How Business Owner Goals Affect the Exit Planning Advisor

Submitted by John Brown on Fri, 01/25/2019 - 12:00pm
A picture drawn in permanent marker with stick figures showing a person’s reaction to the terms “Funding,” “Saving,” and “Benefit” in the context of a linear relationship among the three terms.

Today, our topic is goals: specifically, the goals owners want their business exits to achieve. In The BEI Seven Step Exit Planning Process™, the goals business owners have drive every action advisors take. Consequently, setting exit goals is the critically important first step for advisors, the business owners they work with, and the Exit Planning Process overall.

Let’s start with the benefits goal setting brings to advisors, owners, and the functionality of the Exit Planning Process. In our next post, we’ll describe the three types of exit goals.

The Benefits of Goal Setting to the Advisor

For advisors, the most effective way to serve business-owning clients and grow their practices is to help their clients successfully achieve their goals. This is especially true for business Exit Planning. Exit Planning Advisors are hired to help owners exit their businesses—likely the biggest financial event of their lives—in the way that meets all of their objectives. The magnitude of this event—reaping value from their lives’ work to achieve future financial security for themselves and their families—raises the stakes for the work advisors do.

In addition to being valuable to their clients, helping owners set goals (and subsequently taking them through the Exit Planning Process) has four primary benefits to advisors.

Benefit 1:  Exit Planning Advisors Are the First Advisor to Talk to Owners About Their Exit Goals

Advisors who base their representation on an owner’s goals—rather than on the services they offer—are likely to be more successful, and have more and better engagement opportunities. Why?

First, whether owners express an interest in Exit Planning or not, they are thinking about their business exits. According to The BEI 2016 Business Owner Survey Report, 80% of all surveyed owners wish to exit within 10 years, and our experience suggests that 75% of baby boomers seek to exit within five years.

Second, given this short time horizon, you would think that owners would be eager to discuss their exit wishes with their advisors. You’d be wrong. We suspect that one reason owners don’t have these conversations is because they don’t think most advisors can help. They’re usually right.

Third, if relatively few owners have had a conversation with an advisor about exiting, it is primarily because no advisor has asked them any questions. That’s why we recommend that advisors start asking owners about what goals they want to achieve.

Finally, talking with owners about the goals and aspirations they’ve set for themselves, their businesses, and their families flows naturally into a discussion of the process an Exit Planning Advisor uses to help them reach those goals. If an Exit Planning Advisor understands BEI’s Exit Planning Process, that Exit Planning Advisor will be the first advisor they’ve met who can describe a proven process to make their goals a reality.

Bottom line: Exiting a business successfully is a major issue for boomers and other owners, yet few advisors have thought to ask, “Have you given any thought to someday leaving your business?”

Benefit 2: Goal Setting Spurs Owner Action

Owners without goals have no reason to take action. Further, owners (like the fictional one you will meet in our next post) who plan to exit “in five years” generally feel no urgency to take action anytime soon because this goal is not actionable. Contrast that with the owner who wishes to exit on June 1, 2023, and understands that significant business growth is needed to achieve her goals. Which owner is likelier to spring into action?

Benefit 3:  Goal Setting Makes the Exit Planning Advisor the Lead Advisor

Leading the goal-setting exercise logically positions the Exit Planning Advisor as the facilitating advisor who will coordinate the actions of an owner’s other professional advisors. Exit Planning Advisors work with a team because no single professional has all the skills necessary to:

  • Execute the strategies necessary to achieve all of an owner’s goals.
  • Prepare owners for life outside of their businesses.
  • Prepare businesses to run successfully without their owners.

Even if advisors don’t assume the leadership role in Exit Planning, knowing the direction and timing of their clients’ business exits is crucial to their client relationships and ongoing representation.

Benefit 4:  Goal Setting Shifts the Focus of the Client Relationship

When advisors work with owners to establish their goals, their role shifts from “advisor to the business” to include “advisor to the owner.” Since the advisor’s relationship is with the owner, it is more likely to endure long after the owner’s business exit is complete.


  • Asking owners what they want their exits to accomplish changes an owner’s perception of the advisor. Owners see the Exit Planning Advisor as a person focused on what’s important to them instead of someone who wants to sell them a product or service. That alone sets Exit Planning Advisors apart from all others.
  • Helping owners set the goals for their business exits changes the Exit Planning Advisor’s relationships with owners. It positions the Exit Planning Advisor as their long-term advocate who is totally focused on achieving what they want and overcoming the challenges they face.

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