Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pinnacle's State of the Union Address

This feature article highlights the call that John Leonetti did for his Pinnacle Members describing his assessment of today's marketplace of exiting owners as well as the growing 'exit planning' community and Pinnacle's plans for 2010 to continue its leadership role in this exciting and emerging profession.

2009 Pinnacle Overview:
The Small Business Owner Continues to Suffer
Overall, in 2009, the small business owner continued to suffer from restricted access to credit and a lack of vision towards future prospects and growth. Amidst this backdrop of challenges, a small percentage of forward-looking owners choose to invest in the longer-term planning exercise that is the foundation of a solid exit plan.

However, sewn within this general fabric of business owner lament were positive signs. Once we got through the summer of 2009, a noticable trend occurred . . . more owners took meetings on the exit planning topic and signed engagement agreements to get the process started. This trend could be observed quite clearly as it stood in stark contrast to the 'deafening silence' of the first six months of 2009. And, within the walls of Pinnacle's headquarters, it has had me and my team quickly assembling resources to support this growing trend of owner engagements.

Listed below are many of Pinnacle's initiatives to assist you in capturing the emerging opportunity and being prepared for this coming wave of owners who are opening up to the idea of setting a plan to address the largest financial transaction of their lives.

Highlights from Pinnacle's Existing Content and What Was Delivered in 2009
" . . . through our newsletters, training calls, workshops, spotlight calls and support we’ve presented to you experts, authors, articles, information and topics that were timely and were created to continually educate you on how you can improve your exit planning service for owners. We’ve listened to our Members who have been asking for even more advanced training and have created many focused initiatives for the coming year, improving on our already outstanding reputation for quality content and delivery."

Pinnacle's growing library of proprietary content available to our Members / licensees, now includes more than 100 hours of specialized training, including:

* 64 unique newsletters - each of which has a recorded training call.
* 28 expert interviews / Spotlight Guest calls covering a wide array of topics that
exit planners need to have access to in order to better understand
their exit planning conversations and services to owners.
* 24 unique white papers and specialized topics
* Prospecting tools, including letters and presentations to owners
* Instructional classes on packaging and presenting exit planning to owners
* Sample exit plans and fact finders to assist with your owner meetings
* Special coaching calls on general practice management
* Special guidance on how to market your exit planning services
* An online 'school' that addresses Pinnacle's exit planning system.

. . . and much, much more proprietary content to support you in learning in this field and delivering solutions to your owners.

Recognizing that an incredible foundation has been built, Pinnacle now is focusing on initiatives for 2010 that will empower you, that advisor to the owner, to be more pro-active with your training . . . empowering you to be even more profitable.

2010 Pinnacle Initiatives-
To continue the momentum that has been generated at Pinnacle, John laid out the aggressive agenda being implemented as Pinnacle continues to define excellence in the exit planning arena.

The first area to address in supporting our Membership is an . . .

Online Exit Planning Software Program
To add to Pinnacle's exit planning system, we are excited about the roll-out of our latest tool for advisors - a web-enabled software program empowering you, the consultant to business owners, to easily apply all of Pinnacle's traing to the buildout of exit plans right from your desktop computer. This online tool will empower members to organize client information and provide high quality deliverables. As more and more exit planning engagement agreements are signed, there is a pressing need to provide this tool to our growing base of advisors.

Pinnacle will soon announce the availability of this web-enabled, dynamic and proprietary software solution that will provide you with a deliverable that not only follows Pinnacle's process for exit planning but also is rich with colorful charts, updated tax and regulatory information, as well as being customizable to your needs with your owners. The Membership has spoken and we have listened and are ready to deliver a 'category killer' application that will make the presentation and assembly of your exit plans more powerful . . . and your practice more profitable.

Next, John discussed the 'foundation' of exit planning content and how it will now be organized into a . . . .

Certification Program
After three (3) years of building focused and organized exit planning content, Pinnacle is quickly organizing and adding to all of this excellent material to bring you a cutting edge, rigorous Exit Planning Certification Course. Pinnacle's Certification Committee has been working on this project for nearly 5 months to deliver to the marketplace a Certification and represents nothing short of excellence in the field of exit planning. We, as a Committee, feel strongly that the exit planning marketplace needs better definition. As the leader in this space, it is therefore Pinnacle's responsibility to provide this definition of excellence. It is against this backdrop that the Certification course is being built.

Pinnacle recognizes that most advisors and consultants who offer exit planning today do so as an 'add on' to their existing advisory service. This has created a challenge for advisors and consultants to focus on the training and delivery of exit planning services (particularly in light of the economy in 2009). The Certification course will focus your efforts and further define the expectation and direction that you can take your exit planning practice. Far beyond simply holding yourself out as an exit planner, this Certification will challenge you to differentiate yourself from the growing field of those professing to provide this service by empowering you with training and advanced tools to deliver solutions to owners at a whole new level.

Expect to see details of this launch in March of 2010.

Advanced Member Support
To accomodate our growing Membership, Pinnacle is currently interviewing a Membership coordinator. Our Membership has spoken on this point and we, again, have listened. It is important to Pinnacle that your questions be answered and, moreover, that our tools are understood and used on a regular basis. To this end, we have built a support position to address only these issues so that Pinnacle can more effectively provide phone support and the distribution of our proprietary online newsletters. In addition, we will be providing advanced support for the completion of your exit plans

Upgrade to Our Training Program
An interesting observation came from the Members in 2009 that required a bit of thinking . . . perhaps, at times, we were providing too much content, training and information. Some Members felt as though they were struggling to keep up with the pace of information that we distributed. To address this issue, we have expanded our training to include eight (8) Advanced Practice Management calls throughout the year. These advanced calls will put into better context the topics that we cover in our training and assist you in better applying the teachings in your businesses.

We are excited about this improvement to our programming and look forward to our first Advanced Practice Management call in mid-February.

Upgraded Online Newsletter Service
To our chagrin, we have discovered that many of our Members continued to struggle with the marketing and distribution of the exit planning content to their business owner clients and prospects. This means that much of the excellent training and content remains in the minds of advisors and not in the hands of [potential] exiting owners. To address this issue, Pinnacle is systemetizing our process for establishing online delivery of our newsletters in a customized format for your practice. Moreover, we are adding to our support team the ability to do this without your [manual] involvement. Members have heard about this already but should expect individual phone calls to discuss how we can help get you set up with this important marketing tool.

Direct to Owner Presentations
One of the most exciting projects that we have in a Beta phase is the mailing and telemarketing program for direct business owner contact. Although we recognize that 'cold prospecting' is one of the worst and most expensive forms of new client acquisition, we also know the topic of 'exit planning' is highly specialized in its messaging to owners. What does this mean?

Simply put, discussing an exit is a very private matter for most owners and, therefore, it is a lot of work for any one advisor or consultant to get this dialogue started with an owner. Our 'direct to owner' initiative will be the 'door opener' to get you in front of owners on a regular basis.

This 'direct to owner' program is currently in beta testing and will, hopefully, be offered in the 2nd quarter to the Membership as an additional service. Our success with these Beta tests will be defined by Pinnacle's ability to consistently put Members in front of business owners in a proven and strategic manner to have the exit planning conversation. We are very excited about our current Beta tests and will present more details of this program in the 2nd quarter of 2010. Keep an eye out for applications for this exciting program.

Platinum Program
Pinnacle's year-long, select group of Platinum Members continues with a powerful assembly of advisors in 2010. This group had four (4) seats open up after the 2009 group concluded and they were quickly filled with motivated advisors and consultants who were very good, non-competitive, highly experienced and suppportive Members of Pinnacle's program.

More than a few Members have asked about Platinum II - a 2nd Platinum Group which would be built for collaboration on owner exit plans, as well as to suppport each other in a non-competitive manner in building each other's individual businesses. Given all of Pinnacle's current initiatives, we are not opening a 2nd Platinum Group until, at least, the 2nd Quarter of 2010. For those with a continued interest, we encourage you to continue to let our office know that you would like to be a part of this new group and we will keep your application on file for [likely] the 2nd half of the year when this new group opens up.

Additional Live Chapter Meetings
Finally, we will continue a wonderful tradition that was started in the 2nd half of last year . . . Pinnacle's quarterly, Members only, Chapter meeting. Although our Chapter meetings are currently scheduled for Boston (next meeting on April 7th in Boston) all our nation-wide members are invited to join us for these full days of networking and advanced practice management. We have had tremendous feedback and success with this program so far and look forward to expanding the concept into other markets in 2010.

Closing Thoughts
It is an exciting time to be a part of Pinnacle's exit planning 'Union'. We see continued excitement around this unique offering and look forward to another year of delivering excellence to your consulting and advisory businesses.

Also, be sure to check out Pinnacle's 2-Day Workshop at Suffolk University's Law School in Boston, MA March 18th & 19th at Suffolk University.

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