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Financial Planning is Key to a Successful Retirement for Business Owners

investing-my-money | Read Time: 3 minutes

By John Churchill | Published: January 2021

Financial Planning is Key to a Successful Retirement for Business Owners

Business owners are a special breed: full of passion, grit, experience and persistence. They work a lifetime to build their businesses. However, while they pay themselves along the way, the real money, the wealth they have worked so hard to create, is primarily housed in their business.

At a certain point, every business owner must ask themselves – what do I ultimately do with this business? How am I going to unlock and realize its full financial value? Am I going to benefit from the value I have created? Is my family? My chosen charity?

The government has many plans for benefiting from the value you have created even if you don’t. Are you going to leave your transition plan to Uncle Sam? Or are you going to work within the confines of the law to realize the maximum financial value of your hard work to benefit yourself and your chosen recipients?

Building a successful business is enormously difficult. For most business owners, transitioning out is even harder. Not for lack of tenacity or skill, but rather because ownership transition planning requires an entirely different skill set than building a business. Most business owners prefer to spend their time on the offensive, pushing forward and growing their business. It is their comfort zone and rightly so.

Generally, personal financial planning is not in a business owner’s comfort zone. The famous investor Charlie Munger would say that personal financial planning is likely to be outside their “circle of competence.” Even if they have some personal financial planning skills, aside from a handful of serial entrepreneurs, very few business owners have exited a business previously.

Building a Team
For business owners that recognize their need for help with ownership transition planning, there is a universe of financial services professionals with the experience and training to help business owners prepare themselves financially, and psychologically, to exit their business. All business owners will transition eventually. The goal is a good transition, where the owner has exited on their own terms and with the best achievable personal financial outcome.

Trusted advisors like attorneys, CPAs and financial advisors can be part of a cross-disciplinary team that helps business owners plan for the future transition successfully.

The critical differentiator for business owners when choosing their advisory team is a willingness and capability to coordinate efforts with professionals who have different experience, skills and training. Your team members should be meeting regularly to discuss how their individual work is contributing to the larger effort of helping you complete your exit plan. You must also ask key advisors if they have helped previous clients plan for their exit. If they shy away or fail to confidently assert their experience with business exits, they are not the right advisor for you in this critical moment.

If you sense that any of your current advisors are unable to coordinate their efforts with other key advisors, or that your advisor doesn’t have considerable experience assisting in creating transition plans, it is time for an upgrade.

One Stop Shop
Multi-family offices are a solution to the often disjointed and uncoordinated array of professionals that many business owners now rely on. A multi-family office is an multi-disciplinary team of in-house, credentialed resources who can help a business owner manage their investments; plan for their business exit and what comes next; receive proceeds from their business with an eye towards tax efficiency; and decide how to share their wealth with family members and charities. The cross-disciplinary approach helps a business owner avoid mistakes and delivers a truly comprehensive wealth management solution.

While you are accustomed to doing it yourself and going it alone, it is not an advisable approach during a business transition due to the complexity and technical challenges involved. You must create, or find, a cross-disciplinary team that can help you exit successfully.

About the Author – John Churchill
John Churchill is WSFS Wealth’s Business Strategy Advisor. John leads WSFS’ work with pre- and post-exit business owners. John helps WSFS’ business owner clients identify growth opportunities for their companies with an eye towards maximizing and monetizing the full value of what is often his clients’ most significant personal asset. John received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his master’s degree from Fordham University. He can be reached at

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