensure that your client’s transition out of business is as smooth and successful as possible.

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Being Proactive is Key to Avoiding Exit Planning Mistakes

Breaking Down the Exit Planning Process (Part 2)

Fri, 08/19/2022 - 08:00

Written by: mernzen

Breaking Down the Exit Planning Process with BEI Member, Laura Troshynski (Part 2)  

Laura Troshysnki, JD, CExP®, FNBO, is the Senior Director of Business Owner Advisory Services at First National Bank of Omaha. Laura started her partnership with BEI about a year ago, achieving her Certified Exit Planning designation and has implemented the tools from the BEI Planning License in her work. 


Last week, we learned how Laura got started in the Exit Planning industry, and specifically how she gets clients started in the process. She discussed how BEI’s training has helped her and her team produce deliverables to their clients, as well as what the initial Exit Planning conversation typically looks like. Hinting at the importance of a solid, yet adaptable process, we will use this week’s blog post to cover the second half of the interview with Laura, which details more about her proven process.  

(Read last week’s blog to catch the first part of Laura’s interview!)   


BEI: It seems like your approach to Exit Planning is done in phases versus doing an entire comprehensive plan all at once. We see that a lot across the board. It makes a lot of sense, especially in today’s business environment, to help business owners focus on their top priorities first and then come back to some of the other aspects of the plan. 

Regarding your team, do you have an advisor team internally, or do you bring in outside advisors based on the roles you need?  


We make it a priority that the customers we work with must have an advisor team as they work through this process. A lot of people who come to us already have their CPA or their attorney, and then we always recommend a financial advisor to join that crew. If they do not have one already, we have financial advisors within the bank that we can recommend to them.  

We just want to make sure that all the pieces of an Exit Plan are being considered at the same time. If a customer doesn't have the resources, we are always happy to provide recommendations – but to start a team, we find it’s important to have an attorney, an accountant, and a financial advisor. Then, depending on what their needs are, they may need to include a business broker, an insurance professional, or someone else to facilitate various pieces of the plan.  

Assembling the team early is vital in making sure everyone is on the same page and that we are looking at the Exit Plan from all angles.  

The Role of the Advisor in the Creation of an Exit Plan


BEI: In your experience so far, are the business owners you've worked with willing to go through the Exit Planning Process and what does their participation look like?  


Absolutely. We still run into the challenge of business owners being busy. They are so busy running their business on a day-to-day basis that it’s hard sometimes to find time to focus on planning work.  

That is a challenge we want to help with. We can come up with a plan that will hopefully not be as overwhelming and Exit Planning will seem less intimidating. 

The willingness is there – it is often the time and ability that is the issue. That’s why prioritizing is so important because if there is so much to be done, starting with the top 2 or 3 things they can do right now helps these customers a lot.  

The value of having a structured, phased approach has helped a lot with the battles of hesitancy and time constraints.  


BEI: By addressing some of their top priorities that you help them identify with your needs analysis, does that seem to validate the importance of the Exit Planning Process to them? Do you find that they are then more willing to continue and move on to the next phase?  


I think so! One thing we have learned in working with customers is to not undervalue getting one or two things done. For example, if someone comes to see me and they have not met with their attorney in ten years and they do not yet have a will, even if they complete that single step, that’s a big one!  

I think the concept of transitioning a business is so big that it can be so overwhelming. If we can get people to take incremental steps , they will ultimately be more prepared. That is what we work to answer: What can we do to help people be more prepared and be more comfortable when they get to that transition point?   


BEI: How have you integrated the BEI EPIC software and what is your experience given your phased-based approach to Exit Planning?  


I am a big proponent of the EPIC software. The Business Continuity instructions are something that we use more than anything. We noticed that regardless of timeline or desire to transition, getting a plan in place if something were to happen is important to all business owners.

We have had customers say they aren’t interested in Exit Planning because they won’t be transitioning for 15 – 20 years and our response is that we can, at the very least, produce some business continuity instructions. It is fairly quick to do and can help them right away. That is almost always a component of a plan recommendation as well.  

As far as the plan goes, we have found a lot of value in physically giving the customers something. It is quite easy to have conversations over and over, but we wanted to be able to hand over a checklist. With the EPIC software you have the ability to craft a plan, but it is also beneficial to have access to the library of resources and recommendations based on things that BEI has seen repeatedly over the years.  

I come up with what my recommendations are, but I still reference the library within the software to think about anything else that might apply to the situation at hand.  

As far as the value driver assessment, the workbooks, the brochure – those are helpful tools to take things to the next level and really make sure nothing is missing and there were no misunderstandings. We have utilized everything across the board.  


BEI: Earlier you mentioned working with agriculture – have you been able to go in and customize anything in the system specific to those types of scenarios?  


Yes! I personally have gone in and made customized recommendations in my own library. There are a lot of specific ag-related considerations, as well as family dynamics, so I have created a library of things to use in those instances.  

It has also been helpful to be able to store and re-use things that we’ve come up with in one place. I think it’s good that all of our plans are in one place and documented and we can track our progress along the way.  


BEI: How are you managing that process once you have it in place?  


I like the accountability tracker. It gives me a good reason to reach out if we are stuck or aren’t making progress. Whether it’s the owner or another advisor, it’s helpful to say, “Hey, the accountability tracker is red so we’re behind or past due on our tasks.”  

I think that’s the hardest part of this process. There are so many people involved and so many moving pieces that all depend on one another. Having the ability to track it all in one place is key when everyone is busy and has lots to do. 

Seeing the checklist and monitoring the progress based on who is responsible for what has really made a difference. Keeping the quick list recommendations is also helpful for me to reference often to check things off and show the business owner that we are making progress and we’re getting there.  


BEI: How involved is the business owner in this process? Do you update them when tasks have been completed?


I have seen a variety. There are some owners who really want to focus on this and want to meet once a month. Others ask us to talk to the office manager and have that person reach out to the team of advisors to get updates. I always try to provide regular updates – whether by email or “just checking in.” 

For the most part, many of them want to be involved. Sometimes, they want to set up meetings with members of the team of advisors on their own and talk to them individually, other times the updates just come from me.  


BEI: How open are these other advisors to getting involved in the Exit Planning Process and what does their involvement look like?  


I have had a great response. I think there is a little bit of a lack of industry awareness on the role of the Exit Planner as opposed to the attorney, the accountant, the broker, etc. I think making sure that I am clearly explaining my role and making it known that I am not here to do the job of any of them or step on toes.  

It is our job as Exit Planners to streamline the process and come up with priorities, and once that is communicated, we generally get a good response.  

When I was in private practice, I remember having people come to me asking for very specific things but would leave out that it was part of the bigger picture. I think being able to provide the big picture is helpful for this and for motivating their involvement.  


BEI: Is there anything else that you have implemented alongside the BEI Exit Planning Process that you have found success with in your exit planning engagements?  


We are really trying to do what we can as far as implementing blog posts and other marketing materials, as well as being active in the community is important. We just want business owners to be aware of the benefits of Exit Planning and to be thinking about it.  

We try to:  

  1. Provide education to our customers who we are not currently working with, or anyone really as it’s public on our website.  
  1. Make sure we continue to educate ourselves, meet other people in this space, and share best practices.  
  1. Put emphasis on the emotional side of this by doing specific training on family dynamics, problem solving, etc.  

We want to make sure we can produce the plan with all the technical pieces and provide education, but we also want to account for some of the intangible aspects of Exit Planning that you don’t always have top of mind.  


BEI: Going into your second year of this, since your launch, how many engagements or plans have you started?  


As of now, we are a full-time team of three and we are adding another member soon. I would say each of the three of us is working with 15-20 people at the moment.  


BEI: Is there anything else you would like to share in terms of advisors looking to add Exit Planning to the work they are doing with business owners?  


Don’t underestimate how important Exit Planning is to business owners. We sometimes think of an owner’s personal life and business life as separate and that is not exactly the case when you are working with someone who has started the business themselves. The separation is not always there. If a business owner is willing to talk to you and put trust in you, this is a pivotal moment in their life.  


BEI: Have you seen any trends in the plans that you are working on?  


I would say that with the agriculture clients, internal transfers are generally the most common path. In fact, most of the business owners I am working with, even in other industries, are looking at an internal transfer.  

I think part of it is because of the emotional aspect of Exit Planning. I think it appears to the business owner to be easier to exit or cut back if they are leaving the business with a trusted family member or employee. That said, I also have clients who are happy to look at a third-party sale.  


Regardless of the exit path, having a process and keeping up with Exit Planning education has proven to make a world of difference for Laura and her team. 

Interested in learning more? 

  1. Follow Laura on LinkedIn to stay connected! 
  2. Listen to the full interview recording at the link below. 
  3. Schedule a meeting with BEI today to see how you can start using a process to help reach your client’s goals. 


Watch the Interview Recording with Laura Troshynski

Breaking Down the Exit Planning Process (Part 2)

Breaking Down the Exit Planning Process (Part 1)

Fri, 08/12/2022 - 08:00

Written by: mernzen

Breaking Down the Exit Planning Process with BEI Member, Laura Troshynski  

Laura Troshysnki, JD, CExP®, FNBO, is the Senior Director of Business Owner Advisory Services at First National Bank of Omaha. Laura started her partnership with BEI about a year ago, achieving her Certified Exit Planning designation and has implemented the tools from the BEI Planning License in her work.  

This blog post, as well as next week's article, will detail an in-depth interview where Laura describes how she got into the Exit Planning space, what has helped her in engaging clients, and how she breaks down the process to steps that make sense for her and her team. 


BEI: Tell us about yourself, your practice, your background, and how you got involved in the Exit Planning industry.  


Prior to my current role, I was a private practice attorney for about ten years in North Platte, Nebraska. Being involved in the industry for many years alongside my father, businesses and family businesses are very important to me.  

While in private practice, I focused much of my attention within the areas of estate planning, business transition, and general business. About three years ago, I made the move to First National Bank of Omaha in the trust department and really enjoyed working with the customers. 

Through this work, I realized they were spending a lot of time looking at their personal transitions. When my current position opened in the Business Owner Advisory Services division, it was a great transition for me and provided the opportunity to not only look at succession planning, but also combine the things I had learned in private practice with my responsibilities at the bank.  

While the Business Owner Advisory Services division is a relatively new practice area, we have focused on building the team and are excited about the work we will be able to provide for our local business owner community. 


BEI: In your current position, what percentage of your time is spent doing Exit Planning, and what other offerings are you providing with the bank?  


Right now, I am doing full-time Exit Planning. About four years ago, the bank started noticing that we had a lot of customers who were looking at retirement and talking to their lenders and other advisors at the bank about it. Therefore, we wanted to make this a priority – it was very important that we build a team that could focus solely on business owners and their exits. 

We spent about a year working with BEI, building out a process, and building our team so that we would be ready to focus on this full-time.  

All day every day I am doing Exit Planning. I am working with business owner clients to look at transitioning their businesses and finding the right path for them.  


BEI: Having gone through BEI’s training, how did that prepare you to build out the process you have today?  


It was especially important to us that every member of our team put a priority on education. Every member of our team either is, or will become, certified through the BEI designation process.  

To start, I thought that boot camp was a great refresher for a lot of things. There are always areas that each individual focuses on more depending on their role, so having a high-level overview of all the things that can come up as you are looking at an Exit Planning engagement is a great first start. 

John Brown did a great job of walking through not only what process BEI recommends, but also some other scenarios and strategies that he’s seen come up over the years to help in engaging business owners. Overall, it was a very helpful program.  

As I was working my way through the modules required of the certification process, the learning and testing over that knowledge was something I hadn’t done in quite a while. This was an effective way to look at aspects of Exit Planning that I had not worked with as frequently. 

I was able to see what areas I needed to brush up on a bit more and seek out additional resources on those topics. Not only was it a good refresher on things we already knew, but it was also helpful to pinpoint some of the areas to improve on as a team.  

I found the most valuable piece of BEI training for me was the final test of the certification program – which is to create an Exit Plan for a given scenario. It was great to be able to walk through a problem to ensure we could spot the challenges of the specific situation and really come up with a comprehensive Exit Plan based on the best-suited exit path

It was important to us as a team to be able to have a deliverable for our clients.  

We didn't want our customers to just think that we were having conversations with them that weren’t going anywhere. So, getting to that final test – and then through our continued work – being able to have written documents that say, “Here is an Exit Plan, the things we want to implement, and the measures we’ll take to track it...” was valuable as we were learning how to make our process efficient for our own learning and for our customers.  

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BEI: Knowing that you are working with all internal clients and aren't yet networking outside of the bank, how many business owners do you think that First National Bank of Omaha represents?  

Laura: That is hard to quantify, but we have had a much better response to adding Exit Planning services than we even anticipated. This goes to show how many people are really looking at exiting and realizing the benefits of Exit Planning.  

We wanted to make sure we were getting our message out there about what we were doing and so far, our response has been overwhelming. There are so many people looking into this because there's so much that goes into it. We have traditional businesses that want to sell the business to a third party, business owners who are looking to transition their business to their kids, and we even do quite a bit of work in the agricultural space which comes with its own set of considerations. 

So – we've been very busy!  


BEI:  Let’s talk about the approach you take with your internal clients: How are the Exit Planning conversations being started? How are you identifying the opportunities? Who is explaining the process?  


Conversations start in many ways, either with the lender or someone from our department. Typically, someone identifies a customer who may be a fit based on things that are coming up in other conversations. Once a potential customer is identified, our Business Owner Advisory Services team will schedule a meeting with them to discuss what their needs might be, and we take it from there.  

Sometimes the lender is involved in that conversation, sometimes they are not dependent on what the customer wants and needs. It has worked well for us to have some options and flexibility in that area.  


BEI: In that first meeting, what are you typically using with that client to help guide the conversation? Do you use BEI tools like the workbook or brochure, or do you have some other method of beginning that interview process with the client?   


It has worked well for us to have the assessments online as something we can send to the customer so they can fill it out for themselves after the initial meeting.  

In the first meeting, I focus on really getting to know the customer and talking to them in a way that shows I am listening to them. There is obviously a lot of information we need to gather from them as far as financials and things like that, but we first and foremost prioritize the emotional aspect of this process and getting to know their goals. 

After all, it’s their lives’ work that we are talking about transitioning. I want to really get to know them and be sure I can take away the things that are most important to them. We don’t want to be focusing on areas that they may have no interest in, so listening is critical.  

After the first meeting has concluded, we’ll send them the online assessment so we can make sure what I am hearing at the meeting aligns with what their priorities actually are. From that point, we put together a high-level priorities sheet so they know what they need to focus on in the beginning phases of planning.  


BEI: Did you have to do any training upfront on how lenders or whomever should bring up Exit Planning to prospective customers?  


I was pleasantly surprised in beginning this work to discover that these conversations about transition have been going on for years and years. People are typically so comfortable with their banker, and it seemed like that is where the conversation would begin naturally. We had some discussion about things to look out for, but all-in-all, they were already doing a good job of having these conversations organically during standard conversation.  

Now, having these services available is the next step as far as having someone dedicated to moving them through the process. 

So what exactly does the process look like following the initial conversation? Laura’s interview continues and in next week’s blog, we will dive deeper into how a repeatable, yet adaptable Exit Planning Process has helped her and her team with their Exit Planning engagements. Stay tuned for Laura’s take on building an advisor team, an owner’s willingness to participate in planning, and much more!  

To watch the recording of the full interview with Laura and BEI’s Doug Easton, visit the link below!  

Watch the Interview Recording with Laura Troshynski


Breaking down the Exit Planning Process Part 1

The Most Important Exit Goal

Fri, 06/05/2015 - 12:22

Written by: eswanson

Over the years, we've found that the most effective way to describe the goal-setting process to owners is to separate exit goals into three categories.

  1. Foundational: What must you attain before exiting or losing control of the business?
  2. Universal: What do you (and almost all other owners) want to achieve upon exiting?
  3. Aspirational: What aspirations do you have for yourself and your business, as and after you exit?

This article describes the one goal—the foundational goal—that must be attained if an owner is to exit successfully: financial independence.

The Foundational Goal: Financial Independence

The acid test for every Exit Plan—regardless of which Exit Path an owner chooses—is financial independence for the owner no later than the date on which the owner transfers control of his or her company. Only owners who achieve financial independence when they leave their companies can be said to have successfully exited their businesses.  

If advisors doubt the absolute importance of financial independence, they should ask owners three questions:

  1. Are you willing to exit the business, and transfer ownership and control without assurance of financial independence? (If the owner's answer is that financial independence is a condition precedent to exiting the business, then having it is not just a goal: It is a requirement of exiting.)
  2. What amount of annual income (pre-tax) do you need post-exit?
  3. Is it equally critical that your family receive this level of income if you die before your planned exit date?

Financial Needs vs. Financial Wishes

Advisors must be careful to distinguish between how much money (as expressed as an annual income amount) the owner needs upon exiting and how much income the owner wishes or wants. Financial need is a prerequisite of exiting.

Seldom is an owner's financial need subject to downward adjustment, but owners' wishes regarding the amount of financial resources they want are always subject to revision.

Setting the Foundational Goal

How do owners determine how much income they need as and after they exit? As advisors work with owners to fix this number, we suggest that they be precise, accurate, and realistic.

Be Precise

In many facets of Exit Planning, absolute precision is not necessary because it's possible to make adjustments as circumstances change. Determining the financial independence goals is not one of those areas. Only owners with critical health issues, total burnout, or doing business in a rapidly dying business niche (think Blockbuster Video or instant print shops) should consider leaving before they attain their financial independence goal.

Be Accurate

Determining how much income an owner and his or her spouse will need for the rest of their lives is not based on what they think they will need. It's based on what the planning process determines they will need.

Be Realistic

Research shows that retirees continue to spend 70–85% of their pre-retirement spending, and some experts recommend that boomers aim "for a 100 percent replacement rate instead." These experts point to the costly activities that boomers are undertaking during retirement and the cost of health care.

The experience of many Exit Planning Advisors reflects that research. Successful owners generally do not decrease their spending, especially in the first years of retirement. In fact, they often add second homes, world travel, and new business start-ups to their existing expenses. The cost of health care is impossible to foresee, but not impossible to anticipate and plan for how long the owner and spouse might live. As we age, it is fair to anticipate that health care and related expenses will be significant. 

Attaining financial independence is a prerequisite of a successful exit, yet we find that many advisors leave it up to the owner to figure out how much income they will need after they exit their business. Usually, this is a mistake.  

Determining Need

Most owners do not have the capability to determine their lifetime financial independence needs, and most advisors do not have the training, experience, or desire to help owners determine their financial independence needs precisely, accurately and realistically. That's a real problem.

The solution, however, is simple: Encourage owners to engage an experienced financial planner to help them.

A financial planner can ascertain:

  • The owner's financial independence needs.
  • The likely income the owner's non-business investments (projected to exist at the owner's exit date) can generate.
  • The rate at which the owner will use investment assets post-exit. 

Advisors who aren't financial planners might be thinking, "So, what's my role here?"

Advisors' primary role is to show an owner why establishing financial goals that are precise, accurate, and realistic is critically important. Their next job, as skilled Exit Planning Advisors, is one they will perform throughout the Exit Planning Process: bring the right advisor to the owner's planning table at the right time. In the case of setting financial goals, that means helping clients engage a financial planner who has experience working with entrepreneurs.

Ready, Fire, Aim

In this aspect of Exit Planning, the advisor's role may seem rather insignificant, but it is not. Advisors assure that their clients don't do what entrepreneurs are so good at doing: taking action without sufficient forethought. They ensure that every future Exit Planning action leads to the owner's financial independence. If advisors don't encourage and direct their clients to set a realistic, accurate, and precise financial goal, no one else will, and it just won't happen.


Exit Goals

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 08:59

Written by: eswanson

**We have updated this article to reflect the results of our most recent business owner survey.**

Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man without goals and I'll give you a stock clerk.  J.C. Penney

If any of us needed proof, a 2016 survey of business owners demonstrates that owners are not store clerks. The survey indicated that almost all owners have exit goals.

  • 79% want to exit within 10 years and nearly all owners surveyed had a preferred successor.
  • 17% have created a written Exit Plan.
  • 27% have calculated how much money they need to receive from the sale of their businesses in order to retire.
  • 18% have talked to an Exit Planning Advisor about creating a plan.

From the survey results, it is evident that owners clearly have goals, but only a handful have acted on them.

We believe that the reason for this nearly universal lack of action is that most owners have goals that are not "actionable:" The goals are too vague, insubstantial, and intangible. What owners need are goals that are precise, concrete, and real. This is how you can be invaluable. Few owners understand the need or have the ability to establish concrete, precise exit goals.

Before we examine the types of goals owners choose, let's examine why setting goals is the first step owners must take in creating an Exit Plan.

First, as in all plans, goals set the direction for the actions to be taken. Without goals there is no action. Without acting to grow value using a design that minimizes risk, maximizes value, and retains owner control before an owner exits a business, owners are unlikely to achieve the level of success they deserve for their lifetime of work and risk.

Second, only precise, clear goals lead to action.

Third, and related to precise and clear goals, is that experience working with thousands of Exit Planning clients demonstrates that if an owner's exit goals are not clearly delineated and in writing, nothing gets done. Research by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, supports our experience. In a study on goal-setting involving 267 participants, Dr. Matthews found that people are 42% more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down.

We've found several other advantages to establishing written goals.

  1. The very act of putting goals in writing forces owners to think about what they want to do and why.
  2. As goals are refined (even during Exit Plan implementation), goals become more precise and accurate.
  3. Owners who work with an advisor in structuring their goals consider more types of goals, collect more information when setting them, and think more deeply about their goals.

In the early stages of planning (the time when owners set goals), the advisor's main role is to ask the questions owners tend not to ask because they don't know to ask! The questions BEI has developed help owners discover and express both their objective goals (such as when they want to exit and how much income they need or want post-exit) and their aspirational goals (such as family harmony, legacy and benefiting employees). The advisor's role is not to suggest possible goals, but to ask questions that prompt owners to think carefully (with both heart and mind) about their desired future without their businesses and the future they desire for their businesses without them.

Imagine, for a moment, having in-depth conversation with an owner clients about their wishes for the future. What would result? How would your relationship change or evolve?