John Brown is the country’s leading proponent of exit planning for business owners. The company he founded, Business Enterprise Institute (BEI) in Denver, Colorado, is devoted exclusively to training professionals—lawyers, CPAs, insurance and financial advisors—in the skills they need to help their business owner clients successfully exit their businesses. BEI provides training programs, conferences, and written materials to further its training objectives and offers a professional designation—Certified Exit Planner (CExP)—to those who meet training and examination requirements. Personally, John has been a mentor to me and helped me establish my exit planning practice.
DSF: Please tell us about the experiences that prompted you to develop the concept of “Exit Planning.”
JB: I had been an estate planning attorney and founded my own law firm in Denver. Some of my clients began asking me for help leaving their businesses. I had grown-up in a business-owning family and my parents were not particularly successful in leaving their businesses. In the late 1980s, two brothers came to see me and told me they wanted to leave their business and asked me if I could help them just like I helped them with their estate plans. I asked, when do you want to leave? Their answer—“Friday”—shocked me and crystallized for me that business owners were giving little thought to planning their exit. Our mission at BEI became to help business owners reap the benefits of their lives’ work—grow and protect the value of the business and convert that value to cash, and accomplish their non-financial objectives as well.
DSF: What do you find to be the major concerns of business owners when they think about leaving their businesses?
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