Exit Planning is a Business Strategy: Interview with Business Innovators Magazine

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Business Innovators Magazine’s Mark Imperial. 

Our conversation gave me the opportunity to share why having a transition plan – something we know is important but not urgent to a Business Owner – is simply a smart business strategy.  

Because of my own experience in transitioning by selling my awards and recognition business I owned, I am passionate about helping Business Owners have a plan to have a successful transition – whenever that might be.

It is about getting your business ready and yourself ready to take advantage of opportunities and harvest the maximum amount of wealth out of your business.     

It was an incredible experience, so I thought I’d share the video and transcript with you! 

Interview Transcript

Mark Imperial: This is a series of spotlights on remarkable professionals from around the country and joining me in this segment is Lori Moen. She’s the founder of Catalyst Group ECR. Lori, welcome to the program. 

Lori Moen: Thanks, Mark. Happy to be here!

MI: Tell us a little bit about your work and specifically who are the types of folks that you specialize in helping?

LM: Sure, I’d be happy to. I am a business consultant and a certified exit planning advisor.  I serve business owners because I’m a recently exited business owner myself. 

So, I walk alongside business owners to help them get out of the weeds of working in their business and challenge them to bring transition planning and exit planning to their day-to-day world. 

MI: This is fascinating because as a business owner yourself, you’re great at your craft, you’re thinking about growth all the time. 

How many folks put a lot of thought into their exit? Was that a surprise to you? What do business owners think when it comes time to exit their business? Do they give it much thought?

LM: Well, of course not, because sure it’s important but it’s not urgent and I’m a perfect example of that.

I bought my business- a trophy awards shop-  in 2003 as a lifestyle and as an investment knowing I’d sell it someday. 

Well,  I worked in that business,  grew it, and had great employees that started in 1969. It wasn’t until 2015 that I popped my head out of the weeds and realized “Oh, I think I need to work on my business if I’m going to ever one day sell it. 

So, it was a process. You’re so busy working in the business you forget to work on it. You think, “What’s the idea of exiting or selling? That’s a long way away, so why worry about it now?”

MI: Let’s unpack that a little bit. What did you discover that you really needed to know that you didn’t know you needed to know?

LM: Well, as a business owner when I started working on my business and started looking at how to make this business valuable and transferable, I realized I need to have it not be all about me and not be owner-centric. 

I also realized, “Sure,  this awards shop has been around since 1969 but is anything written down? Do we have any awareness of what goes into making a glass award, a plaque, or a trophy?

So, I realized I had to capture that information. I had to capture it not as some huge standard operating procedures, but just something workable so somebody else coming in and buying the business or taking it over had a chance to be successful. 

MI: Give us a 10,000-foot view of what it’s like working with you. How do you like to step in and help a business owner get their stuff in order?

LM: Well,  the first thing I’ll do is I’ll assess with them where they’re at, what their goals are, ask if they have thought about what the future is for them, and explore how tangible the intangible assets of their business are. Do they know if it’s reliant only on them? What’s their customer diversification?

I’ll walk them through that kind of assessment to see where are the benchmarks and where are the areas that you want to work on to grow the business so it’s valuable and transferable.

Then, I’ll ask them what their next chapter looks like. When you transfer, transition, or go out of your business and you’re no longer that business owner, what’s going to get you out of bed in the morning?

I walked that walk. I had to do that because I needed to learn what’s my next chapter of life and that’s why I’m doing what I do now. I know from having been that business owner it’s hard to think past the day-to-day– the customer demands, the employee demands… Even small things like we’re out of paper towels. 

You’re just so involved with so many things that you forget to look at the bigger picture, so I provide that accountability. I provide that question and that roadmap of things to do

MI: Lori, if we can help some people avoid some potholes in the road, what are some of the biggest mistakes or pitfalls that you see business owners make in regards to planning to exit their business that might sabotage their success?

LM: As business owners, we know it’s important but it’s not urgent and the biggest pitfall is not realizing transition planning, exit planning, and business readiness is simply business strategy. It’s being ready for an opportunity.

I experienced it and my clients experience it– When you work on your business making it valuable and transferable, you also find you’re growing in profitability, you’re growing in revenue, so it’s good for business.  

The other thing is don’t think you have to do it alone. There are advisors out there that will help you pull all the different pieces… your personal wealth gap, what happens when you don’t have the revenue from that business, and how to maintain your lifestyle.

There are a lot of different questions and that business owner is an expert at running their business, they’re successful business owner, so let other people help them be successful after they exit their business

MI: It’s a really interesting point you make that it’s business strategy so it’s almost like exit planning is a misleading name because it sounds like you should have this done when you start your business. 

That leads me to my next question: When is the best time to start working on this?

LM: Well, in a perfect world, you would start with the end in mind when you start your business or when you buy an existing business. 

But we don’t live in a perfect world and it is misleading because the word exit can be scary for a lot of people. That’s why it’s a business strategy.

I am a certified exit planning advisor, but I work on business strategies so you can have a valuable business. It’s important but it’s not urgent. It’s not urgent until all of a sudden it is. 

As business owners, you will exit your business and I would challenge you to do it vertically with a plan, not horizontally.

MI: What inspired you to even get into this field? Tell us a little bit about how you got started.

LM: I’ve been in radio and advertising for 25 years prior, so I was a business owner that bought a business as a lifestyle and as a job. I was wanting to control my workplace culture and grow profitability.

I got into this because I made so many mistakes myself. I thought I could do it by myself, but I couldn’t. I needed different business advisors that could help me along the way. It inspired me to want to be able to give back and walk alongside business owners because I know what it’s like. 

I know that we tell ourselves, “Oh, sure, I’m gonna take this time to work on my business and think of my exit when I’ve got a line of customers out the showroom or a line of employees needing something, or supply chain challenges, or people not showing up for work.

I was inspired to do it becauseIwant other people to learn from my mistakes so they can maximize this liquidity event of this asset that they have and be able to enjoy it and to be able to enjoy post exits, as well. 

MI: Before I ask you my last question, is there anything that I didn’t think to ask you that you feel is important to share with any business owner that’s listening and considering exiting their business now or in the near future?

LM: The biggest question I have is “Are you working on your business? Do you rise into that 70,000-foot view and look at where your business is going?” 

If the answer is no, well then let’s work together. I’ll push you out of that comfort zone whether you like it or not, but do it in a way with understanding and empathy because I had to be pushed as well

MI: For business owners listening who would like to connect with you because they resonate with your message, how can they find you and learn more? 

LM: They can find me on LinkedIn. My website is Catalyst Group ECR- the ECR stands for executive coaching and roundtables because I bring business owners and CEOs together in facilitated roundtables.

I would be thrilled to provide an opportunity to give you some feedback and assessment on your business, on the benchmarks, and see if there’s an opportunity for us to work together

MI: Lori, this has been terrific and I really appreciate you taking the time to share with my audience today. I wish you continued success for you and for all of your clients.

LM: Thank you, I appreciate it. Nice to meet you. 

Let’s Talk Exit Planning Today, So You’re Ready for Tomorrow

Thinking about exiting your business is tough, but it’s not a process you can save until the day comes. No matter where you are in your journey as a business owner, it’s never too early to start planning for your future.

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