In this week’s blog post, we interview Steve Zeller, President, Co-founder, and Senior Wealth Advisor for Zeller Kern Wealth Advisors, serving the Sacramento, California area, and Boise, Idaho. He is a well-credentialed advisor with over 25 years of experience.
Along with traditional wealth advisement, he works closely with first- and second-generation business owners to help build the value of their company with an approach that focuses on growth, scalability, and sustainability, all while giving the owner greater flexibility and control. He also works with business owners and individual families to grow and preserve wealth for the remainder of their lifetime and future generations.
Steve has written several articles and conducts regular public speaking engagements on the subjects of Business Value Building and developing family legacies. He is also President and Co-founder of the Sacramento Professional Advisor Network, an organization of established advisors for business owners.
BEI: Why did you decide to work with business owners to help them exit?
Steve: I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I think I have an understanding of what it takes to build and operate a successful business, as I own one myself. Plus, after earning a degree in Business/ Marketing in college, I gained experience working as a Territory Manager for a consumer products company and learned product development and product promotion. Because of this, I’m able to connect with the business owners better than most other financial advisors.
So, after being in the profession of a Financial Planner and Advisor for approximately 15 years, I made it a goal to build my skill sets so I could more effectively serve the business owner and add unique value through my planning capabilities. I discovered the practice of Business Exit Planning at a conference that I attended and so I pursued it through BEI. I joined BEI, in 2012, and obtained the certification of a Certified Business Exit Planner (CExP). I continue, to this day, to expand my knowledge and capabilities within the practice of Business Exit Planning to better serve the business owner. My firm also has developed other planning capabilities to serve the business owner such as Family Legacy Planning, Continuity Planning, Retirement Plan Consulting, etc.
BEI: Tell us about an unexpected challenge you have encountered working with business owners. How did it impact you or your practice and how did you overcome the problem?
Steve: The biggest challenge I run into time and time again is being able to get in front of business owners early enough to actually start some proactive planning. In so many instances business owners are ready to sell today, they have a buyer lined up, they know exactly how much their business is worth (even without a formal evaluation), and to no surprise, the deal falls apart.
I explain to my clients that this process can sometimes take years to develop properly in order for them to be in a place where they can sell their business to whoever they want.
The other challenge I run into is in the private equity space. Lately, it seems only if a business owner has a net EBITA of a million dollars and higher, private equity is interested in speaking with them about selling. These transactions are happening much faster, and we can’t seem to get in fast enough to help with the planning that those business owners require, to get a higher selling price or a selling price that is going to better fit their life goals.
The solution that has significantly helped us get in front of those fast-moving deals or business owners that want to sell immediately, is making connections. I have co-founded a networking group with various different kinds of advisors including M&A Advisors called Sacramento Professional Advisor Network.
I have had some challenges with some M&A Advisors in the past because they often didn’t completely understand the need for Exit Planners and were reluctant to work with me. Maybe it is that they are protective of their clients or business, which I can understand. But the reality is, I can potentially make their lives easier, shorten the business selling cycle, and make the entire process more productive for them.
With this networking group that I helped to create, I think I have finally gotten the point across that we can be partners and my services can be of assistance to other advisors. We can work together to find the right deal for these hard-working business owners. Our networking group meets once a month to share active cases and talk through solutions, and even refer other advisors to the business owners. It has been very helpful, and I have made a lot of great connections through this group.
I also launched my own blog, Family Fortunes, in December of 2019. I write on various topics such as business Exit Planning, family legacy development, family governance, retirement planning, etc. My goal with this blog is to provide relevant content for the business owner and write articles that discuss topics that you don’t typically see.
BEI: How has your involvement with BEI impacted your practice?
Steve: BEI has helped me build a better understanding of Exit Planning that I have been able to implement into my practice. I have established a solid foundation of support for building plans for my clients thanks to the BEI tools, resources, and helpful team.
Through BEI’s events and National Conference, I have also expanded my network immensely. I still speak regularly with colleagues that I have met at the BEI National Conference. They have been very productive.