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Exit Planning: 7 Steps to Develop a Written Personal Plan.

If you are a business owner who worries about whether your life will have any purpose after exit, this is for you. This is also for you if you just assume that retirement or post exit life will be fine without a plan. Spoiler alert: it won't.


In our last piece, we highlighted the first three disciplines and owner must do for personal readiness. Today, we will begin a three day miniseries on each of these initiatives:


  1. Written Personal Plan

  2. Personal Financial Plan

  3. Estate and Tax Plan


First, a short personal story: long before my wife and I were in the market for a new house, we took some time to write down the specific aspects about the next house that would have to be true for us to be satisfied with making a move. I still have our notes from that conversation:

“…the house has a basement, with a walkout, no leaks, maybe a kitchenette (ideal for early morning Bible studies), definitely a space for kids to play and guests to sleep. It’s near neighbors that we can get to know. It doesn't eat our lives with maintenance time and cost, and does not drastically affect our ability to be debt free soon.”

To our surprise, the perfect house came on the market when we were not even looking for it. It did not take long for us to evaluate that the new house fit all of the criteria and more. We were the first to make an offer, and it has been our home ever since, All because we took the time to clearly articulate what we wanted.


Being a business owner, you have the same opportunity to visualize your future. This can be a future in which you sell, or grow. And as we've said before, you don't need to know which path you're going to choose now, as long as you get specific about the ingredients that you want to be part of your future.


So today, we're going to give you a step by step guide to creating your Written Personal Plan.


  • Ask the “3 Year Question”.  We have referenced this in prior articles. Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, Has built his entire operating system around this question: “If we were meeting here three years from today, looking back, what has to have happened for you to be very happy with your progress, personally and professionally?” We always try to begin each perspective client relationship with this question, because it provides abundant clarity, and it helps determine which aspects of your present get to come along into your future. It frees you up from having to justify your future through the eyes of your past. Key: If you are sure you want to sell your business, you might consider adjusting this time frame to one year after you exit. If not, leave it as is, Because your answer could apply to either exit or growth modes. Here is an example of one way a business owner might answer the question: “Over these past three years, we have built an incredible business. It is operating efficiently, and we have the best workforce and senior leadership team we've ever had. I'm taking more rejuvenating and relaxing free days as a result of the organization at work, and I have plenty of time to invest in relationships with my spouse and kids. We just took a couples trip to Europe with some lifelong friends, and it was a tremendous investment in our marriage. With my new time freedom, I am enjoying serving at the local homeless shelter once a week, giving vocational counseling to homeless war veterans. I have coffee once a week with my daughter, and I get to pick her kids up from school and golf with them every other Thursday…” You get the idea how specific this could be. And it needs to be specific, because until you get it outside of your own head, no one around you can help you achieve this vision.

  • Share Your Answers With your Spouse. After you get your own ideas out on paper, it's very important for you to share them with your spouse or trusted friend. If you are married, each of you needs to bring your own passions and creativity into this future picture. One thing that we have seen successful couples do is to take what we call a “Vision Weekend”, where are you devote time and space both to invest in one another as well as to dream big about the answers to these questions. We frequently see this used to envision the next 12 months, but it is also an effective way 2 plan for the next three years. Tip: Consider printing out a three-year calendar, and bringing a package of different colors of sticky notes. Visually block off with sticky notes the days or weeks that you want to invest in different areas: light blue = work; green = kid/grandkid time; pink = marriage; orange = travel.


  • S.T.E.P. Through Your Vision Together. Now that you and your spouse or trusted friend have bounced ideas off of one another, it’s time to S.T.E.P. through them more specifically. With permission, we cite Chris Snider’s book Walking to Destiny, where he helps organize your vision into four subtopics: Spiritual: Where is your center? What drives your inspiration? Do you want to memorize a book of the Bible? Do you want to attend a spiritual retreat? Things: What things do you want in life? Examples might include a vacation home, a specialty salsa garden, an art studio to teach high schoolers… By the same token, what things to you not want? You might decide that your membership to the country club no longer serves your vision. If that’s true, it’s got to go. Experiences: Do you want to take each grandkid on a 12th birthday trip to commemorate their rite of passage into adulthood? Do you want to take your spouse to a coffee ranch in Costa Rica? If so, write it down. People: Are there folks you wish you could hang out with more? Are there mentors you need to thank? Is there a rising generation you want to help mentor? Write this down. These four elements can be pillars of your future vision if you incorporate them thoughtfully into your planning. For more on this topic, see the Exit Planning Institute resource library cited below. Speaking of…


  • Engage with Helpful Resources. You don't have to do all of the work yourself. Several people have gone before you, with both successes and failures from which you can learn. A few sources that can help your vision include:


  • Do Your Research in Motion. Don't wait to see if you actually enjoy hanging out with the friends that you say you're going to hang out with. Plan a weekend and go hike the mountains now. Don't wait to do charity work. Head down to the food bank with a cart of groceries today. Pack up and go help at the border with asylum seekers this summer. Do things outside of your business, and take time afterwards to reflect on your own and with your spouse or trusted friend about what you learned. Take note of the things that you are enjoying in your current business and reflect with yourself and others about future applications of these unique abilities. Do good stuff now.

  • Learn From and With Other Owners; Develop Key Relationship Now. Join a mastermind group in your region. Being a business owner of any significant success can be a lonely endeavor. You are not always free to talk about the failures, struggles, or even great successes. That is, until you get in a room with other like minded people. If you need help finding such a group, let us know. We have experience participating in these, and in some cases, creating them where the didn’t’ exist before. Related to this, you need to develop relationships now. Work on relationships today that you want to invest in both now and after exiting your business. Some business owners find that the main relationships that they have invested in are purely work relationships. Then if they contemplate selling or retiring, they are instantly paralyzed by the question “who am I going to hang out with?” Don't let this be you.

  • Revisit and update your Written Personal Plan. You are going to evolve. Your business is going to change period the priority is inside of your family may adjust overtime period what is needed from you now will be slightly different three years from now or later. Your plan needs to be updated, and communicated with your key relationships.


We hope this has been helpful to you, and if you know of others that would benefit from reading this or other articles relating to Exit Planning, we invite you to share these with them.


With that, we thank you, and we will see you tomorrow!

Any opinions are those of The Weddle Team and not necessarily those of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., or of Raymond James. The information contained in this presentation does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.


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