Recently, one of my colleagues at BEI shared a story with me. He was talking to a family member, Steven, who is a successful principal at one of the Big Four accounting firms. Steven asked him what he was doing for work these days, and my colleague told him he was working in the Exit Planning industry.
“Exit Planning,” Steven said to him. “What is that?”
Every so often, we’ll come across successful advisors who are unfamiliar with Exit Planning. Despite how quickly the industry is growing as many baby boomers approach their exits, one fact remains: Exit Planning is still a relatively new thing. BEI was the first, and is the largest and most comprehensive, Exit Planning enterprise around, and we just turned 22 years old. So, even though most business owners and advisors quickly understand why Exit Planning matters once they learn about it, there’s still a sizable segment of owners and advisors who don’t know what Exit Planning is or why anyone does it.
In this post, we will outline some of the basics about Exit Planning, explain why business owners and advisors do it, and present how BEI helps advisors successfully advise their business-owning clients in all aspects of their business exits.
What Is Exit Planning?
Simply, Exit Planning is a comprehensive strategy that allows business owners to leave their businesses when they want, for the money they need, and to whomever they choose. Exit Planning is a team effort that includes at least one business owner, an Exit Planning Advisor, and an Advisor Team. Just about any successful advisor who works with business owners can become an Exit Planning Advisor if they choose and have ambition.
Why Do People Do Exit Planning?
Successful business owners and good advisors share a few common traits. They like to have as much control over their destinies as possible. They are highly competitive. They like to win. In tandem, these traits make Exit Planning a perfect pursuit, because Exit Planning provides control, is inherently competitive, and works toward important goals—which speaks to the desire to achieve and win. But what, specifically, draws owners and advisors to Exit Planning?
Why Business Owners Do Exit Planning
For business owners, there are two seismic events that are guaranteed to happen solely because they’re business owners. The first is founding the business. When founding their businesses, nearly all successful business owners have some sort of business plan in place. The plan evolves over time and circumstances, but rarely do businesses succeed without one.
The second seismic event is exiting the business. Every single business owner leaves the business someday, whether they choose to leave, or leave due to death or permanent incapacitation. Even though most business owners have a plan to found and run a business, only 17% of surveyed business owners have a written Exit Plan. There are numerous reasons for why owners delay Exit Planning—the most common of which is time constraints—but one thing is clear: The most common regret that business owners express is not starting Exit Planning sooner.
Owners regret not starting Exit Planning sooner because of all the aspects that Exit Planning addresses for them. Most business owners commit to Exit Planning because it lets them get the most money from their businesses when they exit, it allows them to exit when they want, and it doesn’t force them to sell to anyone whom they wouldn’t want running their businesses.
In addition to these Big Three goals, business owners find that Exit Planning helps them clarify what’s important to them, both while they are in the business and for after they exit. For instance, countless owners begin the Exit Planning Process thinking they absolutely must sell to a third-party buyer. But then, Exit Planning shows them just how important their employees mean to them. When confronted with a third-party buyer who wants to give them the moon for their businesses on the condition that local operations be shut down, some owners cannot follow through on their initial wants.
In short, Exit Planning helps owners articulate exactly what they want before they make plans based on unexamined assumptions. This lets them get what they want from their exits, no matter what those wants may be. Exit Planning lets owners stay in control of the most important aspects in their lives: their businesses, their legacies, their families, and their destinies.
Why Advisors Do Exit Planning
There are many reasons why advisors to business owners provide Exit Planning services. Here are three of the most common.
Advisors constantly search for ways to stand out from their competitors. When advisors learn that 75% of surveyed owners would exit their businesses today if only they had financial security, but only 17% of those owners have written Exit Plans, a light goes off. With so many business owners wanting to exit and so few with a plan to do so, the opportunities to provide a high-demand service are ripe.
For many CPAs, Exit Planning provides a new avenue of revenue that combats the increasing commoditization of their services. Financial advisors and M&A professionals find that they can more accurately predict future assets by working with business owners on their Exit Plans. Estate planning professionals and attorneys often practice several key elements of Exit Planning in their everyday responsibilities, meaning that incorporating Exit Planning in their practices can provide more opportunities to collect well-earned fees. These are just a few advisory professionals who benefit from Exit Planning monetarily.
By providing a proven process and the intellectual capital to allow owners to exit on their terms, advisors can justify their deserved fees, and owners are happy to pay for the top-quality planning and advice that will let them exit their businesses on their terms.
The most common reason advisors do Exit Planning is because it gives them a fuller sense of purpose. Exit Planning lets them work with business owners to strengthen the owners’ most important asset: their businesses. The Exit Planning Process helps advisors grow the value of their clients’ businesses while giving their clients the chance to do exactly what they want. On top of the fees and referrals Exit Planning brings to advisors is a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment of duty.
How BEI Fits
Given all the reasons why people do Exit Planning, the question might be, “Why don’t more advisors do it?” The answer is that Exit Planning is too much for one advisor to do alone. It requires ambition and consultative skills. Additionally, creating a process can take years, years that require an advisor’s full attention. In short, Exit Planning is hard without the right help.
BEI takes much of the difficulty out of Exit Planning. We’ve created a proven process that guides advisors from Exit Plan creation to implementation. This proven process is also customizable, meaning that advisors can properly address the most unique and complex business exits. With BEI’s Exit Planning software, EPIC, advisors can create Exit Plans, track progress, and use hundreds of years’ worth of advisor expertise. No other Exit Planning services provider has a comprehensive Exit Planning Process like BEI’s.
Additionally, we’ve developed proprietary tools, training, and strategies that help advisors integrate Exit Planning into their core practices smoothly. We provide an Exit Planning Advisor network that connects Exit Planners from different core professions around the globe. We assist advisors in both their marketing and planning endeavors.
What BEI Does Not Do
Occasionally, advisors misinterpret what BEI does. They think that BEI wants to work directly with their business-owning clients. This is never the case. BEI does not work directly with business owners. BEI only works with advisors to business owners, providing processes, strategies, and support to advisors in their Exit Planning.
BEI’s goal is to train and support business advisors to be the preeminent Exit Planning resource for business owners in their communities.
So, what is Exit Planning and why do people do it? Exit Planning is a comprehensive strategy that advisors use to help business owners and their families get the most out of their lives’ work. Business owners and advisors do Exit Planning to fulfill their biggest goals and dreams. BEI trains, supports, and guides advisors to complete those tasks, which allows business owners to exit their businesses on their terms.
For owners and advisors, Exit Planning is potentially the most lucrative and fulfilling opportunity of their business lives.