“Let us, therefore, decide upon the goal and upon the way and not fail to find some experienced guide who has explored the region towards which we are advancing; for the conditions of this journey are different from those most travel.” –Seneca, “On the Happy Life” (AD 58)
As business owners approach their business exits, they often find that going it alone puts them at a distinct disadvantage. Likewise, they often find that even the advisors who have served them best don’t have the tools or experience to guide them through creating a proper Exit Plan.
In this article, we’ll show you how BEI-trained Exit Planning Advisors do Exit Planning differently than general Exit Planning practitioners. More importantly, we’ll show you why that difference matters to business owners looking to exit on their terms.
Before we begin, it’s important to define three terms:
- Exit Planning: Exit Planning is the creation and execution of a strategy that enables business owners to exit their businesses.
- Exit Planning Advisor: An Exit Planning Advisor facilitates the activities of all advisors and ensures the Exit Plan’s timely execution. He or she serves at the leader or quarterback of the Exit Planning Advisor Team.
- The BEI Exit Planning Process: The BEI Exit Planning Process is the creation and execution of a strategy that enables owners to exit their businesses on their terms. It is a proven process that advisors use to create written road maps (i.e., Exit Plans) by working cooperatively with each other and with their business-owning clients.
Further, the BEI Exit Planning Process has five distinct features that differentiate it from other forms of Exit Planning:
- It’s owner-centric.
- It’s led by a trained Exit Planning Advisor.
- It’s written down.
- It’s process-driven.
- It’s the work of a team of advisors.
Today, we will look more deeply at what an Exit Planning Advisor is, what makes BEI-trained Exit Planning Advisors different, and why that matters to business owners.
What Does an Exit Planning Advisor Do?
An Exit Planning Advisor (or Exit Planner) creates an owner’s business Exit Plan and executes the plan to its successful conclusion. As Seneca noted, “The conditions of this journey are different from those most travel.” This journey requires an expert guide—an Exit Planning Advisor. What makes BEI-trained Exit Planning Advisors different is that they arm themselves with a road map illustrating the Exit Planning Process, are supported by an expert Advisor Team, and use state-of-the-art project management software.
Why Do BEI Exit Planning Advisors Matter to Business Owners?
Business owners seek BEI-trained Exit Planners for five reasons.
1. BEI Exit Planning Advisors Work For Business Owners' Interests
As we discussed in our last article, BEI Exit Planning Advisors are guided by each owner’s individual goals. While the sale of services from his or her profession is important, it never guides an Exit Planning Advisor’s strategies. Exit Planning Advisors only offer those services when they move owners closer to their goals.
Initially, Exit Planning Advisors meet with business owners (and usually their spouses) to gather information, establish owner goals and aspirations, and determine the resources available to achieve an individual owner’s planning objectives. They use this information to calculate the gap, if any, between the resources an owner has today and those needed to live the post-exit lives they desire. Consider what one BEI Member says about how he works for his clients.
The Gap Analysis, or process of comparing an owner’s current resources to the resources needed to exit successfully, is critical to the Exit Plans we create. The Gap Analysis tells everyone—owner, my advisor team, and me—whether an owner’s desired exit date is realistic and how much work we have to do before that date. –BEI Member Patrick Carroll, CFP®
2. Exit Planning Advisors Work With Other Advisors
Designing an owner’s Exit Plan involves the efforts of several advisors. No single advisor has all of the skills necessary to assess resources, project cash flow, build and protect business value, minimize taxation, and ensure business continuity and family financial security. And these are just some of the tasks involved in Exit Planning. Consider again what a successful BEI Member said about working with an Advisor Team.
As an Exit Planner, I’m very selective about the advisors I work with. They have to be knowledgeable and work with me as a partner, rather than as a referral source. They have to be team players because Exit Planning is all about collaboration. –Andrew Karlen, attorney and BEI Member
3. Exit Planning Advisors Understand Timing
Exit Planning Advisors orchestrate the activities of numerous advisors, and they call on the right advisors at the right time. For example, during Exit Planning, an owner’s business attorney may recommend and draft an employment agreement and incentive plan for management. The business appraiser will value the business, the actuary will prepare a defined benefit illustration, the business consultant will recommend additional training for the marketing department, and the life insurance advisor will recommend key-person life insurance on the owner’s life.
Each of these facets are important, but without the Exit Planner’s direction and facilitation, utter confusion will reign. BEI Members have the tools to call on, coordinate, and maintain accountability for all advisors at all points throughout the Exit Planning Process.
4. Exit Planning Advisors Are Project Managers
Exit Planning Advisors encourage advisors to add or revise ideas and recommendations, individually or as a group. They create plan documents, assign tasks to the appropriate advisors, and coordinate meetings with other teammates and with owners. In skillfully leading the Process, they maximize the Advisor Team’s efficiency and effectiveness. That matters to owners because it allows them to pursue the exits they want without wasting valuable time or money.
5. Exit Planning Advisors Are Great Communicators
Before business owners consider undertaking Exit Planning, they have to be convinced of its immediate and long-term value. Exit Planning Advisors are skilled in uncovering an owner’s greatest planning needs and communicating the benefits of addressing those needs through BEI’s tools, strategies, and software. In fact, once the Exit Planning engagement is underway, the Exit Planning Advisor is the communication hub for the business owner, the business owner’s family and management team, and the Advisor Team.
Next week, we’ll discuss the reasons why Exit Plans are always written down.