Strategies to Keep Owners Engaged in Long-Term Planning

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 08:00


As we mentioned in our blog from last week, you cannot wait for your business owner clients and prospects to come to you to start the Exit Planning Process. Most of the time they are going to require a small nudge from you. This week, we will walk through some additional strategies you can use to get the ball rolling with those clients who have been hesitant to start planning for their future.  

Most owners are giving some level of thought towards their exits, whether in the short- or long-term. However, according to BEI’s most recent survey, 79% of owners don’t have a written plan for the future of their ownership. As an advisor, you might be wondering how to bridge the gap between helping your clients think about exiting and creating a formalized plan to do so successfully. The biggest obstacle to overcome is helping owners understand the steps of the Exit Planning Process that may not be as obvious or familiar and the time involved in completing the process. Share with them facts and case studies highlighting the benefits of starting the planning process as early as possible. If they still are not ready to dive right into a full plan, you can get the process started by dipping their toes in the water with a few of the strategies below. 

Put the Client in the Driver’s Seat  

Business owners want to be in control not only of their business but of the goals they have for that business and their lives. By asking the right questions, business owners will tell you what is most important to them or what challenges are the heaviest burden. Going through this process of really getting to know your clients and their businesses instead of just jumping right into the Exit Planning Process helps get the business owner engaged and emotionally connected to the process.  

This also builds trust between you and your clients right off the bat. Walking through this process together is far more impactful than an advisor coming in and suggesting what they think the most important first step should be. When you show that their perspective and goals are the most important to you, and you help them successfully implement plans to get them where they want to go, they will be more likely to have you continue managing their planning work.  

Try a Phased Planning Approach 

Another way to make the owner-client feel more in control is to do the planning work in a phased approach. By focusing on one area of the overall Exit Plan at a time, the process becomes less intimidating and easier to manage for you and your clients. Even the busiest people can commit to tackling one thing off their Exit Planning to-do list at a time.  

After you have determined where the client believes the business needs the most attention and address those planning needs, you can then formulate a series of different phases to conquer some of the other challenges or opportunities. The natural progression is to talk about what other solutions you can offer them once the first phase is complete. When you have shown your value to the owner in the initial phase of planning, you will be better able to engage them in other areas of planning. The biggest step is just getting that initial ball rolling with them. 

Carry the Burden  

There is a fine line between putting your client in the driver’s seat and overloading them with a lengthy list of to-do items. Do not give your clients and prospects too much homework. We have found that advisors who overload prospects with tasks they are required to complete before each meeting ultimately do not get hired.  

With clients that are engaging you in planning work, it is especially critical in the beginning stages to not assign them too much to do. They are writing you a check to take the majority of the workload off their plate and give them a process that is easy to understand and manage. They want you to ease their worry and keep them on track. They will obviously need to participate along the way, but you will need to be the leader in the process to keep things moving along.  


  • Let your business owner clients decide what part of the planning process they want to focus on first. Don’t tell them where you think they should start.  

  • Small steps make a dramatic difference. 

  • Although you are letting your clients tell you where they want to begin, don’t overload them with tasks. Help them carry the burden and assign them a few simple tasks every time you meet with them.  

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