Last week (click here for Part 1) we discussed the value of getting to no quicker, whether it’s in a conversation with a potential client or challenging a current client to take action.
We concluded that while maybe’s are time wasters for both parties, there may be either gold or fool’s gold hidden in the maybe. That maybe could be gold if it’s a blind spot—the truth about ourselves—that we’re ready and willing to face. That maybe is merely fool’s gold if it’s a blind spot we’re unwilling to face: We don’t even want to go near it, let alone see where it leads!
Here are statistics pointing to one maybe that puzzles me:
- 60% of all business owners neither have nor are working on an exit plan. They are currently kicking that decision can down the road. Note that these unexamined no’s are simply maybe’s in disguise.
- 50% of financial planners also have not done exit planning for their practice! The average age in this group is mid-50s, and they know that their own retirement planning is long overdue.
I would have thought that financial planners, by virtue of their profession, would be the best at planning their own future. In fact, they, too, struggle with their own maybe disguised as a no. A colleague and I pondered this maybe conundrum. I pointed out that what’s likely behind that maybe is a having to face their own mortality, confusion about what they mean by “retirement” or their hidden purposelessness.
After all, choosing to exit a business feels like having to face a type of death—a loss of identity, income, and purpose.
Let’s consider a typical financial planner called John. John is 55 (or 65 or 70) and says that he’s aware that he needs to develop an exit plan. He knows that if he has any hope of attracting a buyer or potential younger partner, he has to upgrade his software, align his processes with his ADV, and more. He’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start because so much of his energy goes into new client acquisition, compliance, servicing current clients, family, hobbies and philanthropic commitments.
Let’s see if there’s gold or fool’s gold behind John’s maybe. Gold is each solid yes or no he says that brings a sense of freedom. It’s choosing to face the blind spot about what’s true about himself and his situation. Fool’s gold, on the other hand, is that blind spot he’s unwilling to face. It’s choosing to ignore the “terrorists.” These particular terrorists create nagging doubt or worry as their intimidation tactic. Such worry is like that leaky sprinkler system–draining productive energy and ballooning expenses.
There’s a reason John likes his status quo: he’s comfortable. He’s making a good income and keeping busy. His clients, his family, and his community need him. He’s content with his solid identity and reputation. Yet, he finds it more difficult to maintain his firm with each passing year. He also can’t see where he’ll find the time to do exit planning.
What detains him from developing an exit plan?
Part of the delay is due to the terrorists he eludes. They increase in number with each year, and they successfully keep him away from his decision to do his exit planning. John’s terrorists are the nagging, unexamined fears maybe-ing his no to exit planning. Here is a sample of what’s sniping at him:
- He assumes he knows what his firm’s worth. He assumes he’ll get a multiple of 2x revenues because that’s what will support his family’s projected lifetime income needs. Terrorist: “But what if your firm’s valuation comes in at just 1.2x?”
- He knows the mortality tables and when he and his wife should file to maximize Social Security Income. Terrorist: “But do you really want to run the “what-if” simulations for your wife after you die?”
- He struggles in the difficult conversations with clients about their future. He’s uncomfortable with their resistance to explaining “why” they need that third home. Terrorist: “All advisors struggle with that roadblock. Or do they?”
- He spent his career building his practice and is estranged from his kids. Terrorist: “So, what will you do in “retirement?” They don’t want to have anything to do with you anyway.”
What’s true about John’s situation? As long as John says maybe to planning his future—delays dealing with it—his apparent no is an unexamined maybe. If John stays in his maybe he’s building a stockpile of fool’s gold—nothing but iron pyrite. He’s letting the terrorists hold him hostage.
However, if John can even get to a conscious no—one where he knows the consequence of delaying his exit plan—he’s ironically struck gold. John has gone as far as he’s ready to go for now. And, at least one or two of his terrorists will be forced to flee!
You can use these questions both for yourself and your clients to consider the maybe “blind spots.”
- In reflecting on your own exit plan, is your no a maybe in disguise? If it’s a conscious no, congratulations! If not, what one terrorist blocks your way now? Name a date and time when you will take some action to take him out!
- If facing any other blind spot:
- What “blind spots” are you ready, able and choosing to address today? Name them and congratulate yourself!
- What one “blind spot” do you need to address? Make an appointment in your calendar to begin doing so.