Planning for major events can sometimes cause a sense of dread. There are so many things to consider, and so many things that can potentially go wrong, that it becomes tempting to ignore what needs to be done in favor of easier things you already know how to do. Whether it’s planning a honeymoon, a long family trip, or a business exit, it’s easy to say, “I’ll do it later, when I’m less busy.”
In Exit Planning, one of the hardest hurdles for business owners to overcome is planning fatigue. Planning fatigue is when business owners are exhausted by either the act or thought of planning their business exits. A common objection that business owners share with their Exit Planning Advisors is, “I don’t have time to do this right now. Let’s talk about it later.” Usually, this objection arises for two reasons:
- Owners want to complete other tasks that they consider more pressing now.
- Owners are intimidated by how much work Exit Planning seems to be.
In this article, we’re going to look at how business owners can overcome planning fatigue and why Exit Planning isn’t as much work for business owners as they might think.
Why It’s Important to Keep Planning Momentum Going
A common assumption business owners make is that they can delay planning their business exits until they are ready. In our experience and the experience of many Exit Planning Advisors, waiting too long is one of the biggest reasons why business owners don’t have successful business exits. On the surface, it might make sense for owners to want to wait until they are ready to exit to start planning for it. But when owners start to dig deeper, they realize a few things that can make them reconsider this mind-set.
First, most owners take for granted how indispensable they are to their businesses’ success. When owners are indispensable, it means that most of their businesses’ value is derived from them. In other words, if they were ever to leave the business, the business would be worth less, if not worthless.
This means that if owners want the freedom to choose when they exit, they must start planning before they’re ready to exit to properly adjust their businesses to run smoothly without them. This brings the added benefit of relieving owners of many responsibilities. Since the goal is to make the business less reliant on them, owners can foist responsibilities they don’t like onto other, more qualified people, freeing up time for them to do only what they want as they prepare for their inevitable business exits.
Second, most owners don’t realize how long it takes to prepare their businesses for their exits. On average, it takes 5–10 years for an owner to properly plan a business exit. When owners see those numbers, many of them balk because they think that to exit their businesses successfully, they must spend every waking hour of their business lives on Exit Planning. That’s not the case. Though it may take a cumulative 5–10 years to create and implement an Exit Plan, the owner’s Exit Planning Advisor and Advisor Team bear the brunt of the work. The owner’s involvement is key to success, but it often comes at a fraction of the time (and cost) they believe it will.
When business owners shed these assumptions, it becomes much easier for them to avoid planning fatigue. But what about once they’ve committed to Exit Planning? Why should they keep the momentum going once they’ve started planning for the most important financial event of their business lives?
Consistent Planning Breeds Success
To quote Allan VanderHamm, a successful Exit Planning Advisor, “Inertia is the enemy of success. Momentum is the friend of success.” It’s much more difficult for owners and their advisors to create and implement successful Exit Plans if they constantly need to start and stop every month or more. Constantly stopping and restarting the process can cause frustration and apathy among owners and advisors, which can torpedo an owner’s chances at a successful exit.
Consistently progressing through the Exit Planning Process—even in small, incremental steps—is much more likely to produce the results owners want and expect than working in fits and starts. Exit Planning Advisors can keep owners and advisors consistently up to date using various tools, including their Exit Planning software. They also provide owners with clear steps for what they need to do next to achieve their goals. But none of that matters unless business owners can maintain the planning fire that will give them control over a successful business exit. Owners must remind themselves that staying consistent in their planning will breed great success for themselves, their families, and their businesses once they exit.
Consistent Planning Speeds Up the Process
Think about the last huge project you did. When you had no interruptions and could focus on the task at hand, you managed to get the project done more quickly. Once distractions began to crop up, it took time away from the bigger project. When you went back to it, you likely had to reacquaint yourself with what you were doing in the first place, which took even more time away from you.
Though Exit Planning can’t eliminate distractions from business owners’ business schedules, it can speed up the process of planning a business exit. Because the Exit Planning Advisor and Advisor Team do most of the planning work for the owner—based on the owner’s goals, needs, and wants—owners who keep their planning momentum going can get through the process more quickly. And again, business owners typically end up with fewer responsibilities—and thus, fewer distractions—as a function of Exit Planning, since the goal of Exit Planning is to position the business to thrive without the owner.
Consistent Planning Lowers Costs
It’s no secret that good Exit Planning Advisors and Advisor Teams will cost business owners money. The upshot of that fact is that Exit Planning Advisors and their Advisor Teams are motivated to be as efficient as their business-owning clients demand. When business owners remain committed to completing the Exit Planning Process, they can minimize the amount they pay their advisors for Exit Planning services while maximizing the return on investment Exit Planning brings. Most business owners would gladly pay tens of thousands of dollars now in exchange for millions of dollars five years from now and the freedom to do whatever they want with the rest of their lives.
A cynic might scoff at this and say, “I can really minimize costs by not doing Exit Planning at all.” For business owners who want to gamble with the comfort of their post-exit lives; their families’ future financial security; and their legacies among their employees, business partners, and communities, refusing to do Exit Planning or allowing the process to stall is certainly an option. But over the years, we’ve noticed that business owners are typically most upset that they didn’t prioritize Exit Planning over other short-term distractions sooner, due to the massive return on investment and the short- and long-term benefits it provides them. That’s why it’s important to keep the planning momentum going.
At the end of the day, owners don’t do Exit Planning because they must. They do it for the sake of their families, their employees, their communities, and the benefit of a comfortable post-exit life. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to do whatever it takes to overcome planning fatigue and maintain planning momentum.