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

No comments: