Death … taxes … feelings?
You know that your business-owner clients don’t want to talk about this stuff. They want to run their business and make more money. They want to keep their head down and stay hyper-focused on top-line revenue and bottom-line profit. But, as their professional advisor, you have to look beyond this, look to the future, and warn them of risks they haven’t envisioned, protect them from future litigation and liabilities, and prepare them for opportunities down the road. That is what they expect from you, whether or not they want to talk about it.
The most important conversation that you’re not having is Exit Planning. Granted, you’ve likely already performed some exit-planning services for your clients when asked, retroactively: buy-sell agreements, key-man insurance, stock option plans, financial needs analysis, cash flow projections, etc. However, Exit Planning isproactive and owner-centric. It forces your client to think about what they want to have happen in the future (5-10 years ahead).
Whether you’re an attorney, CPA, wealth advisor, insurance professional, coach, or consultant you can start this conversation with three straightforward questions.
- When would you like to exit your business?
- How much will you need to receive from the sale?
- To whom will you transfer or sell the business?
Of course, the questions sound obvious but the answers are not straightforward at all. These are very loaded questions that will and should take some effort to identify and prioritize the owner’s objectives and develop a plan to reach them. You’ll need to initiate this conversation because your client will likely not bring it up … until it’s too late. Studies have shown that while 50% of business owners say that they would like to exit their business in 5 years, only 8% have done any type of written Exit Planning. Pretty scary.
So, you have two choices as a professional advisor.
1. You can wait until your clients are “ready” to talk about this and then have the unpleasant task of telling them that their business is not worth what they think, they don’t have enough to retire, or, worse, telling their widow(er) that no plan was in place in the event of your client’s death.
2. You can help your client plan for the single, most critically important financial event of their life – the transition out of their business.
I choose #2.
As a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CExP) and founder of The Exit Advisors, I work with other proactive professional advisors and take a multidisciplinary approach to developing and implementing comprehensive Exit Plans for business owners. Please contact me to see how we can work together.