There are many rewards and unique challenges in being the personal financial advisor to wealthy business owners. It requires an advisor to have a certain level of expertise.
He or she must make an investment of time and be willing to serve in a unique way, well before the business owner becomes a profitable client. Since most business owners don’t wait until they are ready to sell their company to find a quality advisor, successful advisors will already be working with their business owner clients years before the owner sells. Many of my clients were financial planning clients for well over 10 years before they had much of an investment account. You can’t expect to develop a relationship with business owners, and earn their trust, just weeks or months in advance of their business sale! It happens, but it’s rare.
I made my transition to financial and investment planning after working for many years with business owners. First, I was a partner in a small venture capital firm, and later I worked as a consultant and part-time chief financial officer to businesses. It was through my conversations with entrepreneurs that I realized how much I loved dealing with these dynamic personalities. We would discuss their personal finances and work-life balance—how they balanced time growing their businesses with the needs of their families. Each also faced very different issues and stressors as they exited their businesses and transitioned to the next stages in their lives.
If you are looking to grow your business owner clientele and help see them through a successful transition of their business, here are several tips and strategies to consider.
Both Advisors And Clients Must Get Started Early
One of the benefits of taking on business owners as clients early, long before they decide to sell, is that you have time getting to know them. This allows you to build an amazing level of trust while helping them frame the decisions they will make about selling.
As I approach that conversation, I begin by asking my clients thoughtful questions around building business value, succession planning and their long-term strategic goals. These are low-stress conversations that plant the seeds for the future thinking that will impact how well the sales process and transition of their company will go.
Help Your Client Get Clarity
As advisors, our job is to help our business owner clients get clarity well in advance of initiating the sales process. We must help them maintain focus on what their goals are for the process, for themselves, their employees, successors and their family.
Many advisors coach their clients to “know where you’re going to before you leave or run from where you are.” While that’s a noble goal and appropriate for some personalities, I find that many owners will never find out what is possible for the next stage in their lives until they make the decision to sell. In fact, fear of the unknown keeps them from selling when it’s in both their personal and economic interest to do so. When my clients tell me they have no idea what they are going to do, I smile back and tell them that it’s perfectly acceptable. Why not make finding out “what’s next” their first project after the sale (and a well-deserved vacation)? Position it as a fun, open and exciting journey.