Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Highlights from Pinnacle's November Spotlight Guest

Our November Spotlight Guest was Jerry Mills CPA, and Founder & CEO of B2B CFO® as well as the author of two (2) books for business owners; The Danger Zone, Lost in the Growth Transition and Avoiding The Danger Zone, Business Illusions.

On our monthly Member training call, I interviewed Jerry about his book, Avoiding The Danger Zone, Business Illusions. Highlights of that call are listed below:

The central message of Jerry’s book for business owners is that at some point you will leave your business. So instead of leaving your business, and future, to chance – you need to plan for your eventual exit.
Some illusions that business owners operate their businesses under, which will impact their ability to successfully exit are:

  • They make decisions based on their ‘gut’ (regardless of business size).

  • That an increase in business sales leads to increased cash flow.

  • That the owner will always be there to run the business and make decisions.

For example: Most business owners believe that the value of the business is based on top line sales – when it is actually based free on cash flow. So, if an owner has increased sales they wrongly assume the value of their business has increased, when in actuality the value may have decreased. This can significantly affect a successful exit, and it is one of the most common illusions that business owners operate under - i.e. chasing after new business - higher volume - thinking that it will make their business more attractive to buyers. This simply is not the case and, in fact, a focus on top-line growth only puts owners in the Danger Zone because without careful attention this type of growth actually stretches their resources and can reduce profitability and, therefore, the value of the business.

In addition to illusions that owners face, they also must avoid the many distractions that will keep them stuck in their business and unable to exit:

  • Initially the owner has a ‘finder’ status – the entrepreneur of the company - where their thinking is strategic. They are bringing in the business and growing the company.

  • As the company grows, many owners stop becoming the ‘finder’ and they transform into the ‘minder’, where their thinking is now tactical – they have stopped growing the company and are now involved in the day to day operations of the business.

  • In addition, if the proper systems and people are not in place to sustain the businesses continued growth, an owner may actually become a ‘grinder’ where they are forced to do the actual “work”.

POINT: When a business owner stops being a ‘finder’ and starts being a ‘minder’ and/or ‘grinder’, their mindset is changed and they can no longer focus on growing the business. This can impact their ability to successfully plan for their eventual exit. More importantly, it leaves them vunerable to potential buyers who are able to determine the business is not being run appropriately and will actually devalue the business.

These are only a few of the powerful insights that Jerry shared with our Pinnacle Members. Jerry's book is a powerful tool for business owners and for advisors, especially in addressing the business (not personal) needs of an exiting owner.

Jerry's organization and network of partners - B2B CFO® - provides vital services for business owners, including many aspects of an exit.

At the end of our call, both Jerry and I encouraged listeners to network with each other and to work as teams to bring solutions to the exiting owners. For more information about Jerry's book or his B2B CFO organization, you can visit their web site at www.b2bcfo.com.


NOTE: Our next workshops are scheduled for:

Tampa, Florida - Jan. 28th & 29th ( www.exitplanningtampa.com)
Boston, MA - March 18th & 19th. (location pending final confirmation)

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit www.PinnacleEquitySolutions.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Select Lessons from My Workshop

Because Pinnacle only hosts our 2-day Workshops a few times per year, I wanted to share a few 'high level', non-technical points of working with owners that were taught over the 2 days. It is my hope that this guidance assists you in your work with owner exits.

Owners are looking for comprehensive solutions

One of the key points to remember in any exit planning conversation or engagement with an owner is that the owner is looking for a comprehensive solution to the problem facing their exit. The largest challenge is that they do not exactly know what the solution is. It is your job to define what you can do for them, the process that you follow, and the result that they should expect. I told my audience that the success of each of my exit planning engagements with owners is dependent entirely upon one thing - how effectively I advance their thinking towards their exit. The planning process, tools and conversations are all designed to move the owner's thought process closer and closer towards a successful exit.

Owners are looking for objective advice

Although my primary mandate is to positively impact my owner's thinking towards their exit, there are always going to be ancillary products and services that are required to fulfill each owner's goals and objectives. It is important, however, to remember that you should not begin to discuss your primary offering - be it insurance, investments, tax, legal or business sales - until the time is appropriate. For Pinnacle students, this occurs during our 6th and final step in our process. At this point in time, the owner has be lead through an objective process to assist them in defining their goals, examining their readiness and exit options, and understanding whether or not they will reach their goals. When you follow the steps in Pinnacle's system, and do not jump ahead with your primary service or product offering, you remain objective and win the trust of the owner. And remember that trust is more difficult to get given the severity of the recent recession - it your job to win that trust, not the owner's job to give it to you. This begins with objective advice.

Owners do not sign on for a plan, they sign on for an exit

An interesting dynamic that occurs once you develop that trust is that the owner wants you to stay with them for the execution of the exit plan. Now, 'execution' can - and does - mean many differet things. Depending upon what is discovered during the planning process, you may put certain priorities ahead of others. For example, an owner with no (or faulty) estate planning may want to resolve this immediately, prior to engaging in the succession or business transfer process. Other owners will need to focus on different areas. What you should remember is that if the planning is done properly, owners will want to take action.

Business owners want to know that they will be able to take action and that you will be there to guide them. It is a valuable insight to know that when an owner signs on for an exit plan, they are not interested in a plan as much as they are interested in solving their exit needs. Remember this as you speak to and engage owners in this process.

The Owner's commitment to taking action is evidenced by the check that they write for the engagement agreement

Because exiting a business is such a difficult endeavor, you can be most effective in an owner's life when you get them to commit to this process with a payment for the engagement. This is important to remember as many who read this newsletter are in the habit of giving away a certain amount of information and service in order to win a valuable account or client. Of course there is a 'courting phase' in any relationship where you each invest time in getting to know one another. However, when it comes time for the exit planning engagement, you need to know that your owner is committed to the process that you want to walk them through. The greatest evidence of this commitment is the writing of a check for your time and service.

The Planning 'Crystallizes' the Owner's Thinking

By getting a commitment and presenting a comprehesive approach to the exit, owners can make a fully-informed decision about how and when they want to exit. When the process is followed, it empowers owners to move confidently in the direction of their exit. Pinnacle has a proven process that moves owners in this direction. Again, the definition of success for any of my engagements is how effectively I advance the owner's thinking towards their exit. Further defined, this means, how much the owner is coming to understand their goals, their current readiness, their exit options, and what they need to do to have a successful exit. A fully-informed discussion of an exit 'crystallizes' an owner's thinking and gets them moving in the right direction.

Like Snowflakes, Every Exit is Different, Stay Flexible

Although we use the same 6-step system for developing plans with all of our owners, each owner is different and each business is different, therefore we find that the execution phase of each engagement is unique. Exits are analagous to snowflakes - each one is different - no matter how many of them you exerperience. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for your advisory or consulting practice. The more flexibile you can remain in your engagements, the better you will be able to serve your owners. This type of flexibility requires patience, a key ingredient to all successful exits.

It Takes a Team

Although Pinnacle's exit planning process works to get owners moving toward their exits, it is always the case that other advisors need to get involved in the exit plan. Sometimes the other advisors are involved in the planning stage. Other times these advisors are involved in the execution phase. Either way, it remains true that no one can be an expert in all of the different practice areas. Therefore, you need to assist the owner in assembling these teams and you get to serve the role of quarterback if you so choose.


There is a great opportunity to grow your advisory or consulting practice by adding exit planning. These tips should assist you in being more effective with your engagements with owners.

To all of the attendees at the workshop, thank you once again for contributing to the success of these events. Together we are making a large difference to the owners that we serve.

NOTE: Our next workshops are scheduled for:

Tampa, Florida - Jan. 28th & 29th (www.exitplanningtampa.com)
Boston, MA - March 18th & 19th. (location is pending confirmation)

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Talking the Language of 'Exits'

In my last newsletter I introduced the No Owner Left Behind initiative that is inspiring Pinnacle's upcoming Certification Program. Those who are gathering behind this cause know that today's business owner is largely without a solid plan for the exit from their business, despite the fact that it is the most important financial (and lifestyle) transaction of their lives. As advisors, the delivery of this message begins with an 'exit conversation' with your business owner prospects and clients. This is where the 'rubber meets the road' - whether you are willing and able to begin this conversation and to follow through on delivering this solution to owners. Today's topic, therefore, is 'talking the language of 'exits''.

The Exit Conversation

From the outset, it would appear to be a simple enough question for you to ask an owner - simply 'have you thought about how you are going to exit your business?' In fact, my experience shows me that most advisors are reluctant to ask this question because they do not have a solid foundation to hold the conversation.

Well, that is what our training program and materials are built to do for you, but I wanted to give you some tips on how to make these exit conversations more effective for both you and your owners.

Convincing versus Compelling

When you begin to ask the exit questions, you need to ask yourself whether you are being "convincing" or "compelling" with the series of questions that follow the initial one. People ask me all of the time how I get certain results with owners. A large part of being effective is avoiding being 'convincing' - which means simply stating the facts and reasons why an owner should have an exit plan. Rather, you need to have a "compelling" way of presenting this material.

Like most decisions that are made, the decision to plan an exit is largely an emotional - not a logical - one. You need to understand this concept and prepare for these conversations in the right way. You need to be able to have enough information and deliver it in the right way to motivate your business owner to take action. For better or for worse, this is not usually accomplished through the simple delivery of facts and statistics. Your experience and stories of owners who did not plan for their exit are very helpful. Remember that your owner has worked their whole life to get to where they are. For a small fee and a bit of their time, you are in a position to move their thinking towards and exit - away from the simple running of their business alone. Delivered properly, the conversation should conclude with the business owner now having a compelling reason (or reasons) to take action.

Serious consideration and preparation should be given to this level of conversation to determine how to deliver it. With today's recession looming in each owner's mind, you need to be innovative and reconstruct your approach appropriately. Your primary objective is to assure your owners that you want to help them with their exit as well as protect their illiquid business wealth. Creating trust and assurance that you have the tools and knowledge to guide the business owner through their personal and business exit planning builds your clients' confidence in you and motivates them to take action through your compelling delivery.

Building Value Into Your Conversations

In order to be compelling you need to learn to build value into your conversations. The key is to ask the right questions at the right time. As an advisor/planner you need to look beyond any single issue that may be most important to you and ask what it is that the owner cares the most about. This basic idea of being 'client centric' is essential for this initial conversation.

Because of the lack of awareness and the owner's psychology in dealing with this issue, I often say that business owners 'do not know what they do not know'. Hence, the need for you to open the conversation and help them understand that with proper planning options are available to them to help with their exit. Communicating with your business owners about the problem that they are about to face and the benefits of agreeing to exit planning adds value. If you exude confidence and reveal that you are a well trained individual, your relationship with the business owners will grow quickly as they immediately sense that you are bringing value to their lives.

Owner Coming to Their Own Conclusions

One of the most intricate and challenging areas for delivering this exit conversation is your ability to be patient as your owner comes to their own conclusion about the steps that they need to take. If you have delivered merely a 'convincing' reason for them to move ahead, they will likely delay coming to a conclusion about moving ahead. However, if you have presented a "compelling" reason for your owner to advance, you have aided them in an important way in seeing more clearly the reasons for planning their business exit.

Business owners care about results, not rhetoric. It is the emotional connection that you create with them and the language you utilize that helps them to see the error in not planning for their exit. Owners have made their own decisions throughout their careers. They will decide to plan for their exit once you have presented the material in a way that allows them to conclude that an exit plan is both necessary as well as beneficial for them. You cannot force-feed this material to owners.

Making a Commitment to the Process

You will know that things are really happening with your exit conversations when owners begin to move ahead with you. In my work with owners, I require a retainer check in order to begin our work together. Interestingly, the retainer check represents much more than payment for a service - it represents the owner's commitment to take this process seriously. This, more than other part of the conversation, is critical to a successful exit. The owner needs to be invested in the process and ready to accept your guidance as they navigate this complex journey.

You will know that you are really "talking the language of exits" when you begin to generate results in the form of owner commitments to the process. You build on each conversation with every owner in order to strengthen you abilities to have these conversations. Your exit planning practice grows exponentially once you discover the right mix of facts and stories to help motivate your owners to take action.

In closing, the battle for exit planning is taking place at the initial conversation stage. "Talking the language of exits" is most important today in order to deliver this important message to owners. I look forward to sharing more on this topic with those attending our Nov. 5th & 6th Workshop in Boston.

Wishing you the best of success with your exit conversations.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Workshop Preview Call - Thursday Oct 1st at 4pm EST

I want to thank the dozens of advisors who registered for, and listened to, my first Preview Call that I hosted for our upcoming Workshop in Boston on Nov. 5th & 6th. The early registrations for this event are making it our best attended workshop yet. We have brought the pricing and the hotel accomodations to the lowest price point possible in order to encourage you to take advantage of this offer so that you can begin incorporating exit planning into your business!

If you would like to learn more about Pinnacle's exit strategies services as well as our upcoming 2-day Workshop in November, I encourage you to register for the second preview call I will be hosting Thursday Oct 1st at 4pm EST.

This FREE preview call will focus on Pinnacle's 6-Step Process for designing a successful business exit. Pinnacle's 6-Step Process also serves as the foundation for the successful growth of Pinnacle's educational, certification, and coaching programs for advisors. I will also provide you with a sneak preview of all the great educational and business building content we will be teaching at our wildly popular Two-Day Exit Strategies Training Workshop, being held this November 5th & 6th in Boston, MA!

Exit planning continues to be one of the hottest topics amongst professional advisors today - and the needs of the Baby Boomer generation of business owners is only growing !!! This emerging 'exit planning' space in growing faster every day . . . become a part of it by getting up to speed on the latest developments. Start with this week's Workshop Preview call!

So, join us for this FREE Preview Call this Thursday, October 1st, at 4:00 EST

Click here to register for the call

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No Owner Left Behind

With the global recession showing signs of bottoming, I believe that it is time to take strong action in rescuing the private business owners from the 'mousetrap' in which they have caged their illiquid wealth. Last week, in a moment of inspiration, I created the No Owner Left Behind initiative. This is a theme around which Pinnacle will focus its upcoming Certification and training efforts - let me explain a bit more.

In 2001 President George W. Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act. The NCLB enacted the theory of standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.

If you have been a part of the exit planning community for any length of time, you have invariably been challenged with consistently marketing, selling and delivering this service to owners. I know this because so many advisors come to Pinnacle for our coaching and support, having previously struggled with implementing exit planning into their business.

I shared with my Certification Committee last week that that we are going to code-name Pinnacle's Certification initiative the No Owner Left Behind program. Behind this notion and program is the idea of setting high standards for the education and business of exit planning along with establishing measurable goals and benchmarks that exit planners - and advisors who want to include this in their offerings - can rely upon to grow their practices. This will help to assure improvements to the deliverables and advice that owners receive regarding this critical planning area.

The exit planning profession is in strong need of such efforts. As many readers of this Newsletter know, the exit from a business is a very challenging task. Pinnacle has 16 critical points that our Certificate holders will need to master - these are 'must haves' for any advisor who wants to achieve this designation.

Let's take a look at a few of these initial points - areas where most owner exits go wrong - as a starting point for this reformation effort and where standards and benchmarks can be implemented:

The Need in the Marketplace Matched by Unrealistic Expectations/Lack of Awareness by Owners

Owners do not have the information that they need to set realistic expectations for their exit. This is first issue that needs to be addressed by advisors to exiting owners. Within this first category, some of the sub-issues that need standardization and benchmarks are:

  • The time and complexity involved with an exit

  • The realistic range of values of the owner's business

  • What is required for managers to step into leadership roles

  • What is required of the owner to empower these managers

  • The owner's personal savings habits and their ability to maintain their lifestyle without the business.

  • The owner's ability to maintain a meaningful and productive life beyond the business exit.

Standards and tools need to be further developed for advisors to communicate these issues to owners, impressing the importance of each one to the owner's future exit. Without sharing these critical points with our exiting owners, many owners will continue to be left behind - stuck in their businesses, suffering with their unrealistic expectations.

The Expansive Nature of Exit Planning

The next area of standardization has to do with what goes into an exit plan. The fact of the matter is that, done properly, exit planning is a complex and comprehensive process. There are so many areas of an owner's life that are impacted by the exit that it is necessary to have a 'planner's eye', to be able to understand all of these areas and provide a complete solution to the owner.

The problem is that every area of examination - be it savings, investing, retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning, business planning, transactional work, etc . . . all are disciplines unto themselves. So, how can any one advisor provide an exiting owner with this type of overview of their needs for an exit?

Again, the answer comes down to standards and benchmarking for an overview / understanding of all of these areas. The key is knowing which items are essential to any exit and how you can identify these issues. From there, it is important to assess which advisor(s) on the owner's team can complete the necessary work. How you, the exit consultant, make these assessments, communicate with those other advisors, and deliver solutions to your owners will, for the most part, determine the success of your owner's exit.

Do you have procedures and tools in place to address these issues?

Are you prepared with the right questions and deliverables to make your exiting owners comfortable with your process?

Getting Beyond the Struggle

These are two (2) of the sixteen points that Pinnacle's new No Owner Left Behind and Certification Program will address. A well versed exit consultant will ask the right questions to get to the most important issues that address both the owner's personal and business goals.

I continue to be amazed by the high quality of advisors who are drawn to exit planning, which is reflected in the great number of conversations that I have with advisors and consultants who are doing this work today.

Almost every conversation includes some level of doubt in the advisor or consultant's mind as to whether they are completing a full examination of their owner's situation. In almost every case, it is my opinion that the advisor or consultant has so much more than they need to be effective in the conversation with their owners. What is missing are standards and benchmarks by which this competency can be measured.

Now that the summer is winding down and we are all getting back to work, I encourage you to set these standards and goals in your own practice. Think ahead to what your owner's needs will be. If you are looking for additional support in this area pay close attention to our upcoming announcements as I and my Certification Committee are inspired to deliver to the marketplace a formalized set of standards, training, support, curriculum, and coaching to further empower any advisor or consultant who wants to help an exiting owner with this specialized need.

So together we are on a mission to Leave No Owner Behind. Let's not allow the aging Baby Boomer generation of owners to sail into the sunset without direction or navigation. Let's continue to build value into our conversations with owners, earning the right to guide them through this difficult exit process. When the work is complete, we will bring order to this emerging field of exit planning and move our owners towards the exits that they deserve.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grow Your Exit Planning Practice with Live Presentations

As I complete another successful 2-day Workshop I am reminded of two things:

First, in the emerging field of exit planning, there is nothing more powerful than live presentations to shift an advisor's (or owner's) thinking, making them more effective in using these tools in their practices.

Second, it is a major undertaking to host live events and, therefore, very few advisors go the extra mile to make live presentations a regular part of promoting their message to the market-place.

I would like to share a few thoughts regarding the benefits of hosting live presentations with the belief that this will encourage you to incorporate these presentations into your practice.

Credibility and Expert Status
The first major benefit that you receive from hosting a live presentation is that the audience has gathered to listen to you speak on a topic for which you are a presumed 'expert'. When you take the podium and draw the attention of your listeners, you create a space to make a unique impression on your listeners. Most people watching a live presentation appreciate the fact that a speaker is willing to hold themselves 'out there' and answer questions and respond to comments in an open forum.

The attendees at your live presentation view you as the expert on the topic that you are covering, advancing that ever-so-important issue of credibility that all advisors and consultants face when offering any type of service to the marketplace.

Express Creative Ideas
When you commit to live presentations, you have the unique opportunity to express a creative side of yourself. Beyond the content and material that you are covering (as a credible expert), you can also make a connection with the audience beyond simply delivering information - you can get creative and make the presentation engaging, and, dare I say, even entertaining.

People attend live events not just to gather information. They also attend because they want an experience that cannot be matched by simply reading about the topic on which you are speaking. Knowing this, you have the opportunity to take a topic and make it your own. You do this through the use of creative case studies, stories, and well-prepared materials that make it easier for the audience to understand the points that you are trying to make. When you get creative in delivering your message, you find that a more engaging process occurs.

The Know, Like and Trust Factor
The fact of the matter is that if you are going to go through all of the trouble, expense and inconvenience of hosting live events, your objective from the outset should be to deliver your message in a manner that achieves the objective of being 'memorable'. This not only increases the educational experience of your attendees, but it also furthers the critical 'know, like, and trust' factor. The bottom line is that people do business with people that they 'know, like, and trust'. When you deliver a creative and effective live presentation, this 'know, like and trust' factor takes hold immediately, making it easier to do business with those invited to hear you speak.

Focus for Building Your Practice
A schedule of live events can serve to focus your marketing efforts towards consistently generating new business. It can also strengthen your relationship with existing clients. Pinnacle has a training program that details a 6-week marketing cycle to set and host a live event. Throughout the 6 weeks, you are focusing a certain portion of your firm's resources and time towards marketing the event. By continually hosting live events, you always leave a prospect with the ability to learn more about your services at a future date (for example - see this week's live event at Mohegan Sun Casino in CT, www.exitplanninghartford.com). This focus helps drive your business and gives you a reason ro reach out to many of your existing and would-be clients.

When you speak to a room full of people, you get to say your message once and have it heard by as many people as you can get to attend. The leverage (i.e. benefit) that you get from these events should be measured against the efforts and costs expended to get prospects and clients into your speaking room. It can take a few events to generate a high return on investment, but with a bit of persistence you will soon see that the returns on this short talk will far outweigh the costs of hosting it as you deliver your message to many people at once.

Immediate Feedback
One of the most important aspects of live presentations is the immediate feedback that you receive. Attendees are often very open to providing feedback both in the form of questions and comments during the presentation, as well as in the form of written feedback forms that solicit their insights and opinions of your presentation. This feedback is critical not only to how you make future presentations, but also to how you expand and grow your practice.

The essence of any business transaction is knowing what your customer wants and giving it to them. This seemingly simple objective is advanced when you get feedback at your live events. I personally ask all attendees to be as honest as possible with their feedback. And I put my ego aside and try to really listen to what my audience is telling me. What I am being told is how I can have a more successful business.

Bragging Rights
When you complete a successful live presentation you have achieved a significant event - hence the right to boast about it. At my presentations, we ask attendees for detailed and written feedback, as well as their permission to use the comments as testimonials to encourage future attendees to come to the next presentation. Listed below are a few examples from last week's 2-day exit planning workshop:

"Outstanding presentation to bring structure to a highly complex
area of planning"

- Peter J.

"Excellent seminar - good group interaction and discussion that
included many nuances and extra info."

- Jane J.

"Outstanding seminar."
- Tim P.

"Comprehensive and well put together"
- Mark P.

These testimonials are powerful because they are not you saying how good your product or service is. Instead, it is a credible 3rd party who has experienced your message and is offering to share it with others who will benefit from hearing it as well.

Selling from the Stage
With a bit of practice and precession, a live speaking event can also be a great opportunity for you to sell your services [or products] directly to your attendees at your event. Since the attendees have taken the time to respond to your invitation to attend your speaking event - and they are offering effusive praise for the experience - it is logical that they have a positive pre-disposition towards taking advantage of any offer that you may have. By positioning an offering at the end of your talk, you can make these events profitable for your business and convenient for your clients and customers to sign up for your services. This is where the art of public speaking extends beyond simply marketing and educating and into the selling of your services [and/or products].

Concluding Thoughts
For all of these reasons, I encourage you to put live presentations into your business building tools. Although the coordination and marketing of these events can be taxing, the long-term benefits that you receive are well worth the efforts.

For our Pinnacle Members, we provide materials to take care of the 'content building' portion of your live events. As always, we strongly encourage you to use these materials and to apply your own creative ideas as to how you can present this material to business owners. Doing so is a proven method to grow your business. Pinnacle's most successful Members are using these presentation to owners as a regular course of their ongoing marketing.

If you do not current use live presentations to grow your practice, I truly hope that this newsletter motivates you to action and to experience all of the benefits that come from hosting your own events.

Looking forward to seeing you at my next live event this week in CT.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Monday, June 15, 2009

Better Decisions = Better Exits

For many years, I have been writing and saying that business owners are making decisions every day in their businesses, and, for the most part, they are focused almost entirely on running and growing their businesses. If these same owners would include an exit plan in their decision-making process, their decisions would be more aligned with a future exit and they would be more successful in protecting (and capitalizing) on their illiquid business wealth.

Well, I have always known that to be true. However, what I learned this week opened my eyes to how owners can begin to truly make better decisions. I find that sometimes simple concepts can alude us until someone presents the ideas in a simple manner. That is what happened as I listened to a new friend, Mickey Moore, present the way that owners make decisions.

Mickey walked through an example of how large companies make decisions. He contrasted this against how owner-operators make decisions. The contrast was dramatic but the solution to bridge this gap is not so difficult that it cannot be understood by any advisor or consultant.

You see, a large company makes decisions following a process. They make decision-making a science. Now I am not discounting the ability of an owner or manager to use their intuition to make major decisions. The creative process is not removed from these decisions. Rather, the science of making decisions is 'data driven'. The scientific way that you would analyze anything you want to investigate can be applied to small businesses if an owner will merely accept the fact that the right data can help them make better and more profitable decisions.

You see, most owner-operator business owners are treating decision-making in their businesses as a 'craft'. The creative process almost entirely drives both their tactical and strategic level decisions. The all too common problem with the way these owners make decisions is that they do so without the inputs of the market, their customers, or other professionals who can assist them with the running and/or exiting of their businesses.

Mickey built a software program to help with this decision-making process. Beyond simply surveying customers, vendors, and the marketplace, Mickey's software analyzes why certain responses are relevant to the customer and how a small business can easily meet this customer's needs.

Interestingly, I started listening to Mickey's presentation less as a consultant, and more as an owner of a fast-growing business. I started asking myself how I was making decisions. What information was I relying upon? How well had I surveyed the exit planning marketplace for insights as to what you would find most helpful in a support program for advisors and consultants.

And then I thought about the owners that I work with on their exits. For years I have been watching these owners make critical decisions, only to tell me about them weeks or months later. It may not have been my role to participate in these decisions, but it was so obvious to me, as their consultant, that it was the wrong decision to be making.

Mickey summed up this dilema nicely . . . he said that most small business owners 'self-correct' their way to success. This means that the game of 'trial and error' is played every day by owners. When fully analyzed, the main problem is that bad decisions are very expensive, on a relative basis, to small businesses that have limited resources. Taken as a whole, this leads most new small businesses to go out of business and many established small businesses to lose the opportunity to maximize their profits and return on investment in their businesses.

Taken in the context of exit planning, this dilemma is even greater. You see an owner cannot 'self-correct' their way to a successful exit. Unlike the nature of decision-making in the growth of a business, an owner needs inputs up-front before they begin executing on exit decisions. As the largest financial transaction of every owner's life, the decisions that are made are critical to success.

So, what data is available to these owners to make the right / best decisions?

What process is in place to guide these owners through their growth and exits?

Who is trained to help these owners with this critical planning phase?

How can we, as advisors, ask the right questions and provide the right data to help these owners come to the best conclusion about how they should exit their businesses? Well, for this emerging exit planning space, the resources are very limited and the need is very great.

If you spend some time thinking about this problem in the market you will likely realize that you are perfectly positioned to deliver these solutions to the owners that you serve. In the process of helping owners make the right exit decisions, you will earn the role of trusted advisor and command a fee and income that is proportionate to the value that you bring.

Ask your owners about how they are making decisions. Be confident in your ability to help them. Continue being a student because the landscape of business keeps changing. And be wary of the data that you collect and the sources that you rely upon for your own decision making. Give this advice some thought and see how it impacts your next conversation with an exiting owner. You will see the difference in the conversations that you have with owners and, likely, will start making better decisions for your own practice as well.

Thanks again Mickey for a great lesson.

Looking forward to seeing all of you at our upcoming workshops.

© John M. Leonetti

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bouncing Out of This Great Recession

The thing about business books is that they tend to be practical, appealing to the left-brain thinker who can use a system or process to advance forward with 'steps' that can be followed in a logical manner to get a certain result.

Well, in my opinion, Barry Moltz breaks from that mold with his book,

Bounce: Failure, Resiliency, and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success.

Bounce is a book about dealing with trying times and developing business confidence and resiliency so that you become stronger as a result of the challenges that you face.

One of the really neat things about Barry's style is that he writes about - and talks about in his public speaking - his failures. Barry's large point is that sometimes failures teach us valuable lessons - but sometimes they do not. Sometimes failure just plain stinks and has no lesson to teach.

Either way, it does not matter. The important part is not to invest too much time looking for the lesson in any one (or a series) of failures. The point is that life and business don't move in a linear direction - there are twists and turns and pauses on the way to business success.

Today's economic challenges are a pause - nothing more, nothing less. And being able to have this perspective keeps you focused on the longer-term objectives for your practice and keeps you moving forward with confidence. This is true resiliency. And it is a lot easier said than done to take these steps. Moreover, as I discuss below, if you have not been resilient yourself, then how can you help a business owner to be so while assisting them with the exit from their business?

You see, as Barry brilliantly discusses in his book, the real problems develop not when we face adversity, but when we get stuck in a negative way of thinking. When we take the challenges of the outside world and allow them to impact our decision-making process, we begin to move further from our goals. We become gun shy, complacent, and downright afraid of taking any risk whatsoever. Well, as Barry highlights, life and business is risk. You cannot remove it because you don't want to deal with it any more - it is simply not possible. Instead, you need to develop resiliency and begin to 'bounce' forward - to 'Bounce' out of this mindset.

Barry's insights are sown throughout this book in a way that draws upon example after example of entrepreneurs who have utilized the concepts - which Barry identifies as Building Bands (like those on a ball of rubber bands) - to develop bullet-proof business confidence. Barry identifies 10 Building Bands that one can follow to analyze their situation and achieve this confidence. The following Building Bands require some self-examination so that you can identify areas where you may be stuck and begin to move past them:

  1. Your environment and cultural DNA

  2. Humility

  3. Facing [hidden] Fears of Failure

  4. Giving up shame

  5. Understanding that failure gives you choices

  6. How to make smarter decisions to become a better risk taker

  7. Valuing process over outcome

  8. Setting patient goals for what success and failure will look like

  9. Creating your own measurement system for success

  10. Valuing action - almost any action [over lethargy and defeat]

Bounce delves into each of these 10 Building Bands in a way that really engages the mind into examining what may be holding someone back.

By reading Barry's book and speaking with him, I saw that this is invaluable advice for the advisor who is working with business owners to get them to move forward with their exit planning (and it is also great advice for the advisor who is still feeling stuck themselves).

Remember that one of Pinnacle's main criteria for establishing an exit plan for a business owner is 'mental readiness'. Accordingly, Barry's book is a great tool that I personally will be using with certain business owners to complement Chapter 3 of my book - The Mental Game of Business Exits - and to get these owners to 'Bounce' into their Exit Planning.

© John M. Leonetti
Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Recommended Reading - "The Go-Giver"

As you know, I really enjoy sharing many of the insights that I receive through my coaching sessions with advisors.

In fact, I have been steadily sharing information regarding a positive mindset and attitude since last Fall when the world markets and economies really started to slip into a funk.

Since that time, I have been revealing many of the changes that I made to my mindset that have allowed me to move ahead with the sale of my wealth management business and the fast growth of Pinnacle Equity Solutions. I am happy to say that the sum and substance of much of what I have been sharing is reflected in an entertaining and powerful little business book titled The Go-Giver.

Every now and then a book grabs my attention so strongly that I forego the Amazon purchase and drive over the book store to get it right away - this is one of those books. Truth be told, I did not get home to my wife and kids until long after dinner-time the day that I bought this book because I could not put it down.

The Go-Giver is a story about a stereo-typical Go-Getter, a young man, Joe, who works for a large company and is struggling to meet his sales goals for the most recent quarter. The book opens by finding our main character, Joe, in a panic over his need to get more sales to meet his quarterly quota. Joe is using a mindset that many of us were raised and trained with - that you need to get business from other people. Joe's greatest turnaround - and the story behind the book (as evidenced by the title) - is when he realizes that getting is not the key to success, instead it is giving, hence the title, The Go-Giver.

When Joe begins to change his approach to business, he realizes that he has more to give than he ever previously knew. The plain fact is that no one ever put these thoughts in Joe's mind . . . or, as many coaches will tell you, Joe was simply never previously ready or open to receive this information. It took an emergengy for him to open up-more on this later.

In the book, Joe's new mentor is teaching him the five (5) laws of success - all basically tied to being a more balanced and authentic person to himself, his clients, and all the other people that he encounters in his life.

The story details the five (5) laws of success that Joe should follow. They are:

1. The Law of Value

Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

2. The Law of Compensation

Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

3. The Law of Influence

Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people's interests first.

4. The Law of Authenticity

The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

5. The Law of Receptivity

The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

When diligently applied to your life, these five (5) Laws can produce dramatically new results for you as well.

I know this to be true because I too went through a similar transformation when I was first learning and applying these same principles to my business and life.

I share the entire story of my 'old' versus my 'new' mindset with my coaching students and Platinum Group Members. I also sell a 2-hour CD copy and transcript of this story in interview format with my mentor, David Neagle titled "Changing The Mindset" - Pinnacle gives all proceeds from these sales to Charity :)


Essentially, once I started changing my approach to how I conducted my business, I started looking for opportunities to 'give' instead of simply to 'get'. This was not an easy transformation, and I am often-times challenged by this new way of thinking and behaving . . . after all, there are certainly those out there who will try to take advantage of someone who is 'giving'.

In truth, changing your mindset is not simply something that you do to get more business and then abandon when it is no longer convenient. To get new results in your business and your life, you need to commit to new ideas and change the way that you make decisions and run your business. These changes are difficult and will pull you out of your comfort zone. But, that is the whole point. In order to grow, you need to experience some discomfort along the way.

I believe that today's economy is representative of The Go-Giver's main character Joe and the challenges that he faces with meeting his sales goals. All business people are challenged in this environment. The discomfort associated with a recession is tied to the inconvenience of this new economy and the recognition that we need to take a new approach to our businesses.

This is the same conclusion that I came to a number of years ago when I decided that the 'old' way of doing business was no longer working for me. Without being able to define exactly what I was looking for, I began searching for answers for a new way of doing business. I was open to receiving this new information and was able to find sources right away.

Many years later, I am happy to have found The Go-Giver because the principles in this book make it much easier to share - with those who are open to listening - the core changes that I made to my business that have allowed it - and me - to grow at a rate that far exceeds any other points in my career or life.

Today's economy is forcing us all to look critically at our businesses and the way that we deliver services to the market. There is a great deal of wisdom in the solutions that Joe discovers in this brilliant book, The Go-Giver. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy (Amazon.com retail price of $12.97) and give it a read . . . it may be just the information that you were looking for to get you adjusted to handling this new economy.

© John M. Leonetti

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

If, you have been thinking about adding Exit Planning to your practice.

If, you are interested in working with business owners on a more comprehensive level.

If, you are looking to differentiate your practice . . . then
Register for Today's FREE Call @ 3:00 EST

Our Secret Workshops are being revealed !!
Upcoming Events
Thursday & Friday,
June 18th & 19th
(Norwood, MA)

Thursday & Friday,
June 25th & 26th
(Mohegan Sun Casino, CT)
Pinnacle Equity Solutions is pleased to open our Summer Workshops and extend an invitation to these 2-Day Exit Planning presentations being held at the end of June, 2009. These 2-Day Workshops are a big hit with all who attend and are just the thing to jump-start your Exit Planning practice.

John Leonetti, founder of Pinnacle Equity Solutions will be hosting a call to describe the 2-Day workshop and what makes it such a success. To listen in to see how Exit Planning can grow your practice, and to get details about these upcoming Workshops, click the link below and register for the upcoming call.

We look forward to seeing you on the call.

Click Here to Register for the FREE Call!

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide advisors with the tools they need to incorporate Business Exit Planning into their advisory practices. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and to receive a FREE copy of his special report, "How To Incorporate Exit Strategies Into Your Advisory Practice", visit Pinnacle Equity Solutions

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Selling Through Education

The role that I play here at Pinnacle is truly unique. Every day I get to speak with top advisors from around the country on the topic of exit planning. This is particularly exciting as we all recognize how new this industry is and what great opportunities there are to provide leadership in local markets and with business owner clients.

One of the most interesting topics that I find myself discussing is the concept of 'selling through education'. Aside from the general comments above about the changing marketplace that we all are in, the fact remains that 'exit planning' is a relatively new concept as the industry is still emerging. Accordingly, I see many advisors and institutions promoting 'exit planning' without a true awareness of what 'exit planning' really is. Moreover, I am left with the steady awareness that most business owners do not know, exactly, why an exit plan is critical to their lives.

It is each advisor's individual responsibility to educate this marketplace on this topic and to do so in a way that serves the business owner's best interests, while also building revenue and profitability for that advisor.

How then, in this changing marketplace, can this new service be explained and delivered?

We begin by recognizing that nowadays - no matter what product or service we are selling - our potential (or existing) clients and customers are very busy. This economy has the best of business people questioning their every decision and considering each purchase they make with the perceived and immediate importance of it in their lives today. From a practice management perspective, this makes our lives more challenging, but, at the same time, creates an amazing opportunity if you have the ability to educate your client as part of your marketing and sales process.

Almost every coaching student that I work with is redefining their message to the market. I strongly encourage each advisor to write a Special Report - or a short White Paper - that describes who they are, what they do, the market that they serve, and the reason why the work that they do is so important to their clients.

Why is this so key?

Because consumers are more discriminating than ever before and we need to reach out to them to tell them our story. In addition, because everyone appears to be so busy, it is important to put information in front of them that they can review, on their own schedule, to learn more about you, what you are offering, and why it is relevant/essential to their lives right now.

The greatest extension of this practice, for me, has been the Exiting Your Business book that I wrote last year. As more and more business owners and advisors read through the book, they are drawn to the message in this book. This, in turn, draws them to Pinnacle's business. And, the key point here is that when they do contact Pinnacle's office, they already know what we do, why we do it, and the immediate importance that it has in their lives. This really helps with the sales process, i.e. selling through education and attracting customers and clients (in our case, Members) who are 'prequalified' with their interest in our services.

POINT: People that you want to do business with will actually read what you have to say and will evaluate their buying decision without you 'selling' them - you are educating them on the relevant and immediate importance of what you do so that they can apply it to their lives today. These potential customers and clients can understand your view of the world before you meet them in person or over the phone. So, when you do meet with them you are not trying to explain your value proposition in a time-compressed manner. Rather, the meeting becomes a process of verification of what you do instead of a discussion about discovering what it is that you do. Again, people / business owners are short on time today - so, we adjust our process to meet the marketplace.

This process of increased communication therefore begs a logical question that every advisor needs to ask themselves in this market. Namely 'what VALUE am I bringing to the client / prospect that I am currently talking to?'

On a recent call with an advisor interested in Pinnacle's process I asked the following questions -

'when you talk business owners, what value do you feel you are brining to the conversation?' and

'what differentiates your practice in their eyes and why should they do business with you?'

Ironically, even though I asked a direct question, I got an odd answer - she simply said 'You're right'.

The 'you're right' answer was an admission that there was no value in the conversation with the business owner. In this world of increasing commoditization of services, this advisor admitted - to herself - that there was no value. Therefore, why would the business owner do business with her?

Seems crazy. But so is the world that we are living in.

Once you understand the value of what you offer - i.e. what you truly have to give to this client and the relationship, the work is far from over. You then need to educate your prospect / client on why this value is relevant to their current situation. Again, that process is 'selling through education'.

When you are more focused on what you have to give to this client than what you can get from the relationship, things really begin to take shape. And that is the primary conversation that I have with each of my coaching students as we navigate this fast-changing world. And, as this emerging exit planning industry takes shape faster and faster, it is beholden upon each exit planner to understand and communicate exactly what exit planning is and why it will change the business owner's life.

In summary, today's consumer needs to be educated on your services and you need to understand the value of what you are offering. When you combine your message with the intention to find clients who value your service and will listen to your message, then you begin to attract to your practice those clients who are not only willing to pay you for your service, but are also much more enjoyable to do business with.

We need to change with this changing world. Selling through education is the first best step towards securing new clients in this highly opportunistic environment.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Coming to Their Own Conclusion

“You can’t impose a mind-set on people. It emerges from a learning process in which they become persuaded that an objective is worthwhile and then apply their talents at realizing it.”

- Brian Pitman, from an article entitled
“Leading for Value” found in the Harvard
Business Review April 2003 edition.

The above quote summarizes quite nicely a part of the answer to the most common question asked by our Pinnacle Members, "Have you 'cracked the code' for prospecting business owners and winning exit planning engagements?"

Coming off the successful 2-day Workshop in Las Vegas, I am reminded of this critical observation - one which we devoted a majority of Day 1 to addressing, "How should business owners be approached in order to win engagements?" The short answer is to allow the owners a question and answer process - to 'create a space' - that enables these owners to come to their own conclusion that they really need to begin planning the exit from their privately-held business.

You see, as professional advisors, we spend a lot of time wanting to answer our client's questions. We hold onto the idea that our clients should come to us for answers, not for us to ask them more questions. But the process of engaging a business owner for an exit plan does not include the advisor telling the business owner what the answer is. The process includes asking the right questions, in the right way, so that the owner can struggle enough with the answers to realize that they have no idea how they are going to exit their business and protect their wealth.

This process is important to understand in order to get consistent results with your exit planning engagements. This is a 'learning process' as the quote above indicates. The owner persuades themselves that an exit plan is a worthwhile objective for them to pursue. When we try to impose this mindset on the owners that we work with, we make a convincing, but not a compelling presentation. The owner hears the information and consciously is in agreement with what should be done.

However, at a deeper level, the owner has not accepted this information and the exit planning process as critical to their success. They are not motivated to take action because they are only being influenced on an intellectual level, not an emotional level.

By contrast, when an owner goes through a questioning process that includes them realizing that the majority of their wealth is tied to their businesses, that they have no successor or exit plan, that the transition out of the business will take longer (and be more difficult) than they ever thought it could be, only then does that owner become motivated to begin to apply their talents to designing and implementing their business exit.

Spend some time thinking about this process. Understand that engaging a business owner in this way is a highly personal and sensitive topic. Every conversation with an owner is critically important to their lives. Treat the process accordingly and listen to the answers that the owners give. Review our updated questionnaire (Modules #1-#3 on the Membership site) to determine if you are asking the questions the right way.

And realize that the process of asking questions in this way is the key to success in this area. If you are still trying to 'impose a mindset' upon these owners, you are fighting the tide and that is likely the reason for the engagements that fall short. Review your process, know that this service is in high demand, and begin a new approach to your owners that recognizes the sensitivity and importance of this unique message and capability that you carry.

In the meantime, remember to contact our office with any questions as we are anxious to assist you in your continued success.

© 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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What an Event!

It is hard to describe the educational experience that 22 high caliber, sophisticated, and entrepreneurial advisors went through last Thurday and Friday at Pinnacle's 2-day Workshop in sunny Las Vegas. Advisor after advisor told me that this was the best presentation and educational event of their careers and that they would be going back to their offices to redesign their advisory practices to capture this opportunity.

Listed below is some of the feedback that was given to Pinnacle's staff regarding the quality of the learning experience.


"The subject matter was deep and insightful. The synergy among the high caliber attendees really took the Workshop to another level. This is a must for the client-focused advisor in the business owner marketplace."

- Emrich Stellar


"Great Workshop and knowledge - very practical."

- Irving Katz


"The beauty of John's methodology is that it is not lost in the numbers . . . . by recognizing the human desires, needs, and foibles of the exiting owner, John's techniques help develop a sound framework for a successful and satisfying ownership transition."

- Rob Brown


"The synergistic dynamic overlay of talents dedicated to a well conceived process to help qualified business owners make well informed decisions on exit options"

- John A. House


"John does a great job in turning a demographic observation into a concrete business. Excellent program !"

- John Alter


"Excellent process and techniques for making the most of the exit planning opportunity."

- Russ Gorman


"Overall excellent !"

- Greg Mickelson


"Excellent program"

- Buz Code

With continuing feedback of this kind, we grow more and more excited about our next program in Boston this Fall. Look for an announcement of the dates and location this summer.

In the meantime, if you want to stay ahead of this growing marketplace, consider Pinnacle's Home Study Course to get you going with Exit Planning right away.

© 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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Picking Up, Dusting Off, Moving On

Business owners today are beginning to emerge from the bunkers that they have built around themselves and are looking ahead, once again, to what the future has in store.

There is a general feeling that we have suffered the worst of this storm. Moreover, since even Warren Buffett agreed that this economic maelstrom is 'the worst case scenario' that was envisioned, perhaps it is also true that any more suffering would merely be incidental to what has already been felt . . . could this be the tell-tale signs of a bottom?

I don't want to be the fool who says that this market cannot go any lower or that the economy cannot get any worse. I have been studying markets and investor/human psychology for far too long to make such a bold claim. But I can make a not so bold prediction that more and more business owners will awaken to the idea that the equity that is trapped in their illiquid businesses is now more important than ever and they will be looking for ways to monetize it in order to meet their personal goals.

Let's face it, the retirement that any business owner contemplated one or two years ago is likely a plan that is residing in the circular file in their office (in case the pun escaped you . . . that is the garbage pail). The security that they thought that they had in their investment accounts is now significantly lower and these owners need to focus on their businesses and the equity in that business once again.

The owner's financial advisor did not create this problem. In fact, even Warren Buffett - the world's greatest investor - was saying last October that it was a good time to purchasing stocks. Simply put, life created this event. This is not a once-in-a-lifetime, but a once-in-three-lifetimes type of event. As advisors and as business owners we have to take this event and learn from it. We need to see what lesson is buried within this calamity. Then we need to use this wisdom and higher understanding to our benefit. We need to convert these unfortunate events into opportunity. We need to be pro-active in our approach, recognizing that others will not be.

Let's talk about the illiquid equity that is sitting in a business owner's business. This is the value of the enterprise, beyond the 'book value' - or the value of the tangible assets (inventory, machinery, real estate, etc . . . ) - that exists within a business. This is not cash flow, which can be extracted from the business. It is the 'going concern' value, the value of the enterprise to produce future profits. Now, an owner cannot pay for his retirement today with earnings to be received in the future, unless he can find someone willing to share in the risk of those profits actually arriving. This is what a business owner accomplishes when they sell their business. They sell to someone willing to assume the risk of the business and pay the owner/seller today for profits to be earned in the future.

Because of the economy and the contraction of credit, there are not a lot of 'buyers' out there today. So, many owners feel as though they do not need to plan for their exit. This is a natural reaction . . . why try to sell something to a marketplace that is not interested in purchasing. But, the critical piece that is missing from this equation is that every decision that the business owner makes from today until the day that they exit their business will impact their exit value.

So, planning for an exit is more than simply taking action when the market is 'hot'. It is just the opposite. A successful exit strategy is one that utilizes these down markets to prepare the business for an exit when the 'window' opens again. And, let's not forget, that selling the business is not the only exit option - again, far from it. However, any exit option needs to consider the underlying viability of the company's sustainability in order for the overall exit structure to be a success. Now is the time to address this sustainability.

More and more business owners are coming to this realization now that they see that there may only be one more exit window prior to them turning 70. In addition, most of these owners do not want to miss the next window in fear of falling into another recession such as the one that we are currently experiencing. These owners need to begin the planning today and it is our job as advisors to assist in raising their awareness to this reality.

Today's marketplace has left quite a bit of debris in its wake. The owner who can dust themselves off, pick themselves up, and move on with their lives will be ready to have the conversation about planning for their exit. There is a pent-up demand that is building for this exit strategy planning advice and it is the wise advisor who invests their time learning about how to have this conversation and how to monetize the concept to grow their practice.

That is what we are covering next week at our Las Vegas Workshop. I am looking forward to this bi-annual event. If you have not made plans to join us already, double-check your calendar and join us in sin city. Each of these events is another big step that we are taking towards advancing our awareness around exit strategy planning and serving the business owners who are in need of this service.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2-Day Exit Strategies Training Workshop FREE Preview Call with Special Guest Bill Losey

Wed Feb 11 at 3pm EST I will be hosting a FREE call with my friend, and marketing guru, Bill Losey. Pinnacle's Exit Strategies Workshop is 38 days away and we are all very excited about this event and the new additions that will empower you to grow your advisory practice exponentially with this unique and valuable exit planning message.

On this call, you'll get a sneak preview of all the great educational and business building content we will be teaching at the upcoming Workshop on March 19-20 at the Westin Causarina, Las Vegas!

Remember, Pinnacle only hosts 2 events like this per year. Our next big event is not until October - so get involved today and make 2009 the year that you move your business ahead with the business owners who are waiting to hear from you.

Click here to register for the call.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Rise of the Internal Transfers

So . . . what the corner office producer at Merrill Lynch knew, that few others were focusing on while the equities markets were in turmoil was rather simple and rather easy to share with those who would listen. He simply said 'buy bonds' (i.e. instead of fixating on the stock market which was a mess). It was that simple.

In a market environment where there was more risk in doing nothing, than in taking definite action, this experienced advisor simply said 'buy bonds'. What was behind this message was the notion that as advisors, we should not get too caught up in all the mess of the marketplace . . . simply 'buy bonds' - offer alternative solutions that are appropriate for the current market conditions.

What are appropriate exit planning recommendations for today's business owners? Well, instead of 'buying bonds' for their liquid assets - let's discuss an examination of 'internal transfers', instead of 'external transfers' as a viable (alternative) exit plan from the business.

First, let's take a look at why advice, such as 'buy bonds', is so difficult for advisors to hear? Well, I believe that many advisors believe it to be their role to get their clients as much return as they can . . . even if they are assuming the risks of the market. Buying bonds was not exciting and it did not require great analysis.

Investors, however, during those turbulent times were becoming less interested in a conversation regarding a return on their investment and were simply more interested in a conversation that focused on the return of their investment.

Now, panicky investors should not, necessarily, drive the investment decisions in a portfolio of liquid assets.

But, think about whether you are working with any business owners who - in this environment - are simply wondering whether they will get any return on their investment. Many are clearly asking where 'the bottom' will be.

If this is the case, and it appears as though 'outside' buyers will be absent from the marketplace for awhile, these owners should begin to consider 'internal' transfer strategies for their eventual exit.

Just like 'buying bonds' was not as exciting as stock purchases, the end result was that this alternative approach - when measured correctly - had a better chance of getting many investors to their goals.

I believe that this analogy rings true for today's exit planning marketplace. Where most advisors, since 2003, were focused on the 'outside' sale of a business (i.e. to an industry buyer or to a private equity group), today's exit planners need to be proficient in 'internal' transfer strategies as well. There are strong comparisons between 'external' and 'internal' transfers and 'stock' and 'bond' markets, let me explain.

Stock investments carry a bit more risk, but potential for a greater return. 'External' transfers - i.e. sales to outsiders - carry the same dynamics . . . finding a buyer, getting financing, negotiating the transaction, and navigating the legal agreements and tax provisions. If you can do all of this, the sales price (i.e. the return) can be greater. But today's environment makes these transactions more difficult than in the past.

By contrast, bond investments carry a bit less risk (at least they did before the sub-prime mess tainted much of the fixed-income marketplace). In any event, bonds are less volatile and have a more predictale return to the investor. And, most importantly, if bond investing gets an investor to their goals, then the question becomes 'why take the extra risk'? 'Internal' transfers - i.e. Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), Management Buyouts, and Gifting Programs are similar to bond investing-in this scenario. There can be more control over the transfer and, if the owner can be assured that an 'internal' transfer will get them to their goals, then - like bond investing - why take the additional risk?

So, the rise of internal transfer strategies is likely to be with exit strategy planners for quite some time. With the credit crunch continuing to restrict access to capital, and buyers becoming more cautious about preserving their profitability, rather than expanding through acquisition, the marketplace for exiting owners to sell to 'outsiders' may remain considerably depressed for some time. Therefore, given the sheer number of Baby Boomer who need to begin planning their exits to protect their illiquid wealth, it makes a lot of sense to talk to these owners about 'buying bonds' - or, in this case, examining an internal transfer.

We will be covering internal transfers in depth at Pinnacle's 2-day Workshop in Las Vegas next month. Feel free to join us - and enjoy a FREE month of Membership until that point in time.

And be sure to join us for our preview call with special guest Bill Losey to hear more about how we will also focus your advisory practice on getting and staying in front of these exiting business owners.

Click here to register for our Workshop Preview Call, with speical guest Bill Losey, Wed Feb 11 at 3pm EST.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Best Question I Have Been Asked in a Long Time

As many of you know, the past 5 to 6 weeks of newsletters have been filled with important coaching information to provide assistance with growing your business in this troubled economy. The significance of these newsletters comes in the ability to impact you at a level that is meaningful and keeps you focused on moving your business forward.

I want to continue that trend today by sharing with you the answer to the best question that I have been asked in a long time - "What have I learned as an entrepreneur that I wish I knew a long time ago?"

The insightful interviewer who asked me this question gave me an opportunity to drive the point home in my own mind. As I spoke to him with true conviction, I realized how strongly I believed the words that I was speaking. What I told the interviewer was - What I wish I knew long ago is that business is about understanding the power behind the concept of 'giving' instead of 'getting' in every business endeavor.

I followed up that statement with some immediate details so as not to sound too charitable or too soft in my approach to business. I elaborated on the fact that, for many years, I approached business with the idea that if I 'got' something - i.e. a law degree, a master's degree, a CFP designation, and so on, that I would be better qualified to go into the marketplace to 'get' what I wanted - success in business. Looking back on the hours that I spent 'getting' those things I realize that my mindset was driven by the wrong intentions. Once I learned that I would be paid for the value of what I 'gave' to the marketplace, then I would truly be on my way to success. Let me explain further.

I speak to and coach many advisors who are wondering, in this environment, how they are going to 'get' the business that they need in these market conditions. I've been in that place for many, many years. It is a place that says I need to work more hours, call more people, better utilize my resources, and stretch each dollar to make it more efficient to my end goal - 'getting' the business that I need.

I too followed only this path for a long time. And, when I achieved some success, what did I do? I attributed it to my hard work, dedication, determination, etc. . . and went right back to that mindset thinking Great, let me now go 'get' the next one. But those wins were hard-fought and required constant maintenance and the mindset was actually making my job and life much more difficult than it needed to be.

The greatest lesson that I have learned in my entrepreneurial career therefore was how to change that mindset and begin the day with a different question - What do I have to give to my clients, prospects, business owners, and coaching students today? I began to see business from a different perspective . . . from the client's perspective. What did this person value in our relationship? Why did they choose to do business with me? Was it because I am an attorney? Was it because I had certain designations? Partly 'yes' - that helped establish a threshold of competence that permitted the conversation to commence at a professional level. However, the reasoning was far from complete.

What the client wanted was their problem solved. What I had to give them was a solution. What I had to give them was peace of mind. What I had to give them was my time and ability to communicate with them in a manner that they valued because it reinforced that solution and peace of mind.

Does this sound too esoteric? Does it sound like a soft way of doing business?

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a bit of the first, and very little of the second. I construct boundaries and conditions with whom and in what manner I conduct my business. I do this because I reserve my energy for those who are ready to accept what I have come to understand what I have to give . . . and I generally take a pass on the rest. I don't spend my days trying to 'get'. I spend my days trying to identify those to whom I can creatively deliver the solutions that I have to provide. And, since I know the value of what I have to 'give', I charge accordingly (although I do provide quite a bit of information - i.e. this newsletter - without charging - but I still 'get' something far more important than money - more on this later).

'Getting' therefore begins from a place of weakness. It begins from a place of asking yourself What more do I have to do to 'get' this client, contract, account paperwork signed, etc. . . The barriers break down, the client controls the relationship (because they only value you for what you are willing to compromise - mostly in price - to get you to work for them) and, at the same time that you 'get' what you thought you were looking for, you plant the seeds for potentially getting something worse. That is why people often say that you want to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

So 'giving' is about making yourself available to do business a certain way. It is a far more powerful way to go into a prospective engagement.

And, to avoid being too esoteric, let me relate this to exit strategy planning and making money. Ask yourself, Are you trying to simply 'get' the next business owner to meet with you and engage your exit strategy planning services? Is that the mindset that you carry with you into that meeting? Or, are you truly listening to this business owner's concerns and realizing that you are the only person on the planet who can 'give' them what they need - predictability and direction around this niched, specialty practice area - exit strategy planning.

When you truly understand the value of what you bring to a relationship and when you know that you carry the solutions that can free this person from their current problem, then you too will have arrived at the place that changed the way that I currently [try to] do most of my business (after all, we all sometimes slip into old habits that can be hard to break) You will know that 'giving' to these business owners in need is far more powerful than trying to 'get' from them what you need. Many advisors are already at this place - far many more can use this as a guide through this tough economic time.

Remember, 'giving' is not charity (although giving to charitable causes is a pretty good thing to do as well). 'Giving' is not working for free. And, most importantly, 'giving' is not 'giving in' - far from it. 'Giving' is empowering your thoughts and actions with the Truth, that you can solve this client's problem for them if they will only meet you with the monetary requirements that you have to make your business together hold the integrity that is required in any relationship where both parties benefit. You 'get' to cash that engagement check when you realize that what you 'give' has more value than something as commoditized as money.

This is the answer to one of the best questions that I have been asked in a very long time. It is the perspective that continues to drive me forward with my Pinnacle business today. Did I 'give' you something to think about that may change the way you reach your goals in 2009? Did I do this wondering what I will 'get' from it? No - this is a free newsletter. But, I do 'get' the opportunity to further our relationship together and, that, my friends, is sometimes the best that you can ask of the person with whom you are communicating - not everyone is ready to step forward today to further their education or accept what you have to give. But that does not even register on my 'scoreboard' because I know that 'giving' this message today - in this marketplace - will make a difference. Take this same conviction with you on your next meeting with a business owner - then re-read this newsletter and do it again and again. You will be amazed at the big difference that this little shift makes.

As always, I wish you well and look forward to helping you reach your goals in 2009.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is a Dreaming Room and

A business starts as a dream.

Dreams eminate from our imagination - the greatest gift that we are given as Entrepreneurs.

How do we build these dreams and put them in an environment to grow and blossom ?

Well, going into a Dreaming Room is one great way to jump-start (or start anew) your practice in 2009.

My friend and mentor, Michael Gerber, has created such an environment to allow the creative juices within every entrepreneur to flow. His Dreaming Room is a one-of-a-kind experience that I participated in last summer.

Now Michael knows that, at the time, I was more interested in getting his endorsement for my Exiting Your Business book than learning how to Dream - that was my motivation to attend his presentation. However, as life would have it, I was pleasantly surprised when I went through the Dreaming Room exercise to see that I could detail and expand the vision that I had at the time for this exit planning business.

I showed Michael a vision that I had of being on national television, telling the story to millions of business owners and advisors and having them appreciate the importance of this critical area of planning for business owners. In this entrepreneurial dream, I saw myself being interviewed on the topic in a way that would literally create a market for this new concept.

As many of my readers know, the reality of that dream came to fruition last month as ABC News interviewed me on this topic. That broadcast reached more than 44 million people. And once again last week when I was interviewed live on New England Cable News (NECN). Click here to check it out!

Exactly as I had envisioned it in the Dreaming Room, this experience manifested in real life.

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jumping into your Goals

Why have I been 'pounding the table' so much on goal setting for this year?

Well, as my coaching students often tell me, the goals that we set together always seem beyond their reach. I quickly agree and remind each student that setting true goals - aspirational goals - requires a new way of thinking. If you are a part of the exit planning business, you are a pioneer and you need to align your thinking and actions with the potential for this business. And it is still the beginning of the year with plenty of time to set a firm agenda for 2009.

One thing that Pinnacle does better than anyone else in the world is help our Members set and reach their exit planning goals. We do this because we have a unique product - exit strategy planning - and, as we are repeatedly told, we have the right mix of skills and experience, both in content as well as in marketing and selling, to assist you in driving new client acquisition in your practice.

Many advisors ask how I did what I did in 2008 with the growth of Pinnacle as well as the publication of Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth. Let me begin by asking you a few important questions:

Are you thinking that the economy is going to slow you down from hitting your goals?

Does the bad news on the TV, in the papers and online reports impact how you feel about the prospect for your business in 2009?

Do you empathize so strongly with the current employment and recession statistics that you feel like you simply want to survive 2009 and 'ride this thing out'?

Well, once I had the techniques and the mindset to see and work through these 'challenges', I tapped into an energy that kept me going right through the troubles of last year and, with a strong wind at Pinnacle's back this year, we know that a quantum leap is already happening both for us and our coaching clients.

What got me going and kept me going? I started to think and see things differently. That is what I am passionate about sharing with those who are looking for similar results in 2009.

Click here to see how I made a leap towards my goals last year - enjoy:

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 ExitingYourBusiness.com