When Should You Start Talking to Clients About Their Exits

Fri, 02/18/2022 - 09:02

Written by: JMongaras

When Should You Start Talking to Clients About Exit Planning?

An Exit Plan is critical for any business owner to secure their desired future, but most don't see the relevance of establishing one until they're ready to leave their business. Exit Planning is necessary no matter what exit path the owner plans to take, and planning shouldn't be overlooked until the time comes that a change is essential. However, planning an exit is not easy; there isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every business. Every business is unique, and each owner will have different hurdles to overcome and considerations to make to ensure their goals are met.

That said, advisors should strive to stay one step ahead, guiding business owner clients through their exit experience right from the start.

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The Responsibilities of an Advisor in Exit Planning

A business advisor equipped with Exit Planning should guide their clients throughout the whole process to help them understand that their personal and business goals dictate the road to a successful exit. The role of advisors regarding Exit Planning is to collect information, check available resources, collaborate with other involved parties, and ultimately, help business owners map out the steps involved in their Exit Plan based on that data.   

Generally, advisors have three primary responsibilities:

  • Educate owners about the different exit paths they have available to them.
  • Coordinate with the client’s internal advisory team to facilitate each step of the exit.
  • Provide the necessary services to ensure owners successfully transition from the business from beginning to end.

How Can You Help Your Clients Plan Their Exit?

The most significant responsibility as an Exit Planning Advisor is to set the exit goals by working with business owners to quantify those goals. Since Exit Planning shouldn't be a last-minute process, you'll need to start working on the Exit Plan many years before the desired exit given that the business environment can be unpredictable. Additionally, there are sometimes unforeseen personal situations that arise, causing  a client to exit their business at a  moment’s notice,

This in mind, noting the possible strategies creates a blueprint for the future and measures for success. During the planning stages, business owners will discover their vision beyond the business, and it's the task of an advisor to get them there and entice the urgency needed to move the process along.

However, before outlining the exit strategy, it is essential to understand your client's needs by gathering more information on issues such as:

  • Financial goals
  • Timeline
  • Involvement
  • Available resources
  • Current & Anticipated Obstacles
  • Possible Exit Paths

After gathering all the required information, you can design the appropriate exit strategy that aligns with the owner's personal and business goals.

How Soon Should You Start Exit Planning?

Time binds all exit decisions, and owners need to prepare for their exit as soon as they start running their business. Advisors must encourage their clients to plan for their exits early to reap the best possible rewards.

It is advisable to start planning for an exit at least five years in advance, but 10+ years would be even better.

Ten Years to Exit

Ten years may seem like a long time to an involved owner, but not in the business environment. It takes time to shape a successful Exit Plan so the earlier, the better. Ten years before the desired exit, you'll need to ask owners to consider things like:

  • How do you plan to exit your business at this time? Do you want someone else to take over the company, or do you plan to sell it?
  • Who is that person if you want someone else to run the company? And are they ready, or do you need to recruit and train them?
  • If your successor is already working with you, how do you plan to develop the skills and knowledge they'll need to take over?
  • If you plan to sell the company, do you plan to sell to a group of employees or a specific employee? Or perhaps, do you plan to sell to an outsider?
  • How will the purchase be financed if you plan to sell to employees?

The above questions are just a few that will help your clients shift focus on how they want to transition.

Five Years to Exit

Regardless of the type of business a client runs, five years before their exit, they should identify their future leaders and begin training them to take the reins when the time comes.

Encourage your client to determine the financial return they'll require from selling the business. If the value they put on their company isn't realistic enough or is not enough to meet their financial needs, you’ll have time to help them get those financial needs and business value in sync.

If a business is doing well financially, the Exit Plan should maximize profits. However, if it's struggling, the Exit Plan should minimize losses.

Three Years to Exit

A few years to retirement or the chosen to exit it's only natural that customers and employees will start wondering about the future of the business. You'll need to encourage the owner to begin making informal announcements about their exit and plan necessary communications so that everyone involved in the business feels confident about the future.

It is also crucial to help them get a valuation and start finalizing their transition timeline at this moment. Encourage owners to spend time with their successors if possible; coaching, advising, and involving them in their expected day-to-day roles and responsibilities.

Conclusion: Start Now! 

The most effective Exit Plan for any business aligns with the goals and expectations of the business owner. Exit Planning involves much more than financial planning, succession planning, or tax planning. It's a comprehensive approach encompassing all these planning aspects and more that will help your client transition smoothly.

To best help your clients, start talking to them about their exits as soon as they're in business and help them build a fool-proof Exit Plan based on their wishes, needs, and future goals. And, of course, be there for them throughout the Exit Planning journey. Their needs will vary depending on their circumstances, but the constant is that the time to begin planning is now and they need your expertise to guide them.

To learn more on how BEI can provide you with applicable solutions, schedule a meeting or contact us!  

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Exit Planning Uncovers Untapped Potential Within your Practice

Fri, 02/11/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

Today’s blog takes you Behind the Scenes with BEI Member, Jeremy Suarez, Managing Partner at Tomoro, who has had great success in adding Exit Planning services. Tomoro serves clients in the business planning, wealth management, and estate planning industries. The Tomoro team has a diverse background and consists of financial advisors & strategists, investment advisory, insurance & risk management advisory, and in-house legal counsel with a sole focus on asset protection and estate planning.

 Jeremy is beginning his 17th year in the industry and has a number of professional licenses and certifications. His path as a business planner and strategist began seven years ago when he set out to enhance his business planning offerings, expanding beyond the typical “business continuity” discussions that financial advisors have historically been trained to do.

He has developed a synergy between the wealth advisory, legal, and risk management departments to support clients in their discovery, preparation, decision-making, and execution of what comes next for their business.

Why did you decide to work with business owners to help them exit?

Jeremy:

In our communities, we are surrounded by business owners, entrepreneurs, and big thinkers. I simply wanted to partner with these people, provide valuable insights & strategies, and develop both professional and personal relationships. I am also a business owner, so our work and ongoing education in the Exit Planning space supports our firms’ objectives.

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?

Jeremy:

A few years ago, I really underestimated the need for Key Employee retention strategies in the small business marketplace. Valued employees require definable and repeatable processes in order to drive value in all sectors of the small business market. Our ability to guide and educate clients through various aspects of Key Employee retention has been a differentiator. This often opens up other discussions and opportunities to work with both the owner and key employee groups on other aspects of their planning.

How has your involvement with BEI impacted your practice?

Jeremy:

BEI has accelerated our learning curve on various topics, opened our eyes to a number of planning tactics we were not aware existed, and created a community of like-minded professionals with different backgrounds we can tap into.

Ready to jump in? Join the Waitlist for the BEI Associate Membership!

What is some advice you would share with an advisor new to the industry?

Jeremy:

I would say, take immediate action with joining organizations such as BEI and create a study group of like-minded advisors from different firms. Involvement at any stage of one’s career is critical. Taking responsibility for one’s education and understanding “you don’t know what you don’t know,” is key. Initially, the amount of information that was shared was overwhelming and abstract; but once my baseline knowledge was improved, my eyes started to open regarding how this information can be used in daily practice. It was amazing how many opportunities were uncovered by BEI that existed within relationships with current planning clients.

What are some recent achievements you want to highlight?

Jeremy:

Based on internal criteria via our business carrier relationships, I was awarded Advisor of the Year last year and have been honored with the same award several years in the past. In addition, I have been named a Perennial Industry qualifier for carrier awards in organizations such as Guardian’s President Council, Executive Club and Leaders Club. In 2021, I added my CEPA designation and we continually enhance our business knowledge and offerings thanks to our involvement with organizations such as BEI.

On a personal note, I am also proud of another achievement: My son Leo was born on 3/7/2021. He joined our family (daughter Rose & wife Kimberly) and this was hands down the highlight of my 2021.

Learn more about Jeremy & his work with Tomoro: https://www.suarezplanningteam.com

 

Jeremy, like so many of our Members, has been able to use Exit Planning tools & techniques to differentiate himself and his services, as well as expand conversations he was already having with his clients. It’s time to make sure you are your client’s first call.

Contact us today! Plus, don’t miss your chance to join the waitlist for our Associate Membership – our lowest-level membership re-opening in March, designed to uncover ways that Exit Planning can impact your existing offerings. Joining the waitlist secures a special discount on the lifetime of your membership! 

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Owner Hot Button No. 4: Unexpected Death of a Client

Fri, 02/04/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

A business owner client dies, and their business dies with them.

In this post, we meet another business owner who looks to a trusted advisor to help resolve an issue that keeps her up at night. Separate from the challenges of losing a customer or the departure of a key employee, this owner wants to avoid the chaos that her business owner friend’s death caused for his family and business.

Once again, we’ll illustrate how you can help business owners to resolve their hot-button issues and in the process, gain more than clients: you’ll gain Exit Planning clients.

Kate Day was visibly upset when she sat down with Marcia Posada, her friend’s business advisor.

“Three weeks ago – totally out of the blue – my best friend Harvey Winslow died,” Kate started.

Before Marcia could offer her condolences, she continued:

“About 10 days ago, his wife asked me to help her sort things out. Before I had a clue what that might involve, I agreed.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, Kate,” Marcia responded. “As you know, I represented Harvey for over 15 years, and I’m the one who referred Harvey to an estate planning attorney to prepare his will and trust. I also made sure he had sufficient life insurance. Is there anything else I can do?”  

“Unless you need a full-time job straightening out a mess of mammoth proportions, I don’t think so,” Kate responded.

“Tell me what’s going on,” Marcia prompted.

“Harvey had a will and some life insurance to supplement the business’ income, so he had assumed he’d done his job as a husband and father,” Kate explained. “But he hadn’t done anything to prepare his wife or his business for what would happen if he died. The problem is that Harvey’s very successful business was only successful because Harvey ran it… and only Harvey could run it!

Marcia thought she knew where this conversation was headed but asked Kate to give her a few more details.

“The business is a mess without Harvey!” Kate explained. “His wife has never been involved, so she can’t answer any of the legitimate questions the employees have about their future – two of them have already given notice – and the future of the company. The bank is already making noise about the repayment of its $600,000.”

Without taking a breath, Kate continued, “There’s no way for me to know what Harvey would have wanted done with his company. As far as I can tell, there’s no one there who can step into his shoes, so everything is in shambles.”

Kate then paused before asking, “Wasn’t there something you could have done to prepare Harvey’s family and his business for what could happen should he die before his planned business exit? As his advisor, did you ask him to think about the effect his death would have on his business and to his family?”

Kate’s questions made it clear that Marcia had failed Harvey - not intentionally - but by neglecting to consider the consequences his death would have on the ability of his business to continue.  There are some basic tools that advisors use to mitigate the repercussions of an owner’s premature and permanent departure from a business, and Marcia didn’t know how to recommend of use any of them.

Much can be done to prevent disaster when an owner dies, but prevention takes planning. Exit Planning Advisors create and implement two invaluable strategies that reduce the severity of the consequences when owners die before their planned business exits:

  1. Written business continuity instructions
  2. Stay bonus plans designed to retain important employees until a business can be transition or successfully liquidated.

Let’s look briefly at each.

Strategy 1: Business Continuity Instructions (BCI)

Business continuity instructions act as a non-binding guide that explains how family members and advisors should address personal and business issues that arise from an owner’s unplanned departure. Most owners simply don’t think about these issues that would arise if they were to lose control of their businesses, so it is our job to ask them to consider questions like the following:

  • What would their families do to address any outstanding business debts?  
  • Is there a plan to sell or dissolve the business so that the owner’s family can access liquid funds?
  • Whom could the owner’s family consult to fix problems that are likely well out of their wheelhouse?

A host of additional issues are addressed in the BCI and are based upon our experiences and those of the Exit Planning Advisors BEI supports.

Strategy 2: Stay Bonus Plans

Exit Planning Advisors often recommend that their owner-clients reward – described in a written stay bonus plan – important, named employees who stay with an owner’s company for a pre-determined period (usually one or two years) after an owner’s death. The bonus, in our experience, must be significant, meaning approximately 50% of an employee’s compensation. To assure covered employees that the money will be there should the owner die, bonuses are usually funded with life insurance on the owner’s life.

Had Marcia used these tools, Harvey’s family and business could have avoided disaster.

Takeaways - All Business Owners Need Exit Planning Advisors!

  • Most business owners simply don’t think about the issues that would arise if they were to lose control of their businesses, unexpectedly and permanently.
  • Exit Planning Advisors provide a great benefit when they make business owners aware of what can happen to their companies and families should they die before their planned exits.
  •  Exit Planning Advisors use a variety of planning tools to ensure that their client’s businesses can continue until they are satisfactorily transferred.

Preventing your client’s most pressing problems requires planning. Let’s talk about how BEI can prepare you for these conversations. Contact us today.

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Owner Hot Button No. 3: Overcoming the Challenges of a Business Transfer to Family Members

Fri, 01/28/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

In this post we describe another “business-owner hot-button issue” that Exit Planners are equipped to resolve; namely, helping owners who want to transfer their businesses to the next generation overcome the many, many obstacles inherent to that exit path.

We continue to focus on these owner issues because BEI Members know that when they can help resolve an owner’s concern, they do more than gain clients: They gain Exit Planning clients, attract referrals from other advisors, and make a meaningful difference in the lives (and businesses) of the owners they represent.

Those of us in family transition planning are all too familiar with a maxim that proves itself over and over again: It’s easy to identify owners who have given forethought to successfully transferring their businesses within their families: They have only one child.

In the real world, however, the owners/parents we represent have multiple children and face multiple challenges when orchestrating a business transfer to one or more of their children.

To name a few:

  • Their BAC (business-active child or children) is not yet capable of running the business.
  • Their NBAC (non-business-active child or children) view the family business as a family asset whose value should be equally shared among all children.
  • Their business is worth substantially more than their other assets.
  • Their BAC believes that they are contributing to the value of the business and play a vital role in their parents’ ability to exit the business with financial security. Consequently, the BAC also believes that they are earning ownership and shouldn’t have to share ownership with siblings.
  • They can’t afford to gift the business to their children without jeopardizing their own financial security, and their children can’t afford to buy it.
  • The BAP (business-active parent) believes that their BAC has earned ownership via “sweat equity,” while the non-business-active parent believes all assets should be equally divided among all children.

The Big Question

Family business owners naturally look to advisors—their current or new ones—for help addressing these, and many more, challenges.

Do you know how to help them?

The Answer: Become an Exit Planner.

At BEI we spend a lot of time and energy developing the tools and training that support our Members as they work with their clients to understand and resolve the many challenges that confront their clients (Moms and Dads). We help Members create Exit Plans for their family-business-owner clients and implement those plans with the collaboration of advisors who specialize in family business planning.

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Resolving this Hot-Button Issue: 

Step One: Identify Your Client

If you follow this blog, you know that BEI Advisors begin all Exit Planning engagements by gaining a clear understanding of a client’s goals and resources. In the case of an owner who wants to transfer a business to children, an Exit Planner first determines who, exactly, is the client.

There are at least two possible scenarios:

1) The advisor who represents an owner’s child approaches you.

2) The owner’s child or children approach you.

Regardless of who initiates the contact, we suggest to our Members that they represent the current business owners. In a family business engagement, that means representing both of the parents even though only one parent (the BAP) owns all of the business equity. You may end up working exclusively with the BAP, but it’s critical to remember the non-business-active parent is usually focused on treating all children equally. Consequently, Exit Planners design transition plans that address the interests and goals of that parent.

Step Two: Anticipate Conflicting Agendas

Experienced Exit Planners enter family business transition engagements expecting family discord and usually, their expectations are well founded.

Step Three: Recruit Reinforcements

Approximately a quarter of the Exit Plans BEI Members create involve transfers to family members, yet few have the knowledge, experience, or desire to mediate intra-family disputes. For that reason, most Members recruit at least one (and often two to three) trained family business consultants to serve on their Advisor Teams. They rely on the counsel of these consultants to deal with topics such as family governance, ownership transition, dispute resolution and the transition of ownership and operational roles.

Step Four: Be Smart

We don’t discourage advisors from accepting family business transfer engagements. Instead, we have created a detailed process that includes possible resolutions to many of the challenges that owner clients encounter on this common exit path. Let us know your goals and we’ll walk you through the BEI courses that give you knowledge on this process and the Licenses that have the tools to execute those resolutions. 

Takeaways

  • Advisors who can help owners to resolve their hot-button issues do more than gain clients: They gain Exit Planning clients, attract referrals from other advisors, and make a meaningful difference in the lives (and businesses) of the owners they represent.
  • Owners/parents who have multiple children face multiple challenges when transferring a family business.
  • Family business owners naturally look to advisors—their current or new ones—for help addressing these, and many more, challenges. The advisors who can help these owners set themselves apart from their competitors.
  • Creating Exit Plans for family business owners requires the collaboration of advisors from multiple disciplines.
  • The norm in transfers to family members is some degree of discord, not the exception.
  • Family business transfers are especially complex, so smart advisors take full advantage of BEI’s training and support

Let’s talk about how BEI can prepare you to overcome any and all business-owner hot buttons. Contact us today.

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Owner Hot Button No. 2: The Loss of Key Customers

Fri, 01/21/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

In this post, we continue our description of techniques BEI Members use to help owners deal with pressing, business-related needs. Why? BEI Members know that when they discover a business need that they can help owners to resolve, they gain more than another client, they gain an Exit Planning client.

The Loss of a Key Customer 

Business owner Dominic Ritengo repeated his ongoing frustration about his business to his banker, Tom O’Henry.

“You know, I’d like to get out of my business sooner rather than later, but some obstacle always seems to come up,” Dominic complained.  “This time, it was a key customer – one that represented almost 15% of annual revenue – who took its business to my chief competitor. What happens if another one of my big customers follows suit?”

“That had to hurt,” Tom observed.  “But I think you might be able to take a shock like that and use it to adjust your business model. I’d be happy to refer you to a financial advisor who I think could help.”

“I’ve already got a financial advisor.” Dominic pointed out. “He makes suggestions on investments and not-so-subtly lets me know that I’m a long way from retirement, I don’t need another financial advisor. I need someone who can help me keep my customers!”

“Well,” Tom started, “the financial advisor I’m thinking of works with owners like you and helps them increase business value so that they can eventually exit their businesses on their terms. She does Exit Planning. Can I arrange a meeting?”

Dominic agreed and immediately set up a meeting with Emma Broomfield, financial planner and Exit Planner.

Dominic opened their meeting by relating his tale of woe. Emma listened carefully and asked questions about Dominic’s business before suggesting a solution to his most recent hot-button issue: how to keep his remaining clients.

“Dominic, I know it’s easier to deal with just a handful of big customers than to juggle dozens or hundreds of them,” Emma sympathized.  “but one of the Value Drivers most buyers demand is a diverse customer base.”

“Like not putting all your eggs in one basket, right?” Dominic responded.

“Right,” Emma answered.  “It can mean having many customers rather than a few, but it also means attracting and retaining customers from different business sectors or different demographics. I think we should focus on expanding and diversifying your customer base, not just keeping your current customers. What do you think, Dominic?”

“I think it makes perfect sense,” Dominic said. “If I were looking to buy my business rather than sell it, I’d rather see revenue coming in from multiple customers in multiple industries that depend on the assurances that customers will stay on after the guy on his way out is long gone.”

“That’s exactly how buyers view a customer base,” Emma noted. “As a general rule of thumb, buyers don’t want to see more than 10% of company revenue generated by one customer or more than 25% generated by five to ten.”

“I’m listening,” Dominic said.

“I can help you develop a much broader customer base,” Emma continued. “I can also tell you about other actions we can take to increase the value of your company and protect that value.”

“Where do we start?” Dominic asked.

“Dominic, if you decide to hire me, one of the first things I think we should do,” Emma suggested, “is to recruit and motivate a top-notch sales manager to help expand and diversify your customer list.”

Dominic reached across the table, shook Emma’s hand, and said, “I’m all in. Let’s get started.”

An ideal way to grow your practice’s client base is to offer owners something they need. In this situation, Dominic didn’t think he needed services from Emma’s core practice. He needed a way to keep customers on board and help growing his customer base, and Emma was prepared to help him.

Her ability to meet Dominic’s pressing business needs differentiated her from other financial advisors. It’s unlikely Dominic would have hired Emma as his financial advisor because he was relatively satisfied with his current advisor. But, her demonstrated ability to help with business planning led Dominic to transfer his personal needs to her.

Emma also attracts referrals from other professionals like Tom (Dominic’s banker) because she does more for her owner clients than her fellow financial advisors.

Takeaways

  • When advisors can help resolve an owner’s pressing business need, they gain more than another client, they gain an Exit Planning client.
  • Advisors with Exit Planning skills not only differentiate themselves from their core practice competitors, but they also attract more referrals from advisors in other professions.
  • Diversifying a customer base is only one of many solutions Exit Planners can offer when owners want to build and protect value of their companies.

To learn more on how BEI can provide you with these solutions, schedule a meeting or contact us!  

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Next week, we’ll dive into the last of the three hot-button topics in this blog series: overcoming the challenges of a business transfer to family members.

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Owner Hot Button No. 1: The Departure of a Key Employee

Fri, 01/14/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

Topics in this blog often describe techniques BEI Members use to help owners deal with pressing business-related needs. We know that when advisors discover a business need that they can help resolve they stand to gain a client, a client that likely becomes an Exit Planning client.

In the next several posts, we’ll discuss typical owner “hot buttons” and how to handle them in a manner that initiates or leads to client engagement and Exit Planning.

The situation: 

At a meeting with his advisor, Mary Carroll, Gene Cassidy repeated his frustration about his business, “You know, I’d like to get out of my business in the next five years or so, but I’m concerned that I won’t be able to if I lose either of my two key employees, especially since my first choice is to sell the business to them! Any suggestions?”

Mary understood Gene’s concern and readily agreed. She knew his company relied on two of its key employees, the operations manager, and the sales manager. The loss of either would delay Gene’s exit and possibly, his ability to sell his business.

Let’s pause here to reflect on what you would recommend to Gene. What actions could Gene take to safeguard the business from the loss of either key employee?

If you can offer suggestions to help owner-clients resolve their pressing problems, you strengthen your relationships. If you have nothing to offer, owners typically turn to other advisors—possibly your competitors—for advice.

Exit Planning is Your Competitive Advantage

Advisors who lack the skills to identify and address an owner’s needs, such as Gene’s, typically refer owners to other advisors or perhaps suggest a single solution they’ve read about or experienced with a client. Advisors with few plays in their playbooks aren’t much help to owners and their ability to grow their practices is limited. Your ability to identify and address an owner’s top needs separates you from your competitors.

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The Exit Planner’s Playbook

What would advisors whose core practices are identical to yours—but have added Exit Planning to their skill set—do for Gene? They pull recommendations from their Exit Planning playbooks.

Before offering Gene advice, they first seek to understand Gene’s bigger picture as Exit Planner Mary illustrates:

“Gene, before we discuss how I can help you retain your key employees, can you tell me a bit about your long-term goals and aspirations and something about your ability to achieve these goals today?”

Gene, a bit impatiently, responded, “Why do long-term goals matter if I can’t keep my employees!

Mary explained that she had several ideas in mind, but if she knew more about Gene’s goals and what was needed to achieve them, she could 1) recommend solutions to keep the employees and 2) further Gene’s ultimate goal of exiting his business in five years.

“O.K., I get it,” Gene said. “It’s sort of like killing two birds with one stone. I mean feeding two birds with one scone!”

“Exactly!” Mary agreed. “Your concern about your key employees is not at all uncommon for many owners, and it is one I think is best tackled on two fronts. The first is to motivate your key employees to increase company cash flow and value and offer them incentives to remain with your company for the long haul. The second is to prevent important employees from taking employees, customers, trade secrets, vendor relationships if they do leave.”

Mary continued, “There are a number of different incentive plans we design for our clients to motivate and keep their key employees. These plans also help you achieve your goals for yourself, your employees, and your business even if one of your employees leaves. Let me explain a few of these plans and we can help select the one that is most appropriate for your situation.”

“But how do any of these plans help me if one of my key employee leaves and decides to steal some customers or employees?” Gene asked.

Simple. We have your attorneys prepare employment agreements containing non-solicitation provisions which prohibit them from taking other employees, customers or vendors if they leave, ” Mary said.

“Great idea, but I don’t think my guys would sign employment agreements at this point,” argued Gene.

“You’re right: They may not,” Mary agreed. “That’s why we sweeten the pot with the incentive plan. The benefits of the incentive plan offset the possible negative impact of the non-solicitation provision. We combine incentive plans (the benefit) with non-solicitation provisions (the detriment). If that sounds good, let’s look at several ideas for motivating and keeping key employees and narrow the list from there.”

Compare Mary’s responses to those most advisors give when they can only recommend strategies they’ve read about or seen used in the past.

Mary provided a solution to Gene’s pressing problem—the need to keep his key employees. She did so in a manner that also furthered Gene’s ultimate goal of exiting his business. Two birds. One scone. It was natural for Mary and Gene to move forward with more comprehensive planning.

If you find yourself at a loss when owners ask you to help them resolve their top-of-mind concerns, we ask you to consider what it would mean for your practice and your clients to approach planning through a wider lens

Takeaways

  • Understanding a potential client’s top-of-mind concern and suggesting possible remedies converts potential clients into paying clients.
  • The ability to identify and address an owner’s top need(s) separates you from your competitors.
  • Identifying the best solutions to owners’ top-of-mind problems requires advisors to understand the longer-term goals owners have for their businesses and themselves.

Next week, we'll cover how to handle another common business-owner hot button: the loss of key customers. 

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2022 is the Year for Exit Planning

Fri, 01/07/2022 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

Ashley Blessing, CPA, Manager at Herbein & Co has been a CPA for over 12 years now. She was first introduced to Exit Planning through a BEI Boot Camp a few years back. Today, Ashley has a more personal and intimate relationship with her business owner clients as she assists them with planning for their future.  

When Ashley is not at the office supporting her business owner clients, she is chasing her two young children around in her home in Reading, Pennsylvania.  

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?  

Ashley:

In my line of work, client relationships are especially important. Helping a business owner plan for the exit from their business is a very important and emotional decision.  

I recently began working with a client that was planning on passing down the ownership of their company to their children. During the planning of any family transfer, I have learned to tread lightly. Family dynamics can be very complex during any transition plan. I had to do various interviews with the family members to help decipher which Exit Path would be the most appropriate while keeping the family relationships intact.  

It wasn’t until I attended one of the BEI Boot Camps that I learned to bring in a business psychologist when working with a family transfer. Sometimes, it helps to have a licensed professional come in to help navigate through some fragile family dynamics.  

Do you have an example of an Exit Plan you recently worked on that made you appreciate the work you do?

Ashley:

I recently began working with a family business that was looking into an insider transfer. This business was not a 2nd generation transition, nor a third. This family business was planning to transition the ownership of their business to the 5TH GENERATION!  

This company just celebrated their 100th anniversary and family values were obviously particularly important to this organization. I felt so privileged to be invited to take on a project like this.  

This was a delicate plan since there were so many family members involved with opposing opinions. The current owner was now 70 years old, so we had to start making some decisions in the next few years.  

It is so gratifying working on Exit Plans like this. This business is obviously extremely important to this family, and I was grateful to have the pleasure of helping them protect the legacy of the business while maintaining strong family relationships. Plans like this keep me loving what I do. 

Do you see any shifts or changes going into the new year?  

Ashley:

As we enter 2022, I believe we will see some significant changes in the Exit Planning industry. I predict that the businesses that were gravely affected by COVID over the last few years won’t be sitting around waiting for the next pandemic. They are ready to start planning and they won’t be caught off guard again. These past few years were truly an eye-opening experience for many of us and I can guarantee that no business owner will want to go through the challenges that they faced during 2020 and 2021 again.  

I believe the Exit Planning industry is about to see its largest influx in a long time. Advisors and business owners alike now truly understand the importance of planning ahead. Time is finite. 

How has your involvement with BEI impacted your practice? What are your favorite resources? 

Ashley:

I love the BEI white papers! I use them all the time. I send them to just about every client before our initial meeting and throughout our relationship when they seem relevant to the conversations we have been having. I have most of the white papers saved directly on my desktop to quickly share with clients and prospects.  

The white papers get clients thinking about the process, their options, and their future. They are easy to read and digest and they allow my prospects and clients to marinate on a few different potential Exit Paths.  

These are great tools to just keep the ball moving and keep clients engaged.

How has adding Exit Planning to your practice broadened the work you do with business owners? 

Ashley:

After I was able to add Exit Planning to my practice, I realized I was adding even more value to my clients. I was able to take my client services a step further. Exit Planning is a very intimate and personal service that I was able to provide in addition to the existing work I already offered my clients.  

You really get to know your clients on a deeper level when you begin the Exit Planning Process with them. I felt more engaged and motivated to offer them the best possible solution when I got a deeper understanding of their values, family dynamics, goals, and aspirations.  

Do you have any advice for another advisor coming into the industry or struggling with a challenge you have faced in the past? 

Ashley:

Have patience. 

Planning to exit one’s business is one of the biggest decisions most business owners will make in their lifetime. For example, I have a client that I am working with now that started on their Exit Planning journey a few years ago. They are still not quite ready to pull the trigger and make any huge decisions but each day we get closer to making decisions. The more information I can provide this particular owner, the more confidence he has in his life-changing decisions.  

At the end of the day, they will greatly appreciate your patience when they have successfully transitioned out of their business and enjoining their next endeavor.  

 

If you too are like Ashley and would like to learn more about managing your clients’ Exit Plans and creating a process to ensure all their goals are met, check out our upcoming Exit Planning Boot Camps.   

And, If there are any specific topics you would like us to cover in 2022, send us a suggestion.  

Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on all current Exit Planning news and trends.  

 

Join the Waitlist for BEI's Associate Membership

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Inside the Exit: Best of 2021

Mon, 12/27/2021 - 09:01

Written by: JMongaras

As we prepare for what is to come in the new year, it is interesting to look back and see what topics got the attention of advisors. In this week’s blog, we highlight some of the most popular content we published in the last year.  

Sales to Co-Owners or Key Employees: The Disadvantages  

Although an inside sale might seem like the right decision for a business with a strong management team in place who already understand how the business operates, be sure to weigh all your options. When considering what exit path might be right for your business owner clients, be sure to consider the owner’s financial security, timeline, tax consequences, goals, and potential successors.

In this blog series, we discuss the disadvantages and advantages of a third-party sale and an inside sale. This blog in particular highlights the specific disadvantages of the sale to co-owners or key employees. Another blog in this series that caught a lot of attention was the first blog in the series: Transfers of Ownership to Children: The Advantages.

As you start or continue working with clients in 2022, be sure to think about the pros and cons of different business transfer types for their situation. You might find that the owner’s initial plans aren’t the best option.

LEARN MORE 

Money Isn’t Everything for Business Owners

It is important to help your business owner clients set values-based goals to help ensure their values stay intact well after they part with the business. Values-based goals cover important issues including family harmony, charitable intentions, and community involvement. Be sure your owner clients are handing off their company to the right buyer by defining clear values-based goals before you go to market.  

In this blog, we outline what values-based goals are, why they are important, and how to establish them with your clients. If you aren’t taking this approach with client already, set a goal for yourself in 2022 to start investigating values-based goals with your business owner clients to get them on the right exit path. 

LEARN MORE

Involve and Lead Expert Advisors

Compiling the right Exit Planning Team of advisors is a critical step to a successful exit. We all have areas of expertise where we feel the most confident. A good advisor will admit when their knowledge may fall short in certain areas and know how to bring on the right resources to complete the team in order to create the most comprehensive Exit Plan.  

In this blog post, we walk through the list of advisors you should have on your roster to invite in when you need their expertise. Having a relationship with different advisors helps you gain credibility, referrals, and knowledge in different areas of the Exit Planning industry. Start making a list of advisors in your network that you could bring onto a team for your clients and build a plan for outreach in 2022.

LEARN MORE

Can You Slay Your Client’s Deal Killer?  

Have you ever taken your owner client's business to market only for the deal to go up in flames because of a minor oversight? It happens and in this blog series, we uncover the Deal Killers any seasoned advisor is bound to run into and how to avoid them.   

In this particular blog, we uncover one of the most common Deal Killers that many of our BEI Members run into, which is an owner’s focus on sale price rather than net sale proceeds. Learn how to spot the signs that you might run into one of these deadly killers. Stay committed to slaying Deal Killers before they slay your client's deal and potentially their entire future.  

LEARN MORE

Make Planning Simple for Owners 

In this blog, we look into a scenario where a business owner is simply too busy to start planning for the inevitable exit from their business and what their trusted advisor did to help them prepare for the future. 

Business owners will most likely not give you the time of day until they can be reassured you can solve the problems that are keeping them up at night. Listen to your clients and prospects, understand where they are struggling, and help them solve one problem at a time. This will pave the way for them to have enough time to start planning for their future. Before the new year begins, review your process and how you plan with clients. Are there ways to make it easier for them to get engaged with the work? 

LEARN MORE

If there are any other specific topics you would like us to cover in 2022, send us a suggestion.  

Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on all current Exit Planning news and trends.  

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Do You Know Enough to Help Your Owner-Clients Exit Successfully?

Fri, 12/03/2021 - 08:00

Written by: JMongaras

In two prior posts, we observed how easy it is to 1) lose owner-clients by not offering what they need, and 2) gain clients by having the expertise necessary to discuss and engage them in one or more aspects of exit planning.

The question we ask in this post is: Is it possible to gain enough knowledge of Exit Planning via this blog and similar online resources to keep clients and gain more? As we lawyers like to say, it depends.

Argument for using this blog as your sole source of Exit Planning knowledge

We have designed this blog to provide enough information for you to:

  • Determine whether you can help owners exit successfully, provided other advisors representing your clients know how to create Exit Plans, and involve you as needed.
  • Provide you enough information to talk intelligently about Exit Planning and remain involved in the Exit Planning Process. This baseline knowledge usually generates more work from your current clients who seek to exit.

This is the typical path most advisors follow: Understanding their role in Exit Planning (i.e., when their tools, products, and professional advice are useful) and working with an advisor with Exit Planning expertise is the path most advisors take.

Argument for pursuing additional training in Exit Planning

The advisors we work with have thriving practices because they are very good at what they do. They understandably hesitate to add a new element to their practices based solely on information gleaned from a blog. While they don’t want to become Exit Planners, these advisors seek a deeper understanding of Exit Planning. To these owners, we recommend becoming a BEI Associate Member.

Associate Membership

As a BEI Associate Member, you:

  • Learn how Exit Planning techniques can impact your existing service offerings via a structured, low-cost, learning platform.
  • Differentiate your practice from competitors because you have the ability to converse intelligently about an owner’s ultimate exit.
  • Discover how advisors from multiple disciplines use Exit Planning to increase work within their practice areas.
  • Gain access to opportunities to implement your core services in often overlooked situations outside of Exit Planning.

Ultimately, the goal of the Associate Membership is to equip advisors with the knowledge they need to participate in the process of helping their owner-clients grow, protect, and eventually leave their companies in a way that provides lifetime financial security.

Become an Exit Planner

Other advisors choose to become full-fledged Exit Planners because they too want to make a difference in their clients’ lives, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and add a new source of revenue to their core services. But these advisors want more than a seat at the planning table: They want to sit at the head of that table.

To take that seat, they recognize that they need training in a proven Exit Planning Process, ongoing support as they work through complex planning situations, and an effective marketing plan for their new expertise. We recommend that these advisors take advantage of BEI’s full menu of services: courses, networking, marketing, and planning.

Whether you are looking to increase your confidence in having conversations around Exit Planning with your clients or want to be the indispensable advisor your clients call for every planning need, we understand your passion for helping clients reach their goals. With BEI, you’ll get a customized plan to fit your unique practice needs and an execution strategy to reach those goals.

Follow us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on all current Exit Planning news and trends.

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Liberating Successful Business Owners from Your Competitors 

Fri, 11/19/2021 - 08:00

Written by: JMongaras

In our previous blog, we met “Hank,” a long-time and satisfied client of financial advisor, Anita Patel. He had just let Anita know that he was retaining another advisor to help him plan for the transfer of his business to his children. 

Hank had not been looking for a new financial advisor when Thomas Verstappen (also a financial advisor) offered to help Hank plan his business exit. When Hank hired Thomas to plan and implement his gradual exit from his business, he transferred his investment portfolio to Thomas. Hank wasn’t dissatisfied with Anita, he just felt it made sense to put all of his planning under one roof.  

Hank’s actions are not at all unusual. I’d venture to guess that you too have built your practice by providing some benefit to prospective clients that their current advisors did not. We don’t have to make a guess about how this dynamic works for Exit Planners. We find that advisors with expertise in Exit Planning end up as the go-to advisor for planning for an owner's inevitable exit as well as for the advisor’s core practice.  

Bottom line: Promoting your Exit Planning expertise is an effective marketing tool our Members use to acquire otherwise satisfied clients away from your competition. 

Clients of another advisor are unlikely to leave that advisor and retain you unless you offer something they need and can’t otherwise get. 

As Anita decided whether to acquire expertise in Exit Planning, she also wondered how Thomas had persuaded Hank to hire him. Like many advisors, Hank relied on scarcity and authority, two of the six principles of persuasion described by Robert Cialdini in his best-selling book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion

Scarcity 

Thomas pointed out that his skills, knowledge, and experience in working with owners set his practice apart. He described his priorities: to ensure that owners leave their businesses when they want, for the money they need, and in the hands of the person they choose. Then Thomas presented the steps they would work on together to make sure those priorities would remain front and center of their planning work. Not incidentally, Thomas also described what Hank stood to lose if he did not plan. Thomas shared a story of an owner whose exit failed due to lack of planning and how that outcome could have been avoided had they followed the process. In other words, Thomas described his unique value proposition and how Hank would benefit from working with him. 

Authority 

Thomas began to establish himself as a credible, knowledgeable authority before his first meeting with Hank. He placed three glowing testimonials from satisfied Exit Planning clients on his website’s landing page, and he sent Hank a branded white paper describing the Exit Planning Process. How could Hank not hire Thomas? Your potential clients want to know that you’ve helped business owners just like them reach their goals, overcome challenges, and implement successful Exit Plans. That authority needs to come from past client testimonials, statistics, and data from the work you’ve done in your practice. Clients need peace of mind that you’ve successfully done this work before from a source other than you. 

Takeaways: 

  • Expertise in Exit Planning inevitably draws successful business owner clients to your core practice. 
  • Highlighting Exit Planning as an area of expertise demonstrates scarcity. 
  • Providing information about Exit Planning to prospective clients establishes authority.

Follow us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on all current Exit Planning news and trends.

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