If you are an advisor who works with owners, these four questions will determine if they would benefit from planning their eventual exit. And, increasing the value of their business.

We all want to help our clients succeed, and sometimes we discover what they need is outside of our wheelhouse.

If you are a business broker, accountant, lawyer, M&A advisor, banker or offer Private Equity, I know you come across owners who are thinking of selling, but they are just not prepared. They aren’t organized, they have skeletons in the closet, they haven’t maximized the value of their company and therefore selling isn’t a wise step.

These  four questions will illuminate where  your client sits on the spectrum of selling readiness. Depending on what you hear, you may want to refer your client to someone who can do pre-due diligence with them including a benchmark valuation, and then help them to build value in their company before they return to you.

**If you are a business owner, answering these questions about your plans for eventual exit will tell you whether you could benefit from some outside help.

1.      When would you like to be done working in your business?

 This question tries to determine if they have spent any time thinking about their exit or in other words, how much runway they have in front of them to be able to accelerate the value of their business.  It is concerning if the business owner does not have any answer to this question or has not thought about it.


2.     After you leave your business, how much cash will you need (each year) to achieve your personal financial objectives?

It is surprising but very few business owners can answer this question because they don’t know how much money they need to retire.   Why? Because they don’t have a financial plan to determine what personal vs. business assets are available and what they will need.  In the long range, quite often they see that their business is not worth as much as they would like, and they are not able to achieve their retirement objectives.

3.     If you could no longer run your company, what arrangements have you made to make sure that your family will benefit from your life’s work?

We’re trying to determine if any risk management has been done, if any contingency plans are in place or they have an “OMG” file in case things go off the track.


4.      What recommendations have your current advisors made about your eventual exit?  Have they urged you to start planning your exit? 

The context of this question is to ascertain what they have done, been told or what is rattling around in their mind.  Most will not have a thorough answer for this question.


In my firm, working with and talking to other business owner advisors I hear a lot of frustration.  Advisors a spend time with owners who are not ready for exit and so the file sits.  The good news is that for those owners, there is help. By taking a holistic view of their enterprise and personal financial affairs, they can build value for their company, achieve peace of mind regarding their retirement and be sale-ready when the time comes.

Advisors: If you have ‘not yet ready’ for sale clients with high potential businesses, I would love to collaborate on their file with you. I have worked with many other Trusted Advisors on their client files. 

Here are a few of their testimonials.

“John really cares. He takes an active interest in the owner’s business and sees what is needed to get a business ready to sell.  His contacts & network of other professionals can help business owners get the advice they need. He is respectful, well organized and a good source of information for owners and other advisors.”

Paul Gaster, President of Paul Guerin Estate Services Ltd (PGESL)

“John works to increase the value of businesses with the end goal of liquidity and exit. He is creative, compassionate and delivers strategies to get the job done.”

Brent Lineker, Hub International

“John is a trusted advisor who helps entrepreneurs get out of the business they worked so hard to build. I trust that he will do the right thing for a business owner – even if it will not benefit him. John’s experience is worth a lot, he’s been there and can help an owner get  ready for a sale or the next phase in their life.”

Brian Pleet, BDC

Owners: If you are a business owner and want to know more about my approach to building value in companies so you can maximize your ultimate return take a look at our section for Owners or let's connect.