Monday, December 8, 2008

What Other Tax Changes Could Be In Our Future?

We are well aware of the potential income tax increases that may occur under President-elect Obama’s administration. The next question we should be asking ourselves is “What other tax changes are in our future?” Well, one can only speculate at this point, but there are several options for those looking to protect their assets from taxes that may be perceived as tax “loopholes”. These could certainly become the next target under the new administration. Options such as Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) as well as discounting for private company shares into Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs), in my opinion, would seem to have a bull’s eye on them.

A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust is one of the estate planning techniques based primarily on interest rate assumptions. The financial goal is to pass the appreciation of the assets to the beneficiaries of the trust free of gift and estate tax. Many are now guessing that GRATs may be abolished altogether or, at least, be modified from their current form. Most importantly, these changes could be made retroactive to January 1, 2009.

Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs) allow individuals to transfer personal or business assets into a partnership where limited ownership can then be granted to children or other family members. This not only lowers the estate's taxable value, it also ensures that certain assets remain in the family.

Why do you think the new administration would want to cause such a fuss over these loopholes? Well, the answer is pretty clear when you look at IRS statistics. The IRS found that U.S. companies paid federal income taxes on their reported U.S. profits at far less than the current 35% statutory rate. In the first presidential debate, Obama said: "There are so many loopholes that have been written into the tax code...that we actually see our businesses pay effectively one of the lowest tax rates in the world." In fact, newly released data from the IRS show companies paid federal and foreign income taxes on their U.S. book income, the amount reported to shareholders, at a rate of 25.3% during 2005, the most recent year for which data were made available by the IRS.1 The difference between this rate and the proposed tax increase will offer a substantial revenue source if these loopholes, as well as industry tax breaks, are contained.

The next big question is then, when will these changes take place? Here is where opinions seem to differ. Some tax experts call for tightening corporate loopholes and ending some industry tax breaks quickly, while others say such moves could be counterproductive and end up killing jobs in an economic downturn. Many economists say stimulating the economy, even if it means a record-level deficit, is simply more important right now. So, for many reasons, it looks like 2009 will be a “wait and see” year for estate planning.

No matter what happens with these potential changes, it is important to remember that you should be bringing these ideas to your clients and incorporating the potential for change into the exit planning for your business owners. Who knows, perhaps these potential changes will motivate your owners to take action on these important items, given that there is a bit of uncertainty as to where things are going to land.

So, as we continually encourage, be pro-active with promoting exit strategy planning to your business owners . . . who knows what is going to happen in Washington next year ??

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The High Road of Marketing

As a follow up to our continued focus on assisting advisors to get in front of business owners, I wanted to offer another insight into marketing your practice to get - and stay - in front of your business owner prospects.

Last week I talked about strategies for making a live presentation to business owners. That is going to be the topic of our hour-long marketing call next week.

To add to those thoughts, I wanted to offer some more insights. First and foremost, although my business grew at a very fast rate while I was making the prospecting calls and filling educational seminars, I found that my ideal clients eventually came from other sources . . . namely referrals.

Now, it is no great secret that most advisors work on presentations and networking to grow their businesses. Both take time and energy to produce results.

But what else can you be doing to generate consistent results with your marketing?

My friend Bill Losey will be sharing more than 54 different things that he does to market himself, make TV, print and radio appearances, all with the result of having a consistent stream of qualified prospects clients come to his practice with their business.

We will be encompassing these strategies within five major topics for our discussion.

  1. How to avoid the BIGGEST mistakes advisors make with their marketing.

  2. Why most advisors fail to consistently generate new leads.

  3. How to have ideal prospective clients raise their hands, pre-qualify themselves and contact you to do business.

  4. How any advisor can go from being relatively unknown to world renown in 24 months or less using the media and the internet.

  5. The ONE tool every advisor needs to build their platform and help more people.

Bill is a high-energy, brilliant advisor. What is most incredible is that Bill does all of this work - and manages his base of clients - from a home office with no other full-time assistants.

Whether or not you are a Member and will be on this call, I can tell you that the secret of my consistent results over the past 18 months has been the effective use of a combination of tools to consistently market my practice (not the least of which is this newsletter which is sent out [almost] every week). Most recently my marketing has expanded to national level media coverage to include TV, radio, podcasts, print and live presentations.

What is the absolute key to developing these strategies?

Simply making the decision to pursue multiple opportunities to market your business and committing time to do so consistently.

Establish a strategy. Organize your thoughts and actions. Stay with your program. And, most of all, be patient. Results take time.

The good news is that in this slowing economy, you can refocus your efforts towards increasing your communications with clients, centers of influence, and prospective new clients. The information that you share with any one of these groups can be leveraged to be shared with all of them. In this manner, your basic business practices can become a part of your overall marketing program to reach more prospects on a consistent basis.

So, along with live presentations to business owners, you should be focusing your business marketing efforts on many other channels as well. The live presentation gets you out from behind your desk and into the market where opportunities are created. The myriad other marketing techniques assist in driving the market of opportunities to your door. Together, you can build a campaign for 2009 that will fight back the slowing economy and drive more business to your practice.

When you couple these techniques with the powerful message that exit strategy planning holds in the marketplace, you have a combination to make 2009 a banner year for your practice.

Still thinking about getting involved with business owner in designing their exits and positioning your advisory practice to grow exponentially? Sign up for our risk-free Membership and join us for this afternoon's call.

This is one that you will not want to miss and could have the ideas that you were looking for to motivate you to build your practice stronger and better in 2009 than any time in the past.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It Works....Can't Thank You Enough

Is exit strategy planning working for your advisory business?

Well todays article illustrates a myriad of ways that it is working for other advisor's businesses.

We all know that there are millions of small business owners who need assistance with their businesses and business exits. Our Workshops reveal secrets about how to approach business owners with this topic (discussed in last week's newsletter). Advisors who follow the steps towards approaching business owners are getting results . . . and thanking us for sharing these secrets. In fact, it really comes down to confidence in the concept - that is the secret. And the key is getting started. When advisors challenge themselves to expand in this area, results are often-times immediate.

The advisors below agreed to have us share the successes that they have achieved with their marketing of this idea. I thank them once again and hope that this encourages more advisors to continue discussing this important topic with business owners.

Attendees at our latest 2-Day Exit Strategies Training Workshop report the following . . .

John, . . . A [marketing] mailing was sent out last Thursday [on the topic of exit strategy planning]. On Monday I received a telephone call from one of my clients who read my flyer. He wants me to assist him with obtaining some investment money for a company that he is involved with. His company provides alternative fuel sources through sun and wind. He has several potential contracts but needs some start up capital...He says he has about $40 million of work he can complete if he gets about $2-3 million.

Commentary: In this case, our Member will work with Pinnacle's network of transactional service providers (and cultivate his own relationships in his local market) to assist this 'stay and grow' / early stage business with achieving their capital raise. Along the way, he will be positioned in this relationship to provide guidance and support over the years that the company builds, and will assist with their personal planning for the potential future sale of this profitable business.

I was meeting with a new insurance agent for my business. We were discussing each others professions. I explained to her that beyond my accounting practice I have a new company that specializes in helping business owners exit their business. It just so happened that her father was the owner of the agency and she and her brother and sister were also in the agency. The father was working less and less, the kids were working more. She told me that she didn’t believe they had a plan and is very interested in meeting with me and her family to discuss options.

Commentary: These are the types of situations that we at Pinnacle see all of the time. Family businesses and small businesses that have succession planning issues surrounding the transfer of the business. Since 'gifting' the business is one of our 5 major exit options, this advisor is well versed in beginning a conversation about the merits of a gifting program - particularly as to the tax-efficient transfer of this wealth from one generation to the next. Again, it was just a matter of beginning the conversation. The advisor will charge a fee for the planning and position himself with two generations of owners in this business.


I sent out a press release to notify the community of the new company specializing in exit strategies. I received a call this morning from a 65 year old business owner who has a partner and wants to sell his business.

Commentary: Again, what more is there to be said. You spread the word that you can offer these services and the opportunities present themselves. If you have heard any of my Pinnacle coaching calls you come to see that the opportunities are always right in front of you . . . all you need to do is step up to meet them. This 65 year old will receive advice and guidance that he invariably needs to protect his wealth and - in all likelihood - step into a successful retirement.


I sent out a predictions story regarding the future of business transitions. It is going to be published by a “Family Business Magazine” and I have been asked to be interviewed by a franchise based publication regarding the topic.

Commentary: Yes, the media is becoming aware of the need for this service. Our Pinnacle office just launched a campaign to approach the New York / Financial media to spread this message nationwide. You can begin in your local markets and brand your practice around this valuable concept.


We held a seminar today entitled "Managing Family Wealth in Changing Markets". When I addressed the attendees (10 prospects with a minimum of $1 million of investable assets) I went off script and mentioned I help owners of privately held businesses exit their businesses. The only thing I said was that exiting does not mean selling, there are other options. One couple approached me and said they are trying to transfer their business to their children and weren't sure how to do that efficiently. We are going to talk next week.

Can't thank you enough.

Commentary: Again, it is simply a matter of letting the owners know that you can help. Once you open that door, you allow the business to come through it. The problem that we see most often is that advisors do not want to begin the conversation. This is unfortunate because the business owners in your local markets really need this help . . . and, because we are all paid for value of the services and advice that we provide, it is natural that we will make more money as advisors offering this unique service.

If you want to gain the confidence to have the exit strategy planning conversation, give our Silver Level Program a try.

Or order our Home Study Course

Either way, you will begin to make exit strategy planning a part of your practice. With a small effort, you may end up getting some rather dynamic results.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Exit planning...A Hot Topic

Why is Exit Planning such a hot topic? I could certainly can go on and on with an answer. Instead, let me tell you what our member's have to say. Many say exit planning is so hot because it is such a unique commodity. By offering this service, advisors can differentiate themselves from their competition. In addition, exit planning traditionally provides higher fees per client, making it a very attractive service to offer. Most of all, the topic is engaging because it puts the advisor in a strategic, holistic, and comprehensive position with the business owner client, making them the 'trusted advisor'.

Why Pinnacle Equity Solutions? Simply put, our attendees and Members tell us that we are the premier provider of comprehensive training and education. Our marketing and educational materials make this complex topic simple to understand and our system for delivering this conversation and solutions empowers advisors to incorporate it in their businesses immediately. Case in point is the book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth" which has been met with praise and which puts all of this content into a system that our Members are telling us empowers them to follow the step-by-step approach to incorporating exit planning into their practices.

Advisors are ordering this book in bulk to distribute to their business owner clients and prospects. In fact, one firm has made this book 'required reading' for all of its employees. Through the course of 15 chapters you are walked from beginning to end on how to incorporate this system into your business. The bottom line is that you need to have confidence to be in this business and we give you the tools, education, and support to achieve that confidence right away.

I will give away one BIG secret from the workshop that will seem like an uneventful fact, but a very powerful realization for those who attend the workshop and go back to their business owner with this idea. The secret is not a grand revelation and it does not have anything to do with the technical aspects of exit planning. In fact, the secret can be masked by its simplicity - here it is - if you have the confidence to ask the business owner 'what they want' in the context of a business exit, they will invariably open up to the conversation and share their world with you. Now, you need to have some preparation to answer this question. But, the truth behind this secret is that advisors get very caught up in not looking bad in front of their client. Therefore, they fail to ask this question and revert to offering the same services that they have been offering in the past.

I have written in many prior e-mails about the potential to explode your business forward. This simple awareness of discovering what the business owner wants, and being empowered to have a powerful conversation on the basics of exit planning, is the magic behind the implementation of this focus into your practice. Truth be told, it simply takes advisors realizing that this is a simple but very powerful question to ask. In essence, a part of the workshop is helping advisors eliminate all of the 'internal' objections to asking such a simple question, and gets them focused on providing solutions to an owner's largest asset, their privately-held business. So, I am not saying that asking this question is simple, but with the right information and tools to carry the conversation, it opens doors like no other question available to a would-be trusted advisor.

This week's topic therefore is a bit of a commercial for exit strategy planning and for Pinnacle's delivery system. However, if you have been reading along over the past months (or years) you will know that I seek only to empower those to deliver this vital message to the millions of owners who need to hear it from the people that they trust - their professional advisors.

"There is still time to get in the game" is what the 30 advisors we had in training last week were thinking. If you are thinking the same thing, you should plan on attending our next training workshop scheduled for March in Las Vegas - more details to follow.

And, as always, if you need any questions answered, do not hesitate to contact the office.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Monday, October 20, 2008

5 Tips for Weathering the Economic Storm

Challenging times present great opportunities to engage your clients and to re-focus your energies on your business development. Let's face it, when things are good, we are moving along and tend to not focus on improvements - it's human nature. So, many of the opportunities that are presented during difficult times, include the factors that you can control. You cannot control the stock market and the economy, but you can control your mindset, your communication with your clients, improvements to your service offering, a tune-up of your business plan, and positioning for for eventual recovery. Those are the topics dicussed below and the focus of this week's newlsetter.

1. Protect Yourself Against Getting Caught Up

The advisory business is like a game of golf - 90% of the game is played in the 5 1/2 inches between your ears. How you choose to remain focused and unaffected by the volatile economic events will directly impact your success. One of the easiest things to do is get 'caught up' in the turmoil. As one consultant put it, don't 'catch your client's cold' - which is fear, doubt, and worry about the future. You cannot control those fears and you cannot control the economy, but what you can do is keep your focus. This is critical to you weathering the storm.

2. Increase Your Communications with Your Customers

Although you cannot control 'outside' events, you can control the amount of communication that you have with your clients. Your clients look to their advisors for guidance through these storms. And, they are looking for the confidence that they have momentarily lost. Talk to your clients. Silence can be a great enemy in this environment. In my experience as a wealth manager, the single greatest thing that held my business together and allowed it to expand quickly was constant, pro-active communication with my clients. Try this out, I heard of it many years ago, it is the 12-4-2 program - your A clients get 12 calls per year, 4 quaterly updates, and 2 face-to-face meetings. That simple system - and the fact that your clients can rely upon that level of contact - allows you to structure your 'client fulfillment system' and begin to organize your business around making more profits, instead of reacting to client concerns. Of course, during times of crisis increased levels of communication help. However, it is the consistent communication that keeps the client comfortable in your relationship.

3. Add More Value to Your Customer for the Same Price

In tight times, you will want clients to know that you are doing more for them. Host a dinner. Make an extra call. Send a hand-written note. Or, perhaps join a program like Pinnacle's to offer advice to your business owner clients on how they can develop an exit strategy plan from their business. Increase your business during hard times so your clients can see the confidence that you have in the future and your ability to deliver better service and solutions to them on a consistent basis.

4. Work on Your Business Plan

Now that you've addressed the immediate issues of communicating with your clients and increasing the level and type of services that you will provide, go to work on your own business plan. We are in the 4th quarter of 2008 - time is flying by. We will wake up tomorrow and be celebrating the holidays. Where will your business be on Dec. 31st? Will you have hit your goals? Pull the business plan out of your draw and get back to work on improving your own business. Remember, even though we are advisors, we are also business owners. A business is built to make a profit. And profit comes from organized thought. Wipe the dust off your business plan and make improvements to it that will allow you to continue to bring in new clients so that you can . . .

5. Position Yourself for the Recovery

After the Wall Street meltdown came the greatest rally for the stock market, ever. Is that a sign of recovery? Well, I became quite a student of the markets and I like what one expert once said - that a man who has a heart attack does not get up and run a mile the next day. The markets have had a heart attack and yesterday's rally most likely does not mean that the trouble is behind us. No matter. The markets and the economy will recover - they always have and always will. They will be different than they were before, but such is life. Change is a part of life and we need to adapt to it. The winners in this meltdown will be those who address short-term needs of their clients and businesses, while also looking ahead to position themselves for the future.

How are your positioned for the recovery?

Do you know that there a millions of Baby Boomer business owners and trillions of dollars in illiquid wealth that will be transferring out of those businesses in the next 5 to 20 years as these Baby Boomer business owners look to retire.

Position yourself for the future. Learn a new skill set that will differentiate you from the competition.

Take a look at all of the levels that Pinnacle offers for you to participate in this huge exit strategy planning marketplace. We have advisors following the advice above and exploding their businesses forward. What is standing in the way of the success and profit that you want for your advisory business? Perhaps Pinnacle has an answer . . .

If you need any assistance at all, do not hesitate to contact our office at 617-367-5772 - we look forward to hearing from you.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Exit Strategy Planning Case Study for our Review

I thought that we could try putting the exit strategies training to work this week by examining a 'hypothetical' planning case - it is based off of a client; however confidentiality prevents disclosing actual figures.

In this case, we have two business owners - each equal partners in a slow growing business. The owners each own other businesses and are primarily interested in seeking exit strategy options and advice regarding their slow-growing 'advisory' business.

The owners are in their early fifties and each would like to draw some equity out of the business in question. They have approximately 25 employees with standard benefits plans in place. The owners have minimal savings outside of the business and are not well versed in the work that their attorneys have done on the estate planning side.

The business produces approximately $1.5 million in profits, for which the owners pay taxes on a large percentage. The company has elected S Corporation status, so the shareholders are paying taxes at the individual level.

Neither owner believes that they will want to, or need to, sell the business in the future. In fact, there is much evidence that the marketplace would not reward them for their efforts due to the specialized 'advisory' nature of the work that they perform.

How should we begin analysis of this planning engagement to begin to deliver an exit strategy solution to these owners?

Well, the first step in any exit strategy planning engagement is to discover what the business owners truly want. In this case, there are some differing opinions amongst the owners as to future prospects for the business. Accordingly, each owner has separately started growing other businesses. In addition, each owner is paying quite a bit in taxes each year - something that they would like to reduce if they could. In addition, the owners trust their employees but would likely not see them as successors to the business.

So, the owners ideally would like to hold onto the slow-growing business and set up an exit strategy plan for the future.

It is important to note that this engagement is actually 2 engagements. Pinnacle's system for designing exit strategy plans is weighted towards a personal analysis of each exiting owner. So, it is important to note that solutions will be offered at the company level, but applied to each of the owners individually.

Each of these owners has a Low Financial Readiness for their exit and a Low Mental Readiness for an exit. Our training shows us that there are five major exit options available to these owners - these include a sale of the business, a recapitalization, an ESOP, a Management buyout, and a gifting program.

With a Low Mental Readiness for an exit (as well as challenges with getting full value in the marketplace) the sale transaction is quickly discarded. After that, the recapitalization is put to the side because of the slow growing nature of the business. The owners feel that they are too young to begin gifting shares to anyone (although in the absence of understanding their potential estate taxation they may not truly appreciate the benefits of this 'longer term' strategy.) This leaves management buyouts and ESOPs as the likely remaining options (NOTE: In our training we do not perform thorough analysis on the 'run it forever' business owner - we assume that our owners are looking for an exit of some kind.)

Under the management buyout option, the owners would need to set a long-term, detailed plan to begin to transition responsibility in the company to the management team. This is not currently taking place but is a possibility over time. This would include new hires (with a clear description of the qualities of the person(s) that would be hired) including potential to run the business one day. We will not delve into the details of this strategy here because we are presenting an overview of the exit strategy planning needs of these owners. We will note, however, that a management buyout needs to be carefully built because these owners do not have very much money saved outside of the business - making the MBO a risky proposition today.

Finally, under the ESOP option, the owners would be looking at establishing an ESOP trust as a buyer for their shares. They will study the costs and inconvenience of establishing and running an ESOP and weigh that against the tax advantages and opportunities for personal liquidity that come with the ESOP. If the cost/benefit analysis produces substantial advantages to the owners, they will install the ESOP and monetize their investment over a number of years as they get closer and closer to retirement. In conjunction with this strategy, they will look to the future and continue to train their management team on taking over the business in the future. The key point is that the ESOP will allow these owners to monetize portions of their business over time in a very tax efficient manner.

Why be the Exit Strategy Planning Quarterback?

The advisor who brings this type of solution to the exiting owner is sure to not only win the role of 'trusted advisor' in this engagement, but will also position their advisory services within this valuable relationship.

Different advisors for this type of owner include an attorney performing estate planning work, an accountant analyzing tax saving strategies, a financial advisor looking to manage the liquid investments and plan for their retirement, an insurance provider looking to help these owners with their risk management, a business management consultant looking to assist with the efficiency of the operations, and a merger and acquisitions professional who wants to position themselves in the relationship in order to do future sales transactions on the other businesses being built (not an insignificant piece of business.)

So, no matter which type of advisor currently serves this business owner, the exit strategy planning advice is critical to these owners establishing a plan that assists them with the protecting of their hard-earned wealth that is sitting in their illiquid business.

These businesses are out there - Baby Boomers number in the millions in the United States alone. And, in light of the current economic crisis, there will be more and more business owners looking ahead to protecting their wealth, now that they are being reminded of how precarious their situations really may be.

So, as their advisor, it is imperative that you offer this conversation and these types of solutions to the exiting owners that you serve. In doing so, you deepen your relationship with this special group of clients and perform a service that has a value that is immeasurable for the owner who is in need of this type of advice. The owner gets an exit strategy plan and you get a growing list of very loyal clients who pay you for the value of this special advice.

I wish you the best of luck with your exit strategy planning.

If you need any assistance at all, do not hesitate to contact our office at 617-367-5772 - we look forward to hearing from you.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

These Turbulent Markets, Where to Turn for Advice....

These Turbulent Markets, Where to Turn for Advice....

"Develop the habit of turning inward whenever something goes wrong outwardly"
- Vernon Howard

To say that something has gone wrong 'outwardly', i.e., in the financial markets, would be an understatement. Something is terribly wrong with what is happening these days. But, believe it or not, this does not have to impact you and how you conduct your business. In fact, at a certain level of understanding, one comes to realize that these events actually have no power at all to influence your thinking . . it is merely our inability to prevent them from impacting our thinking -turning towards thought of negativity - that is the problem.

Often times we want outer circumstances to conform to our sense of how things should be. During my career as a wealth manager, I was told that my 'book of business' [i.e. my client base] largely reflected my own personality. That, in fact, was true. I attracted clients to my business that thought a lot like I did. Therefore, when something went wrong, they and I were usually in very good company with each other over what was perceived to be wrong with the world. I played the quarterback, laying out the plan to deal with the problem, while the clients and I together speculated on where things were heading. It was a collaborative, but often-times exhausting process.

Sometimes I got caught up in my client's emotional states in a way that made me feel as negative as them. For some reason, I could not help it. I sympathized with my client's concerns and I was impacted, as a business owner, by those concerns. And I was certainly not alone, as I was also in the good company of other advisors who were equally anxious to engage in conversations about how difficult things were and hopeless things seemed to be.

It was during those times that I was without a certain level of understanding. I was not able to detach myself from these outer circumstances in a way that would have strengthened my ability to handle them better and, in turn, be a better advisor to my clients. Instead, I would let these circumstances slow down my prospecting of new clients and have a negative impact on my business.

Over the past few years I have learned a new way of thinking - one that has produced some remarkable results in my personal and professional life. This new way of thinking begins with the idea that we can control our thoughts, and therefore control our outcomes, all of the time, regardless of the circumstances. This new way of thinking essentially states that negative thinking attracts poor results into our lives. Our ability to recognize this simple fact is actually a critical point in improving our circumstances.

Therefore, when it looks like the world is going to 'hell in a handbasket', you literally have a choice. You can choose to feel lousy about it, or you can choose to examine your thoughts more carefully and guard against 'going negative'. This type of thinking requires a bit of work. However, there are a few good reasons for seeking this level of understanding:

First, as advisors, clients depend upon the objectivity and professionalism of our advice. I often compare this idea to what we are told to do on an airplane if cabin pressure should be lost during the flight - first apply the oxygen mask to yourself, so that you can then assist others properly.

Next, as business owners, we want to realize that negativity slows the growth of our practices and prevents us from providing our valuable services to others. Nobody wins in this exchange.

And, finally, for our own benefit, it is more healthy [and profitable] to choose to remain positive and optimistic.

Do you know that you cannot change what has happened in the past?

Are you aware that dwelling on and worrying about the past is extremely unproductive - particularly since it is the one thing that you cannot change.

You can change your state of mind today and better direct your future results.

This and many other topics will be the conversation that I will be engaging in with my friend and mentor, David Neagle this Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. ET. I hope that you can join us - click here to register to be a part of this discussion.

And as an ancient mystic once said when consoling a person on their current plight, "This too shall pass".

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Making the Quantum Leap

Many readers of this newsletter and Members in our Advisor program know that over the past few years I have become a real student of change and the principles that govern positive experiences in one's life.

To effectively study this material, you need to open your mind to certain possibilities that, to otherwise logical people, seem very - well for lack of a better term - strange.

For example, we know that "there are from 10 billion to 14 billion nerve cells in the human cerebral cortex, and we know that these are arranged in definite patterns. These arrangements are not haphazard. They are orderly . . . It is inconceivable that such a network of intricate equipment should be in existence for the sole purpose of carrying on the physical functions incidental to growth and maintenance of the physical body."

Napoleon Hill wrote those words nearly 80 years ago in his classic book, "Think and Grow Rich". For those who have read this book, you know that Hill talks about potential for any person that far exceeds what any of us think is possible for our businesses and for our lives.

One of the challenges of opening our minds to this huge potential comes from our conditioned thinking and upbringing. We are educated and raised in a 'stair-step' manner, one step at a time - grade 1, then 2, then 3, then middle school, then high school, then college, then graduate school, and so on. We are taught to think in terms of 'next steps' - logical next steps - all of the time.

But what if we - just for a moment - entertained a new way of thinking? What if we set a goal not based on logic - i.e, what seems possible to achieve next - but rather based that next goal on something totally illogical - such as writing a book and getting it professionally published within 10 months. Is it possible to entertain the idea that what you can achieve in the future is more about being able to believe that you can do it, rather than knowing that it will be difficult or cumbersome, or extremely time consuming? Is it possible that Napoleon Hill talked about our brains in a way that led him to firmly conclude - after interviewing 500 of the wealthiest people in America over a 20 year period - that there is something beyond logic at work in making great advances forward?

So, one may think, 'If that is true and I set a goal to reach a point far beyond anything that I think I can accomplish today, how will I know what to do to get there?'

And therein lies the problem. Once you resort back to logic to figure out how to achieve your goal, you have once again put yourself in the way of it happening. If your ego needs to know how something seemingly impossible is going to happen, it becomes that much more difficult to happen because your mind is not open to it appearing in a way that you are not expecting (which, of course, is illogical).

As I said, to effectively study these concepts, you need to open your mind to certain possibilities that, to otherwise logical people, seem very strange. Logic and reason, which many professional advisors hold as their calling card and standard-bearer (it's part of what our clients pay us for and expect out of us), is often the enemy of exponential growth.

So, one may ask, what is the point of this lesson? And, where can I find applicability of this lofty notion in my work and in my life?

Well, I can share that it has been my experience, that making a Quantum Leap forward (as many advisors who find Pinnacle's program are looking to do), essentially begins with self-reflection and examination, more than it does with learning new material or purchasing a new program.

Further to the point, one may ask what any of this has to do with growing my exit strategy planning practice? Well, if you consider that an exiting owner is going from working and running a business that they likely built themselves and heading into retirement, this is a Quantum Leap of a different sort. This is a lifestyle change that is taking the exiting owner from one path in life and putting them on another.

Well, I would argue that in order to be effective in assisting an owner with this process, it really is helpful to see beyond the technical components of an exit strategy plan and to begin filtering in the more subjective notions of addressing the changes that are going to occur in this business owner's life. At that point, you earn the role of trusted advisor as you assist your owners through these massive changes.

Gain an understanding of the dynamics of change in order to better assist yourself and your clients with their complex needs. Make this type of study - the study of oneself - your highest priority, and you will be rewarded in your business and in your life.

Making a Quantum Leap is therefore about embracing change. And with that thought I leave you until next week when we resume our newsletters and begin to focus on our big and expanding agenda at Pinnacle before 2008 closes out behind us (much, much more news on many of our current, bold & illogical initiatives will be shared in the coming weeks and months - many to be revealed at our October Workshop).

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taking Your Practice to a New Level

Why is the growth of our advisory businesses difficult and what can we do to make a change today?

Here are some of the salient points from our interview with David Neagle a few months ago. I believe that you will find the highlights below very interesting and helpful in your efforts to build your advisory practice.

We began the interview with the question: Why is growth difficult?

Our upbringing trains us to grow our businesses in a ‘stair step’ manner. For example, in school, we go from one grade to the next, moving at a pace with all other students. Rare is the person who skips a grade and, as I recall, there is usually an exceptional circumstance that allows that to happen.

The problem with this type of conditioning is that our businesses are not designed or intended to grow in this slow-moving manner. Our belief systems, therefore, reinforce our world and the personal environments that we build for ourselves in our businesses. In short, we create our own limitations for the growth of our businesses.

Pre-disposed Towards Growth

Every advisor who enters the Pinnacle Program is geared towards the growth of their business. So what is keeping you from the growth that you want and deserve? What is keeping you from the changes in your business that you want to implement?

The answer may be as simple as being able to let go of some of those existing limiting beliefs and embracing a larger idea that success is not only your right, but can also be easy – particularly if the success is aligned with your purpose.

So, how do you make these changes in your business and your life?

First, you need to have the desire to learn and grow. If you are a part of the Pinnacle Program, you already have the desire for more.

The next step is to increase your awareness of the reasons why this growth is not occurring.

The first step in increasing your awareness is realizing what your current belief system is and how that impacts your mindset and your approach to your business. If you think in small, incremental steps, then small, incremental opportunities will appear in your life. However, if you think in terms of deserving the larger opportunities and being a part of a more fulfilling process for delivering service to your clients, then those opportunities will also appear in your life.

Therefore, the logical extension of this analysis is that it is as equally easy to attract the larger opportunities as it is to attract the smaller opportunities. All you need to do is alter your awareness around what you are brining into your life and make a decision that you will seek out the opportunities that challenge you to grow and provide you with the income that you deserve.

What Holds Us Back?

Of course if this was easy, everyone would do it. What makes it difficult? Simply, it is the list of subconscious reasons WHY we cannot make these changes - they may include some of the items below:

  • I don't have the experience to engage that prospect.

  • The competition is too strong for me to compete at that level.

  • What if I get asked a question that I cannot answer? How would

  • that reflect on my professionalism?

  • The lead-time is too long for this type of prospecting.

  • I don't have the network (like other people) to support receiving
    leads like this on a consistent basis.

  • I don't have the time to study and prepare for a meeting with that
    type of prospect.

If any or all of these reasons for not moving ahead are ones that you have come up with for not advancing yourself in your business, I want you to pay very close attention to the reality of each of these statements - it is simply this:

Each of these statements comes from a source that says that your abilities are limited. Furthermore, each of these statements begins with an analysis of what you cannot do, rather than focusing on the infinitely more important question of what can I provide to this marketplace of prospects that they do not currently have? And, why am I denying this marketplace of business owners the opportunity to engage in this process when I already have their trust as their professional advisor?

When you change the questions, you change your thinking and your approach to this marketplace. When you focus on being of service to this marketplace, instead of what your current limitations are, you begin to explode forward. Does this sound like a risky proposition to you? If 'yes', then I submit that examining why this sounds risky is the best place for you to begin the study of yourself and the limitation that you put on your advisory practice. By making this study your highest priority, you will advance forward as you become aware of the real truth of your potential.

Changing Your Thinking

In short, the catalyst for this type of growth has to do with the way that you think. Your thinking comes from your belief system. So, change the beliefs – let go of your limited attitudes towards your business - and you have taken the first step towards the growth that you deserve.

If you would like more information on this type of coaching, feel free to contact our office with your questions and someone from our Pinnacle offices will get back to you within 48 hours.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Increase Your Exposure to Business Owners

One of the best ways to increase your exposure to business owners is through a marketing plan that consistently makes a high quality contact with them at a low cost (both in terms of dollars and time) on your part. Therefore, as mentioned last week, one of the greatest benefits of a Pinnacle membership are the two new Exit Strategies Newsletters that are available to you at the start of each month. These newsletters can be customized with your company information and logo and mailed to business owner clients and prospects to educate them on planning their exit strategy. Whether you choose to send this information out by mail or email (as described in last week's newsletter), having the newsletter pre-written and delivered to you on a consistent basis will be the first step in increasing your exposure in your area.

The Pinnacle System of marketing and prospecting includes exit strategy planning topics that are drawn from the upcoming book, Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth - A Strategic Guide to Owners and Their Advisors. By using this system, your business owners can receive customized content on the exit strategy planning topic that they are most interested in (remember that we archive old newsletters for you to choose which ones to send to each separate owner), and you can take from that content and respond to the owner's request. For example, an owner may have an interest in learning more about an ESOP transaction because an ESOP was mentioned in the bi-monthly newsletter. That's great - you can forward along additional information from the archived database.

After that, if the business owner wants more information, you can forward a copy of the book - referencing the Chapter and verse that you quoted. From there, the business owner looks to you as a true solutions provider whose advice is integrated into a larger training and delivery system; a system that you can use to design a customized exit strategy plan and get paid for delivering this unique and valuable service.

With the power of these tools, you can maintain a focus on exit strategy planning as you run your day-to-day business. And, as we indicated last week, much of this can be done on an automated basis with today's technology and Pinnacle's content and ongoing support.

As always, I hope this information is helpful to you as you further consider incorporating exit strategy planning into your advisory practice.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth: A Strategic Guide for Owners and Their Advisors

Quoting from the Introduction

You made it.
Now let's do our best to protect it.

Your business has been built on your hard work and passion for what you do. The long hours, the battles with the finances, the incremental gains that you fought tooth and nail for are now more behind you than in front of you. For many readers of this book, many exciting challenges still await your careers. For others, a quick exit is what is most desired. In either case, you made it, and a warm congratulations is due to you for your accomplishment.

Now it is time to enter the equally challenging phase of keeping it. "It," of course, is the wealth that has accumulated in your illiquid business. That wealth is locked inside your business, much the same way that wealth is locked inside your home. Now, home may very well be where the heart is, but your business produces profits. If your business is where your heart is, then this book is a very good resource to assist you in viewing the business more as an investment and less as a job you love. The reason you want to think this way is because the majority of your wealth is likely tied up in your business, and without a plan to monetize or transfer that wealth, a great deal of your hard work may be lost.

Page 3 continues to make this point . . .

. . . Building your business was not easy. It required a plan and a tenacious approach to competing in your marketplace. Exiting your business is equally challenging, and in many ways much more difficult.

An analogy will help put this in perspective.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest, the highest spot on earth.

But is Edmund Hillary famous because he was the first person to make it to the top of Mount Everest? Not necessarily. In fact, it is widely believed that others before him had made it to the pinnacle. However, Hillary became famous because he was the first westerner to navigate the descent back down the mountain without perishing. The others who went before him are still frozen up there.

Is climbing down a mountain harder than climbing up? Think about it. When you are ascending a mountain - or building a business - your weight is behind you, pushing you onward and upward. By contrast, when descending from the mountain, your weight can work against you. You need to avoid missteps that send you tumbling down.

So, is exiting a business harder than building one? Very likely, yes. The next question is: are you frozen in your business? . . .


Did you like this passage from the Introduction? If you did, you'll love the book. It spans 236 pages of step-by-step instruction that will help you make money by incorporating exit strategy planning into your practice. Click here to learn more and order.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Friday, September 19, 2008

Running Your Marketing in Your Absence

As an advisor looking to grow your practice, you should know that you can use an affordable, online Email Campaign system to pre-load content and automate your marketing process to business owners. With the 2 new Exit Strategies newsletters that Pinnacle provides each month, it is easy and cost effective to simply copy and paste the newsletter text into an email campaign and send out to your list of business owners who have expressed an interest in starting their exit strategy planning (you can also automate the process by setting up a system for hard-copy letters to go out with the same frequency).

One such system, used by Pinnacle, is called MyEmma. MyEmma is a Web-based service that includes everything you need to manage your email marketing and communications from start to finish. It's a platform that combines easy self-serve features, a custom-designed brand template, and personal assistance whenever you need it. Again, Pinnacle can manage this process for you as part of our Gold Level Membership, assuring that you don't miss your opportunities to consistently market to business owners. We will also report to you every month the number of e-mails that were opened and how many owners 'clicked-through', expressing a further interest in an offering on the page.

You can easily organize your members by group, and create as many groups as you like. By segmenting people by status, geography and more, you'll be able to send e-mails to everyone or tailor your emails to different groups. You can also create one or more custom signup screens that let new people sign up for your emails or newsletter directly from your website (another feature that we offer Gold Members - website design with an exit strategy planning focus).

So, whether you do it on your own, or use our Member content and support, we strongly encourage that you automate a part of your marketing to increase the efficiency and profitability of your advisory practice. Remember, there are millions of business owners out there who are approaching retirement age. They key to getting them to take action is establishing a marketing program that works consistently and delivers quality content that is worth reading.

© John M. Leonetti

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In the Dreaming Room - 2 1/2 Days with Michael Gerber

You may be thinking what I was thinking before heading down to New York to listen to "The #1 Small Business Guru in the World" - that question is:

"What the heck is a Dreaming Room, and why would I want to be in one?"

Well, on my way to New York I had an opportunity to listen to Michael Gerber's new book, Awakening the Entrepreneur Within and the audio recording gave me a very good idea of what to expect at the Dreaming Room experience.

Essentially, at the age of 70, Michael Gerber had both a personal and a business epiphany. After 30 years of E-Myth teaching, coaching, writing, and mentoring, he realized that he was becoming the Manager that he wrote about - he himself was caught in the limited role of merely running his E-Myth Enterprise, allowing the entrepreneur inside of himself to stay silent (Michael relates this story in the book through a conversation that he had with his mother - who essentially told him to 'go for it').

So, listening to the voice inside of himself (and his Mom), Michael remodeled his E-Myth platform, leading with a simple concept - that an entrepreneur would be better served learning whether or not they are in the right business at all, before turning to the E-Myth system to fix the business that they set out to build. This is essentially 'pre-business planning / preventative maintenance' for entrepreneurs.

I totally get it.

What Michael asks participants to do is to envision the business that they want and how BIG it can possibly be. Michael - as he says in his book - wants the entrepreneur to understand the process of Dreaming about the business (and life) that they truly want, and then to set a Vision for how that business will be born/expanded to fit that Dream. Michael's process calls upon the right brain, creative side of the entrepreneur to drive the business forward. Dreaming occurs before the Visioning / Planning. Better understood, the right-brain leads the process of building a business that is aligned with what you really want out of life.

Of course for most advisors reading this newsletter, we live in a left-brain driven world - economic reports, value drivers, stock market returns, benchmarks, laws to be interpreted and followed, valuation guidelines to follow, rule-setting authorities that guide our daily communications with clients, and on and on with the licensing, continuing education requirements, and so on and so forth. Where in this world of left-brain, analytical thinkers does a Dreaming Room fit in?

Well, if you can get past the initial corniness of the whole notion of paying to sit in a room and Dream (after all, "Can't we just stay at home and do this for free?", you may ask) this becomes a powerful exercise towards reinforcing what drives your business forward. This process also helps you to more easily identify the things that are holding you back from making progress in your business. Here's a hint: the things holding you back are the tasks that you don't enjoy doing, but somehow believe that you are the only person qualified (or that you can currently afford) to do them.

Did I get a book published with my first attempt (actually, with one single manuscript sent to the largest publisher in Finance) because my business building process began with a strictly analytical approach towards business exits? Not at all. In fact, I had a Dream to Transform the State of Business Owner Exit Strategies Worldwide. That is what I am living every day and what is providing a natural accelerant to my business. So, I understand - at a personal and business level - what Michael was talking about, and I could see the wisdom (albeit unorthodox style) of his new business model.

This review of Michael's Dreaming Room experience will mean different things to different people but at the end of the day, it's easiest to understand it as conducting your business and your life by whatever get you really gets you fired up. When that happens, great things tend to occur rather effortlessly.

Michael Gerber figured this out and set out on a new mission to transform how entrepreneurs get themselves into businesses. This process is intended to be vetted out before the businesses are built on weak foundations (not a lot of enthusiasm) and become broken and in need of repair. I applaud Michael for this courage and original business model, as well as with his own ability to break himself free from the 'comfort zone' of his E-Myth business to once again Awaken the Entrepreneur Within himself.

© John M. Leonetti

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Demand for Exit Strategies Advice

One of the foundational concepts behind Pinnacle's business model is that there are far more businesses that need exit strategy planning advice than - perhaps - the entire population of advisors can competently serve. The statistics below are drawn from a few studies to illustrate this point. And, for advisors thinking about getting into this business, you will see - objectively - the size of this opportunity and draw your own conclusions as to what it can mean for your practice.

From Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth (Chapter 1 - Exiting is a Process, Not an Event, p. 26)

"With millions of Baby Boomer business owners seeking an exit strategy from their business, the demand for advice in this area is very high. However, the supply of trained advisors who can assist with this type of planning is disproportionately low. . .

. . . for example, we know that 8.4 million [Baby Boomer owned] businesses in the United States will be changing hands in the next 10 to 15 years. Therefore, we can make some projections about the capacity of advisory services required to fulfill this need that will illustrate this supply and demand point.

An exit strategy is a complex planning engagement. Let's say that 50 to 100 hours of work is a good estimate of the time needed to formulate and execute an exit strategy plan. By multiplying the number of businesses that will transition by the estimated 50 to 100 hours of advisory work, we conclude that 420 million to 840 million hours of advisory work will be required in the next 10 to 15 years.

Many types of advisors are available to assist business owners with their exit strategy planning. There are an estimated 700,000 such advisors in the United States today: legal advisors, financial advisors, insurance advisors, accountants, business consultants, business brokers, and merger and acquisitions professionals."

This Chapter section goes on to explain to business owners (and advisors) that a business owner needs to be pro-active and find advisors who are trained in this area so that their illiquid business wealth can be protected.

Does this look like an opportunity for you to grow your advisory practice?

Do these statistics resolve any lingering doubts about whether or not the marketplace of businesses owners is sufficient to meet the growth needs of your practice?

If so, take another look at Pinnacle's training and Workshops. We are making an impact in this large demographic of Baby Boomer business owners. Maybe it's time for you to decide that adding exit strategy planning to your practice is the next step in growing your business and assisting your business owner clients and prospects.

This is a practice where everyone wins. The business owner gets a plan to liberate themselves from their businesses (while protecting their wealth) and the advisor gets paid and achieves the trusted advisor status with the client - positioning themselves to provide other advice and service.

The key to tapping into this market is first awareness - understanding the needs of this marketplace - and then taking the first step.

So remember, planning is the key to any successful business exit because a proactive approach to an Exit Strategy is the only approach to a successful Exit Strategy.

© John M. Leonetti

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit