At BEI, we focus on process because we know it works, but it’s necessary to reiterate that the most important part of Exit Planning isn’t the process. The most important part of Exit Planning is the prospect, the business owner.
I recently spoke with an advisor, Matt, whose planning-practice partner, Alice, had been speaking with several business-owning prospects about their business exits. Matt told me that while Alice was having plenty of meetings with business owners, none of them were turning into client work. In fact, most of the business owners Alice had spoken with ended up working with different planning firms.
Matt decided to sit down with Alice for a debrief after each meeting to try to figure out what was going wrong. After several debriefs, Matt realized the problem: Alice had become so enamored with their planning process that her love for the process began to overshadow the prospect’s needs and wants.
From our perspective, there’s no doubt that having a process for Exit Planning is crucial. BEI Advisors often tell us that their clients truly appreciate the Process itself and that the Process is a primary reason they choose to work with an experienced BEI Exit Planning Advisor. But at the end of the day, the process can never outshine the prospect.
To business owners, the process doesn’t matter if they don’t understand how it applies to them specifically, regardless of the process’ track record of success for other owners. That’s why the most important aspect of Exit Planning, especially in the early stages, is developing a strong relationship between the owner and the Exit Planning Advisor.
It’s vital to remember that Exit Planning as practiced by BEI Advisors hinges on helping business owners exit on their terms. This means that advisors must know what their business-owning prospects want and need, and why they want and need those things. The only way for advisors to learn those details is to build an authentic relationship with their business-owning prospects. Once advisors learn what business owners care about, worry about, and want to achieve, then they can show owners how their process can help them achieve those unique goals.
Learning about what business owners want, need, and care about is so significant that it’s a critical part of Step One of the BEI Exit Planning Process. BEI provides its Advisors with the questions they need to learn about all of the critical aspects of their prospective client’s priorities and interests, including informal discussion ideas and structured questions for formal discovery meetings. The tools BEI provides advisors helps them avoid situations in which the process takes precedence over the prospect.
As more advisors take on the duty of providing Exit Planning to business owners, it’s more important than ever for owners and advisors to know that Exit Planning is not a transaction. Exit Planning is consultative, and the most successful Exit Planning Advisors put their prospects before their process at all times. Only after they’ve learned what their prospects want and need do they introduce the process that helps their clients get what they want and need from a business exit.