Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are You Ready to Help Your Owners Exit ?

"Education is not teaching people what they do not know. It is getting them to behave as they do not behave."
- John Ruskin

The quote above accurately reflects a very true statement for the emerging field of exit planning. We as professional advisors do not merely need to learn more information about exit planning to address this growing marketplace need. Rather, we need to incorporate these learnings into our practices in a manner that drives value into our business owner relationships. The question today is, 'are you ready to help your owners in this way?'

What Does It Mean to Deliver Exit Planning Solutions?
As this emerging industry grows, it is interesting to see the various interpretations and variations on the term 'exit planning'. For example, someone who sells businesses sees 'exit planning' as working with an owner to make their business more profitable prior to a sale. Whereas someone who sells life insurance sees 'exit planning' as protecting the risks that a business owner faces for which they are currently exposed. And, the wealth manager see 'exit planning' as being able to financially afford a retirement after an owner has left their business.

I believe that 'exit planning' is a combination of all of these items. Therefore, an exit planner - or our Certified Business Exit Consultants - are charged with quarterbacking all of these clients needs, using a system and process that produces consistent results for owners, regardless of each individual owner's specific situation.

Education is Key - Application is Essential
Education is the root from which the fruit of achievement blossoms. This fact is not only due to the content which is presented to the student, but also because of the way in which education helps you to you focus your mind on the topic at hand. The mind that is prepared with exit planning information, systems and procedures is one that is ready to receive new business and to deliver this service in a manner that delivers results to owners.

Without a solid foundation of training and understanding, I find it very difficult to see how a professional advisor can have an in-depth conversation with a business owner on the myriad of topics that are included in a comprehensive exit plan.

The next question, naturally would be 'how long does this take?'

The Onboarding Time
Based upon the hundreds of advisors who have been through our training and workshops, Pinnacle has measured that the time that it takes for an advisor to successfully incorporate exit planning into their practice is, on average, six (6) to nine (9) months.

This means that the average advisor who attends our workshops and/or enrolls in our Membership program begins generating results within six to 9 months. This means that a commitment to a course of study is still accompanied by a concurrent marketing and sales period that is necessary to begin to generate business exit planning opportunities.

What happens during this 'on-boarding' phase.

Phase #1: A Commitment to a Program for Exit Planning Training
The natural first step for a professional advisor is to enroll in a training class or the Membership program (which includes monthly and ongoing training lessons). The most successful advisors make this commitment as they decide that incorporating exit planning into their businesses is the way in which they want to approach business owners. Once the study begins, these advisors grow their levels of confidence in having these conversations on a regular basis with both business owners and other professional advisors. The commitment to the ongoing study program allows an advisor to learn a system, get their questions answered, and then apply their learning to their business owner prospects and clients, as well as to have the conversations with other professional advisors and referral sources.

Phase #2: Assimilation of the Exit Planning Concepts into Your Practice
The 2nd stage of this 'on-boarding' process is the assimilation of the exit planning concepts and messages into your practice. After a number of conversations with owners and other professionals, the average advisor or consultant begins to make this conversation a part of everything that they do. All of a sudden, the conversation becomes a topic of discussion in almost all conversations with business owners.

Our most successful advisors also find a way to present these concepts to audiences of all sizes, giving live presentations of these concepts. Those who make live presentations benefit because the audience sees this person as an expert in the field. Thereafter, because exit planning is still a niche business, the business opportunities begin to flow to that presenter. At this point in time, exit planning is nearly fully assimilated into an advisors practice.

Phase #3: Successful sales of Exit Planning Engagements
The next phase of incorporation into one's practice includes the sales of exit planning engagements. One of the benchmarks that I look to for any service provider who is offering to perform a service is whether or not any clients have ever paid this person to do the work that they are offering to do. This may sound like an obvious statement however I know of many, many advisors who are making claims to offer exit planning services who have never been through a course of study, nor have they ever been paid by a business owner to perform this specific task. Education and proper and professional delivery are the keys to putting exit planning into your practice.

Timing, Timing, Timing
Now to the point . . . are you ready to offer this service to exiting owners? Consider that millions of Baby Boomer business owners are nearing retirement. Further consider that this recession has delayed the timing of their exits, creating a pent up demand for exits. So, given that the next few years of economic recovery will lead to a number of more years of very predictable exit planning needs, the question remains - Are you ready to serve this massive number of owners who need help exiting their businesses?

Begin Today
Begin preparing for this exciting business opportunity today. If you want to expand your service offering to exiting owners while also increasing your effectiveness with owners by generating consistent results for your business, enroll in a course of study today.

Pinnacle has been offering workshops and courses of study for years and have had hundreds of advisors attend with rave reviews.

Take a look at our upcoming events below and consider the investment of time that you make as a small price to pay for a large marketplace opportunity which will drive results in your direction.

October 21st & 22nd, 2-day Workshop in Boston, MA

October 25th - 29th, Certification Course (application

Once you decide to make exit planning a part of your practice, you need to be in tune with the effort that it takes to get consistent results. You want to study and be prepared for this oncoming wave of exiting owners so that you too can participate in this exciting marketplace opportunity.

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 7, 2010

Exit Planning Success Stories

I’ve talked a lot about our training program here at Pinnacle - how we provide our members with the tools and resources they need to incorporate exit planning into their practices. So I thought it was important to show how our members have achieved success, in terms of making money with exit planning, and getting a return on their investment with their Pinnacle membership.

During our last Member-only, Advanced Practice Management Training call, I interviewed two of our stand-out members, Joe Bazzano ( and Kevin Kennedy ( I personally believe that Joe and Kevin are amongst the leaders in the exit planning world.

I often say that a successful business requires a time for building, and both these gentlemen built their practices during this rough recession and are now reaping the benefits of the extensive marketing and education that they did over that time. So I wanted get their perspective and advice on four key points:

  1. The different types of businesses they each run and how exit planning is helping with the growth.

  2. How each market their exit planning business

  3. What mistakes they’ve made in the past that our members can learn from

  4. Specific advice they have for building an exit planning practice.

Your Business and How Exit Planning Can Help Grow Your Practice
Joe, a CPA and Certified Valuation Analyst, saw exit planning as a great opportunity to provide his existing client base with this additional valuable service. Joe explained “I thought it was a bit self-serving because I enjoy doing this kind of work. I’ve been doing it for 20 years in some capacity – helping business owners sell or buy businesses or transition. It also got me in a different perspective in the business owner’s eye. When I talk to them about these kinds of topics, their eyes tend to light up much more then when I talked about their tax return and how much they would owe the government. It also gave me a new way to approach some of the higher-end advisors. Providing this new service added a dimension to my offerings and it’s put me in a different lights with these advisors. It’s allowed me to provide a service that complements theirs, so it not only helps my business but it’ll help theirs as well."

Kevin, a former business owner who sold his business to his management team, saw the demand in the marketplace as he began giving presentations on exit and succession planning based on his experience of exiting his business. “This really motivated me to get a deeper understanding of exit planning because those are the things where I was weak. And that’s when I enrolled in Pinnacle’s 2-day training program. I have to say that this experience helped me understand the opportunity. From my own experiences and mistakes, I saw an opportunity, a large opportunity to help owners with their exits.”

As a professional advisor, Joe saw the marketplace opportunity as well as the chance to offer something more dynamic, interesting and strategic exiting clients. Kevin had a market pull. He saw the demand in the marketplace, got asked to speak and used the education and tools to get out there and build his practice.

Marketing Your Exit Planning Business for Growth

In sharing how they are marketing their practices and approaching owners and referral sources to generate business, Joe explained “One of the first things that I did was create a separate website, a separate company actually, from my accounting practice. I used social media, I got my name out there and did a lot of branding. I’ve also gotten a number of my articles published in various family magazines or small business magazines. And I’ve done a lot of networking. I’ve hit the pavement, talked to a lot of advisors about this whole process and what’s going on in the industry and this need for the business owners. And it’s been very well received by not only business owners, but from the advisors as well."

Since Kevin is not a ‘professional’ advisor, his approach was a bit different. He focused on one thing only – the business owner. “How am I going to get to the owners? So I lived and breathed this and I recognized that since I had no customers it was going to have to be a market pull. I wasn’t going to get on the telephone and start telemarketing. That’s an insult to owners. I had to capture them by having something that they’re interested in, and so what I had to do with market pull was capture names and emails and grow my list. And my approach was speaking, writing and publishing a newsletter.” Kevin began publishing articles and white papers and it gave him credibility. And in the process, built his contacts list so he is able to put himself in front of business owners all the time with his newsletter.

Many of you already have a list of contacts you can use to put your name out there by distributing newsletters and white papers. It’s a great way to educate your audience as well as build your credibility. You just need to write your story and start distributing it so people can read and understand what it is your doing.

Growing Your Practice – Mistakes to Avoid

We learn from others – especially from the mistakes they’ve made. And this learning process is so valuable because it can ultimately save us from a lot of wasted time, energy and money. Joe’s advice is to just “get out there”. He explains, “What I should have done more of was meeting with other advisors, getting out, spreading the word about exit planning and what I was doing. To let these higher end advisors understand that what I’m doing is not just a service for me, but it’s a complimentary service through their existing menu of services that they offer. I should have gotten started soon with networking and more publishing.”

Kevin explains that he was slow in developing his “voice” and advises to do it sooner rather than later. “You don’t have to be perfect in doing this. Take John’s course. I took John’s course and I read the book. I was a very disciplined student and I read all the white papers and I went through all the past articles. In doing just even half of that you already know more than 90% of the stuff that you’re talking with owners about. You already know more than the majority of people right now.”

Get out there sooner rather than later. Start having these exit planning conversations. Distribute your newsletters and white papers. Start educating your audience and develop a follow up system for monetization.

Pearls of Wisdom to Grow Your Practice

Joe advises to "make the commit, the decision to be in this business. You need to educate yourself on a system to use in your practice and then get out there and show off what you’ve already learned. You need to just got out and ask for the business."

Likewise, Kevin advises to “get out of your comfort zone, stretch yourself with all these new concepts and the new learnings and remember that exit planning is new to everybody. And if you’ve been through Pinnacle’s training, you know more already than you realize. And accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes – just get passed it. Go out early, start your speaking early, writing newsletters, capture your space. Don’t wait, don’t be hesitant and just do it. Read and study on a regular basis. I tell people all the time who contact me about joining Pinnacle, I say, you just have such an incredible library of information, of hundreds of hours of things you can study on your own, beyond the course. You can just fill up your brain with all sorts of ideas, and quite frankly, answer those gaps and questions which you may have about the technical basis of the business. And finally, be authentic. I think your authenticity and enthusiasm will pull more customers than your knowledge. Your role is to get these owners un-stuck in their business, and if you can be excited about that, that’s going to come through and be much more important that the technical part.”

My many thanks again to Joe and Kevin for sharing their “Exit Planning Success Stories”. Both offered similar advice in terms of just getting out there and having these exit planning conversations. This is really what Pinnacle’s message is all about as well as providing our members with the tools and resources to begin having these conversations in order to grow their exit planning practices.

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