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Feb 1, 201812:15 PMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

What exactly does an ‘exit planner’ do? Are you into funerals?

(page 2 of 2)

All three aspects are tightly intertwined. You can’t think about one without spilling over into the others. Answer “no” to any one of the above questions and it’s time to breathe new life into that aspect, and likely the other two, as well. To do that, you need a set of plans. For example:

  • If your financial analysis shows you need more resources to meet your goals, you may need to strengthen the business so that you can increase its value and harvest more wealth from it.
  • If you’re running out of steam and just don’t feel like doing this anymore, you need to look at your financial situation as well as the business. Is the business transferable? Are these two aspects set to optimize each other? If yes, do you know what you’ll do next? Have you set the stage to dive into the new activities, or will you be bored and lost after the first few months of golf?
  • Lastly, if your business isn’t in good health or can’t survive without you, it’s time to change that. You’re at serious risk of not being able to harvest the wealth you need to retire on.

Did you notice that the timing of the exit isn’t included? That is deliberate. The stronger your plan — including plans for growth — the less important the timing of actual exit becomes. The goal should be to make your business “sell-by” date irrelevant. The plan comes with the process described below, which routinely checks in on where the owner and the business are. The owner is able to make the decision to sell at a moments notice if he or she wants or a crisis demands, or decline if there’s still plenty of gas in the tank and he or she doesn’t want to.

So back to the question, “What does an exit planner do?” A certified exit-planning advisor (CEPA) guides business owners through the holistic process that helps assess and answer the questions above. The CEPA helps develop and support the implementation of the owner’s plans.

We’ve adopted the EPI Value Acceleration Model into our approach. The best way to envision what a CEPA does it to think of the business owner as the owner of a football team. The CEPA is the quarterback, bringing the other team members together to get the win. The quarterback is a collaborator with all the owner’s other key advisors (wealth, legal, investment banking, tax, etc.). They act as the owner’s exit plan project manager, facilitator, and at times, devil’s advocate and accountability officer. Together, they help the owner breathe new life into the business and his or her own future.

Scott, when you see Jane again, please let her know that exit planning is not the end of life. It’s quite the opposite.

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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”

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