Each month, BEI has a group of advisors that attend our Exit Planning Boot Camp Livestream training. Over the years of conducting these trainings, we have noticed a trend. These advisors report that the two biggest issues in their Exit Planning practices are: 1) Getting the attention of owners and directing them to the need to plan their business exits and: 2) Their own lack of planning knowledge and experience.
Advisors tell us the most common owner responses to the mention of Exit Planning are:
- I’m too busy to do any additional planning.
- I don’t need to plan my business exit because I can exit my business whenever I want.
- If Exit Planning were truly necessary, one of my advisors would have mentioned it.
- When I’m ready to exit my business, I’ll start planning.
In this post, we will propose several possible responses to the first objection: “I’m too busy to start or do any additional planning.”
What Owners Say About Being Too Busy
In the BEI 2016 Survey of Business Owners, we asked, “Are any of the following options preventing you from planning for the successful exit from your company?”
The responses from most of the business owners that we interviewed were as follows:
- 31%: While I feel some urgency, other issues require my immediate attention.
- 22%: I’m too busy.
- 18%: It is not a priority for me.
- 11%: I just don’t have the time, energy, or cash to spend on this process.
Given that respondents could select more than one response, it is likely that about half of all owners believe they’re too busy and don’t have the time to plan their exits. Put that response in the context of owners’ recognition of the value of planning: Eighty percent of these owners also responded that they knew they needed to plan and act to exit successfully. But they aren’t planning. They are consumed with today’s business challenges, exploiting current opportunities, and putting out burning and smoldering fires.
What Can Advisors Say About Planning?
Given the results from the Business Owner Survey, it’s clear that owners aren’t going to be proactive with planning for the future and secure successful business exits. It’s up to their advisors to come to them and let them know why they need to plan.
There are several approaches that successful advisors use to attract owner attention to start the planning process and engage them, but here are just two:
They propose action-based Exit Planning. They ask owners about their top-of-mind problems, the ones that occupy most of their time and attention. These advisors then offer to address those pressing problems immediately. They understand that it’s a waste of time to tell them how they can plan for some distant event years in the future. Instead, they tell them they can help them with today’s business challenges – and that tends to get their attention.
They link owners’ immediate concerns to Exit Planning recommendations. Exit Planning Advisors use BEI’s Recommendation Sets as a source for actions they can recommend addressing an owner’s immediate concerns. For example, a proactive advisor might say, “Your concern that your key employee could leave tomorrow with valuable information or relationships is a valid one. Once I know a bit more about your business, I will propose one or more specific actions that you can take immediately to incentivize that employee to stay and help grow your business.”
Owners aren’t going to take the initiative to start the planning conversation with you, and furthermore don’t believe they have time for planning. Don’t let them wait until it’s too late. In order to be effective and help your clients reach their post-exit lifestyle goals, you must consistently and continuously deliver a message on the need to start planning today and to take that first step with you.
- Lead with action-based planning. Instead of proposing Exit Planning to a busy owner suggest that you two act immediately to resolve their most pressing issue. Promise action, not planning.
- Focus on actions you can take to reduce an owner’s current “busyness.” Show them how these actions can help them save time in the near term.