Business Owner Survey: Takeaways & Trends to Bring to Planning in 2023

As advisors to business owners, there are a lot of things you must keep track of when it comes to the modern-day business landscape. Upon release of the BEI 2022 Business Owner Survey, the data raised some important questions about what has greatly impacted the Exit Planning industry and what younger owners are doing to plan for their futures.  

The 5 Systems of Growth Workshop

Founder and CEO of Growthpoint Coaching Co., and BEI Member David Robertson joins us on Thursday, December 1 at 3:30pm ET for an interactive workshop: The 5 Systems of Growth. This workshop will explore the value of operations systems: how they can enable your clients to sell for top dollar without regrets and secure a company’s financial health throughout the exit process. David will share his take on the five most important activities a company can participate in to create value.

Discover Exit Planning with Doug Easton

For over 20 years, BEI has helped advisors like you build relationships with their clients. We understand having a passion to help your clients reach their goals. 

To do so, advisors need to stand out from the crowd, a framework to help clients achieve their goals, and a way to expand the Exit Planning conversation. 

Join us for this live webinar on the BEI tools and resources available to help you seamlessly integrate Exit Planning into your practice and go from "service provider" to your client's "most trusted advisor." 

Learning Objectives:

Stop Looking for Customers... Start Looking for Referral Sources

The chances of you walking into a networking event where you’ll meet your perfect prospect who needs your product or service at that EXACT point in time are virtually zero.  The chances of you walking to the same event and meeting someone who can lead you to your perfect prospect are virtually guaranteed.  Join Sigi Loya, Owner of The Alternative Board (TAB) in Pittsburgh, PA, to learn the process of identifying the perfect referral sources and how to get an appointment with them every time. 

Good Questions Drive Better Exit Planning Conversations

Sun, 04/24/2022 - 21:17

Written by: oogonyo

Good Questions Drive Better Exit Planning Conversations 

Much of the work of a business advisor, and especially an Exit Planning Advisor, is driven by one’s ability to have effective conversations with current and prospective owner clients. It is a common misconception that these conversations must result in providing business owners all the “right” answers.

As an Exit Planning Advisor, you have the knowledge to provide your clients with strategic solutions to help them reach their goals. With this knowledge, it is natural to want to jump right into problem-solving. However, from the perspective of a business owner, their challenges are dynamic and might go beyond what meets the eye.

No matter what industry, advisors are in the business of relationship building. This means that within these conversations, especially the initial conversations about Exit Planning, you must listen with the intent to understand, not just to respond.

The Downfalls of Wrong Questions

In many cases, how you word questions has a direct impact on the success of those initial conversations. The reasons that generic planning questions are not productive may include:

  • Owners may be guarded in the information they want to share
  • Owners may just be looking for free advice
  • Owners are hesitant to overshare in fear they are being “sold” something
  • Owners are only asked questions about a certain expertise
  • Owners derail the conversation with minor issues

To an Exit Planning advisor, a failed conversation is a missed opportunity for you. Not only that, but it can lead to an owner being unprepared to exit with devastating consequences to the business and their family. Being intentional about what questions you ask and how they are used in planning conversations can be beneficial to the long-term relationships you form with clients.

Good Questions: Where to Start

When you sit down to have a conversation with a client, the value you bring begins with good questions and a willingness to listen and understand your clients on a deeper level. When the right questions are asked, you are better able to get owners to open up and their responses often lead into other important Exit Planning topics. Some advisors choose to stick to a standard set of questions, while others like to come up with them on the fly based on where the client takes the conversation. Regardless of your preference, valuable conversations about Exit Planning should cover the following topics:

  1. Owner’s Involvement

Discussions about your client’s current involvement and plans to continue at any level often prompts further discussion about key talent, potential recruitment, incentive plans and the future transition of management.

  1. Owner’s Desired Post-Exit Future

Do you know what your client envisions for the next chapter following their business exit? Learning this might lead to insights on their preferred timeline and personal financial needs.

  1. Owner’s Obstacles & Challenges

At any given time, your client is battling with problems that are keeping them up at night. Knowing what those are will give leeway to analyzing where there are planning gaps and what stands in the way of achieving their desired goals. This will also help you prioritize what areas of the business to focus on first.

  1. Owner’s Financial Needs

When your client exits their business, how important is the business in supporting their financial freedom? This topic can lead to further discussion on business value, cash flow projection, formal agreements that may be necessary, and more.  

  1. Owner’s Current Transition Plan

You will run into a broad spectrum of scenarios as you begin working with clients on their Exit Plans. Some may have an exit path decided on as their most important goal. Others may think they know what exit path to take only to have another more important goal show that a different path is the best choice. You may also find that some haven’t even started thinking about it at the time of your initial Exit Planning conversation.

Whether it is the hope to transfer ownership to a family member or a key employee, or sell to an outside party, many considerations will be brought to light once you know where the owner stands on who will lead and own in the future. Considerations could range from the need to create a management development plan to outlining business continuity instructions.

  1. Contingency Plans

Do your clients have contingency plans in place so that the business could continue in their temporary or permanent absence? How would the business fare if key employees or key customers left? Having an idea of what the owner’s “what if” strategies are can indicate larger patterns in their plans for their inevitable business exit.

  1. Current Exit Plan Progress

Is Exit Planning even on the radar at this point? For most business owners, probably not. It is your job as an Exit Planning Advisor to articulate the importance of starting early and showing them that you have the tools and resources to help them create, manage, and execute a plan that will allow them to exit on their terms.

While this list is not exhaustive, nor does it list specific questions to ask, framing your questions in a way that will cover these topics will leave you in a good place following the initial Exit Planning conversation. These questions will also signal the key areas in which you can help your client increase business value over the duration of the Exit Plan.  

The Top 9 Ways to Increase Business Value for Exit Planning

Good Questions: Continued Conversations

The importance of the questions lies in the ability of the responses to drive the conversation in ways that provide more clarity on the owner’s goals and direction in how you might be able to reach them. Since Exit Planning is more than a one-time transaction, your conversations will continue throughout the duration of the Exit Planning Process.

In efforts to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship during this time, the Exit Planner serves as the relationship master, guiding one-on-one conversations with the client, as well as facilitating meetings with the Advisor Team. There are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure these conversations go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Even if the owner responds with short, one-word answers, ask them to elaborate. You may be surprised where the owner takes the conversation.
  2. After asking a question of any kind, repeat back the response to confirm that you understood the need correctly.
  3. Take notes and provide every member of the Advisor Team with a list of action items and deadlines to hold each member accountable.
  4. Take advantage of networking with other Exit Planning Advisors. For example, BEI Members are a part of the larger BEI Network of Advisors, giving them access to advisors all over the country who are having similar conversations with their clients as you are with yours. Lean into each other’s experiences.

Exit Planning Advisors are tasked with running the show – owning the roadmap and making sure everyone stays on track. Building strong and stable relationships with business owner clients is key in facilitating the Exit Plan, start to finish. These relationships are only as strong as the conversations you are able to drive forward, and asking good questions is key in building credibility.

BEI has tools and resources to equip you with the knowledge you need to exude confidence and poise in every Exit Planning conversation. Schedule a meeting with us today to learn more about becoming your client’s most trusted advisor.

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

Good Questions Drive Better Exit Planning Conversations

Is Exit Planning a Good Fit for You?

Fri, 08/20/2021 - 08:00

Written by: JMongaras

If you are thinking about adding Exit Planning to your practice, there are several factors you can use to assess whether it makes sense for you to acquire the knowledge and training required to be an effective Exit Planning Advisor. In this article, we look at the primary factors: 

  1.  Your goals 
  2. A willingness to spend time gaining knowledge 
  3. Your ability to recruit and work with a team of other professional advisors 

Factor 1: What do you want Exit Planning to do for you and your practice? 

Advisors cite these reasons for deciding to become Exit Planning Advisors: 

  • 22% - Improve or adopt a consistent planning process 
  • 22% - Expand services to existing business clients 
  • 22% - Make a difference in lives of my clients 
  • 17% - Support closely held and family businesses 

We find advisors who undertake Exit Planning solely to increase their revenues seldom stay the course. They are less interested in helping owners plan for the future than they are selling a product or service today. Exit Planning does result in substantially greater and more sustainable revenue, but it takes an investment of time to learn the tools and process of Exit Planning.

Factor 2: A willingness to spend time gaining knowledge 

Like most advisors, we understand you want to help owners but are limited by a lack of knowledge of the process and tools to do so. Few advisors are willing to step forward with advice unless they are confident they will do no harm. To help owners, advisors need additional knowledge of a process, know how to execute a plan, and have access to the right tools. 

Process: This blog focuses on BEI’s Exit Planning Process, a process that BEI and our Members have developed and refined for the past 20+ years. If you’ve been following this blog, you probably know more about Exit Planning than most of your peers.  

Execution / Tools:  

You can learn a lot about Exit Planning from this blog, but you need to know more about how to execute an Exit Plan, e.g., what to ask and what specific actions to recommend to address the obstacles that stand in the way of an owner’s successful exit. 

For example, if an owner’s goal is to grow business value, is the best tool bonusing ownership, selling ownership, or using money to motivate a child or key employee? When is the right time to minimize business risk through employment agreements with important employees? Using the right tools at the right time is critically important to the owners we work with. You may be thinking, “I don’t have the time needed to gain the knowledge necessary to help owners with issues such as these. I’ve got a practice to run! I’m not going to charge ahead with Exit Planning when I’m not confident of what I’m doing.”  

We understand your concerns. BEI Members know what questions to ask owners and they use EPIC™ Exit Planning Software to generate a variety of appropriate recommendations. It takes about 10 hours to take our initial training course and about an additional 15 to complete our advanced course. After completion of both of these training courses, you would be eligible for the Certified Exit Planner designation. Let’s look at how we use knowledge of the planning process and relevant tools in planning. 

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One Tool in Action 

It’s helpful to look at how process and execution interact in a typical Exit Planning situation. Let’s say you discover that an owner wants to motivate a key employee to increase revenue in her business and asks you for help. By asking relevant questions, you learn that this owner is unwilling to sell but is interested in designing an incentive plan that rewards the key employee for overall revenue growth of the company. Using this input, you use BEI’s EPIC Planning software to offer several possible recommendations, including: 

  • Cash bonus 
  • Cash bonus with partial deferral for a year or so 
  • Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plan 
  • Phantom Stock Plan 
  • Stock Appreciation Rights Plan 

Each recommendation contains a short description of situations when it might be appropriate, what it is, and what it does. For example, these recommendations would include a discussion of incentive formulas, vesting schedules, and forfeiture provisions. Based on the owner’s response to a recommendation, the Exit Planning Advisor often suggests a meeting with a professional experienced in designing and implementing the specific recommendation. This leads us to the next factor: access to expert advisors.  

Factor 3: Your ability to form and use a team of expert advisors 

BEI Members know that no one advisor can do it all, so they rely on their advisor teams to provide suggestions, observations, and additional (or revised) recommendations. Having a team of experts behind them gives them confidence that what they recommend is the best solution to a client’s needs. That team also gives Exit Planning Advisors confidence to pursue planning engagements and suggest appropriate courses of action. BEI provides its Members with a process and tools to find, vet, and recruit expert advisors. If done right, advisors on an advisor team are happy to work with BEI Members because they are referring them clients! 


  • Advisors become Exit Planning Advisors for personal and financial reasons. 
  • The foundation of a successful Exit Planning advisory practice is:
    • Knowledge of a proven planning process 
    • Access to a host of recommended actions to include in an owner’s Exit Plan with information on the appropriate use/situation for each. 
    • The creation and use of an expert advisor team to confirm and implement the Exit Planning Advisor’s recommended course of action and to suggest additional recommendations when appropriate.  

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