During our last Member-only, Advanced Practice Management Training call, I interviewed two of our stand-out members, Joe Bazzano (www.petransitions.com) and Kevin Kennedy (www.beaconexitplanning.com). 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:
- The different types of businesses they each run and how exit planning is helping with the growth.
- How each market their exit planning business
- What mistakes they’ve made in the past that our members can learn from
- 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