Dan Sendroy, owner of Mid-Ohio Insurance Specialists, sat down with his CPA, Sandra Vero, to review his taxes on December 29th. She noted that it was a bit late to do any year-end tax planning, and suggested, “After the new year, when you have more time let’s look at what we can do to reduce taxes. I know you are also interested in, as you’ve said, ‘getting out of the rat race’ and exiting your business. We should discuss how we can help you with that as well.”
“Look Sandra, I’d love to start planning for my business exit. I’m 62, and I’d like to exit before I’m 70, but I just don’t have the time right now to plan for anything—let alone something that may never happen! You’ve heard the old expression, ‘I’m up to my eyeballs in alligators. How can I drain the swamp?’ That’s me.”
As advisors, we need to make Exit Planning easy and simple for owners like Dan and for owners who are less articulate about their business issues. To both types of owners, offering a simple and effective remedy to an owner’s most pressing issues can jump start planning and produce quick results.
For owners like Dan, start by understanding what primary issue keeps them up at night, then find a way to deal with it. It was easy for Sandra to identify Dan’s headache which was a lack of time. Had he not been able to express his frustration, Sandra might have used BEI’s 16-question assessment to help Dan identify and prioritize his chief concerns.
How do you approach owners who don’t want to complete an assessment to identify their primary problem? Don’t offer to drain the swamp—to engage in planning—in an effort to get rid of one “alligator”. Identify the alligator and offer a simple solution. Tackling one issue at a time can be much more manageable.
If you’re “just” a lawyer, CPA, or an insurance or financial advisor, your professional expertise may not include the solution to a specific owner issue. But for Exit Planners like Sandra, it doesn’t matter if the solution lies outside of their core professions.
“Dan I totally understand where you are coming from,” Sandra sympathized. “I have a couple of suggestions that will free up a lot of your time.”
“Sandra, if you have a solution” Dan responded, “I’m all ears!”
“Let’s develop a plan to transition some management responsibility from you to one or two others in your company. The purpose is to prepare your managers to deal with the alligators, so you aren’t the only one who knows how to do that.”
First, she used one of BEI’s recommendations to create a plan to transition responsibility to management. The recommendation outlined the actions necessary: Identify employees capable of assuming responsibility in areas of the business such as:
- Sales Management
- Banking Relationships
- Key Customer Relationships
- Vendor Relationships
- Technology and Innovation
- Facilities and Capital Equipment
For each person and area, Sandra suggested that she and Dan work together to identify how to measure and reward success. The recommendation also summarized the benefits to Dan and his company of proceeding immediately.
Sandra then called on her advisor team for expert advice on implementing this recommendation. Sandra had already assembled a group of professional advisors from other disciplines that included a business consultant and a management consultant. She recommended that Dan briefly meet with each advisor immediately to determine how best to quickly address Dan’s #1 headache.
While she used Exit Planning resources, she didn’t suggest to Dan that he should engage in developing an entire Exit Plan. The plan will start to fall into place after you are able to help your business owner clients tackle some of their primary concerns.
- Take time to discover your owner clients’ issues and concerns that may or may not lie outside of your profession’s domain.
- For owners not ready for in depth Exit Planning, initiate a planning relationship based on solving one or two issues at a time.
- Using “recommendations for action” and involving your own panel of outside experts to address an owner’s chief concern keeps planning straightforward.
- By helping Dan solve his #1 headache, Sandra became his “most trusted advisor.”