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Exit Planning: The Prescription for Client Defection

Submitted by John Brown on Fri, 11/12/2021 - 8:00am

Financial advisor Anita Patel received the call that all advisors (regardless of profession) dread; the “Thanks for everything, but I need to move on” call. Anita had worked with one of her business owner clients, Hank Brogden, for years to implement various strategies to protect his financial security and that of his family. 

“Anita,” Hank began, “I’ve really enjoyed working with you and you’ve represented me well.” Anita wasn’t sure what was coming next, but she suspected that it wasn’t going to be good. Hank continued, “Now that I’ve decided to transfer my company to my children, I’ve hired a firm that can help me figure out the best way to do that.” 

Anita’s stomach dropped. When Hank told her the name of his new advisor, Anita knew all too well that Hank’s new advisor operated a firm that was almost exactly like hers: It offered financial services to individuals—many of whom were owners of successful small to mid-size businesses. 

As Anita thought about the call, she was disappointed and a bit angry—not at Hank, but at herself. She realized that Hank’s decision to replace her had nothing to do with her performance. It had everything to do with what she and her firm couldn’t do for him. 

We know from working with hundreds of advisors that Anita’s conversation with one of her best clients is not at all uncommon. Advisors represent their clients well, then lose them to competitors who have the expertise they simply don’t have. 

Anita jotted down several thoughts about her conversation with Hank and brought them to her partners. First and foremost, many, if not most, of our owner-clients must be thinking of leaving their companies in the next several years. If we don’t help them figure out how to do so, they’ll find advisors who can.  

Secondly, we have deep expertise in helping our clients manage their assets and investments, but we’ve overlooked our business owners’ biggest asset: their companies. Their business exits are likely the most significant financial event of their lives, and we just don’t have the skills or experience necessary to be a valuable resource for them. And finally, what can we do to prevent losing the business clients we’ve served well for years? 

Anita argued that her firm needed to offer clients Exit Planning expertise and her partners agreed. She believed that she could use Exit Planning to retain her existing owner-clients and attract more to her firm. Her partners were supportive, but had several concerns: 

  • How much time would it take for Anita to become proficient in Exit Planning? Her schedule was already full. 
  • How much did Anita need to learn in order to be able to help her owners exit? Anita and her partners did not want to launch an entirely new offering without being well prepared. 
  • Would Anita need any support from the firm if she added Exit Planning to her practice? If so, what kind and from whom? 
  • Can Anita attract and engage successful owners while she is acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to Exit Plan? 

Anita had her own list of concerns as she thought about adding Exit Planning to her practice. She wondered how she would approach her owner clients about Exit Panning? How could she explain the Exit Planning Process and how it was going to benefit her clients and prospects? She then needed to figure out what kind of information she needed to learn about her clients, their goals, and their businesses to create the right exit strategy. Configuring her advisor team was also going to be a new hurdle for her. Which professionals can partner with? No one in her firm has done Exit Planning before. She wasn’t sure who she could turn to for help and support in creating Exit Plans. This was all new territory to her but like every new venture, it just takes time and support to find success. 

We’ve helped thousands of advisors like Anita avoid losing good clients. Adding Exit Planning expertise to your practice ensures clients can look to you as they undertake the most important financial and business decision of their lives—exiting successfully. The good news is incorporating Exit Planning into your practice isn’t as daunting as it might seem. Schedule some time with a member of the BEI Team. We’ll talk through the goals you have for your practice, create a customized plan together based on the platform that best suits your needs, and execute that plan so you can start working with clients to reach their goals.  

In our next post, we’ll talk about another benefit of adding Exit Planning to your practice: Gaining access to successful owners you would not otherwise have the ability to represent.  

TAKEAWAYS 

  • A significant percentage of business owners plan to exit their companies within 10 years, and most would exit immediately if they could achieve financial security. 
  • Business owners need advisors who have experience and expertise in Exit Planning. 
  • Advisors with Exit Planning expertise use it to: 
    • Retain successful owners already on their client lists. 
    • Attract successful owners to their practices. 
    • Differentiate their practices from their competitors. 

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