This article kicks off a series about the roles and opportunities Exit Planning Advisors have to help owners during each Step of The BEI Seven Step Exit Planning Process™. Today, we’ll talk about how Advisors help owners identify their financial goals and objectives. Sounds simple, right? Advisors ask a few questions about what the owner wants to do, get some answers, and move on to the more interesting, technical stuff.
In reality, helping business owners clarify and prioritize the objectives that they want to achieve when they exit their businesses often takes more time than any other Step of the Exit Planning Process. While all Steps require Advisor knowledge and expertise, this Step requires Advisor insight: Advisors will need to listen to what owners say and what they don’t say. They’ll need to steer owners away from their families’ goals, management teams’ goals, and the business’ goals, and toward fulfilling their own goals foremost.
In many cases, Advisors will be asking questions no one has asked the owner before.
The foundation of any successful Exit Plan is the business owner’s financial goal:
What does the owner need financially in order to exit successfully?
With this question, Advisors are looking for the pre-tax amount of income that the owner needs post-exit. Advisors must help the owner distinguish between what the owner needs and what the owner wants.
As Advisors discern wants from needs, they must understand that the best way to guarantee Exit Plan failure is to accept an owner’s best-guess answer rather than rely on a skilled financial planner to provide guidance.
If the Advisor is not a financial-planning professional (and most Exit Planners are not), he or she cannot let this first Step become frustrating or a deterrent to planning. The reason Exit Planning Advisors work with a team of advisors to create Exit Plans is to match the abilities of the appropriate professional to the task at hand.
Once business owners provide a realistic financial goal, we suggest that Advisors ask them the following question:
Are you willing to exit your business, and transfer ownership and control without assurance of financial security?