In this segment of Behind the Scenes, we interview John Dini, Founder and CEO of The ExitMap®, on how he has made some critical changes to his practice to ensure he receives the information he needs to properly create an Exit Plan in a timely manner.
John is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs, and presidents of companies, with over 12,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal leadership and Exit Planning advice. He is a serial entrepreneur but prefers the term "chronically unemployable." John is the author of the award-winning books "Hunting in a Farmer's World; Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur" and "Your Exit Map: Navigating the Boomer Bust", as well as "11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business", now in its second edition. He is also the creator of The ExitMap®, a proprietary Business Exit Planning System with affiliates throughout the United States. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Rutgers University, an MBA from Pepperdine University, and seven additional certifications in Exit Planning, behavioral analysis, management, facilitation, and coaching.
Why did you decide to work with business owners to help them exit?
John Dini: I was the most successful operator of The Alternative Board® peer groups in that organization's history, managing up to 15 Boards of business owners. One of my contract facilitators was a business broker. When he bought a company, I purchased his business brokerage. I quickly discovered that most owners were poorly prepared for the transition from their businesses. I began designing an assessment system to better screen potential listings. While creating The ExitMap, I attended a BEI Exit Planning Boot Camp, and quickly realized that Exit Planning was far more suited to my behavioral style. I gave up business brokerage in 2012 to pursue Exit Planning full time.
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?
John Dini: After coaching over 400 owners, there is not much that is unexpected anymore. But when I first started my career, I quickly realized how frequently I had to chase down basic information from my clients. There always seemed to be something missing or a long delay from the client retrieving the information I needed to move forward.
I take several steps to handle this better. First of all, everything I need is communicated in writing. I have found that this eliminates any confusion and makes it easier for me and my clients to stay organized. Then, I make it very clear that our next meeting will not even be scheduled until I have had a chance to review and, if necessary, analyze the information. I have also learned to copy my associate on every email so she can follow up regularly to remind the client of what we need. This is a simple yet effective way to keep the process in motion.
We also changed our process so that our engagement letter almost always has installment billing. We send out a notice that if we are delayed due to client turnaround, billing will continue. It’s surprising how many clients do not send materials until they get the next invoice. Since implementing this process, we rarely have a problem with projects getting delayed.
How has your involvement with BEI impacted your practice?
John Dini: Through the many years working with BEI, I have gathered an immense amount of knowledge. I do a lot of very straightforward planning now for my clients. I work with about half Main Street and half Mid-Market owners. There is always something new to learn more about and expand my skill sets even further to give my clients the very best possible solutions.
Do you have any advice to give an advisor new to the Exit Planning industry?
John Dini: Focus on building a relationship with your referral sources. We offer an assessment debriefing for our referral sources to conduct with their clients at their own office. This assessment helps put the client at ease and the referring professional is in the position to provide the client additional value. Typically, our referrals transfer their trusted advisor relationship to us as they are learning about the broad scope of Exit Planning. By the end of the meeting, they usually think of another client that would find value from speaking with us or one of our referral sources.
What contribution to the Exit Planning world are you most proud of?
John Dini: We just completed the first comprehensive survey of Exit Planning practitioners in the USA. Over 3,000,000 Baby Boomers are preparing to transition from their businesses. A professional subspecialty has developed to meet their needs. This survey encompasses accountants, attorneys, consultants, coaches and other advisors. This Exit Planners survey is the first comprehensive look at both the industry and its practitioners. Get your copy today!