A Focus on Customers can Drive Value and Grow Your Business

Whether you are planning on selling or transitioning your business or are simply evaluating how you can grow or expand your business now, a focus on customers will help your business determine how to drive value.

There are many value drivers that can be considered and evaluated before you think about selling or transitioning. A potential buyer will analyze all aspects of your business: financial, sales, leadership, marketing, operations, technology and customers among other factors when determining transferable value.

How your business is engaged in marketing, branding and building customer relationships are important value drivers that can increase the attractiveness to a potential buyer.

Understanding that your business value is dependent on customers, their willingness to pay for your product or service and keep paying, is the first step. You may have already built great customer loyalty and brand awareness, but you may not have it documented or measured it in a valuable way.

Working with an exit planner or strategic value builder in advance of a sale (three to five years ideally) will provide a process to evaluate your existing marketing plan and put actions in place to build out the plan and increase your value proposition.

A well-developed, written marketing plan can help you build on what you have and implement strategies to maximize growth opportunities and increase sales. Boosting sales from existing customers, bringing in new customers and standing out with a strong marketing presence will build a stronger more attractive business.

Focus on your customer, find out what they value in your product or service and document it. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools and processes can help capture and analyze client data. Implementing techniques like customer surveys, client follow-up processes and customer reviews provide quantitative and qualitative data on what you do well and what can be improved.

Also, an in-depth view of your client segments, geographical segments, buying trends and client behaviour will help determine where there are opportunities for growth or possible risks. For example, there may be a risk if your customer base is highly reliant on a few customers or if they are all located in a single market. Another potential risk to consider is your sales process and who holds the key relationships with key clients.  Is there a process to train and transition the client relationships on an exit of an owner or loss of a key employee? A potential opportunity may be that most of your referrals come for a specific client segment that can be further developed.

Take time to research your competition. When it comes to products, services, marketing, pricing and distribution, ask yourself:  

  • What do you do better?
  • What do they do better?
  • What can you improve upon? 
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What makes you stand out?

Understanding your market and developing your ideal client profile with a clearly defined value proposition will provide the foundation for your marketing strategies. Sales and marketing strategies can be developed to ensure you allocate your efforts in the right places.

When you create more value in your business than your competition, you have a more sustainable future.

If you have any questions or want professional advice on how to build value in your business, connect with us.

Building Value and Preparing for Business Transitions

In the next 10 years we will see a large percentage of businesses change hands. Research done by BDC Canada shows that 54% of entrepreneurs expect to leave their business in the next four to five years. Business owners need to evaluate their businesses now and put a plan in place to ensure the value of their business is at its highest when the opportunity arises.

Building a transition plan takes time and may include a variety of strategies, stakeholders and professionals to execute.  Working with an exit planner to build a formal process with written goals, actions and timelines will help owners build value and enhance the attractiveness of their business.

There are many options for owners on how to exit their business including: family succession, sale or transfer of control outside the family and winding down or selling assets. To prepare for a successful transition the business needs to assess the knowledge, skills, leadership and client relationships that are reliant on the current leader if transitioning the business to a new owner(s).

When the successor is known an assessment can be completed to determine the skills, strengths and areas for growth to build training and development plans for the next leader. If the successor is not known there are strategies to consider to enhance value for future management and leadership transitions.

Owners need to think about how long they are prepared to stay around after the business is sold. Expectations between the buyer and seller need to be discussed during the process. When the business can succeed without the seller on a day-to-day basis the business is more likely to succeed. An owner can plan for the transition and be in a better position for a possible sale.

Key areas owners need to think about:

  • Does your management team have the skills and experience to run the business after you leave?
  • Do you have any key staff contracts in place that would be essential from a purchaser’s standpoint?
  • How reliant is the business on you and your expertise or an any other single person?
  • How long are you prepared or willing to work during a transition period?
  • Does the business have human resource policies and employee or training manuals in place?
  • Is there an organizational chart in place with clear job titles, job descriptions performance reviews and training plans in place?

Working with an exit planner in advance of a sale (three to five years ideally) will help an owner and their team assess the areas of the business where transfer of leadership, knowledge and skills are necessary to prepare for a future sale or transition. It will also identify other areas in management and human resources that can be improved to increase the attractiveness of the business to a potential buyer.

If you have any questions about transition and exit planning or how to find a Certified Exit Planning Advisor to help you start yours, connect with us.

Farming Family Brings in Help to Talk About Succession

When it comes to estate and succession planning, open and intentional communication plays a big role in the success of a transition.

Talking with our families about money, especially when it comes to wills and estates, is not easy. In truth, it is something most of us would rather avoid, even if family discussions are an important step to ensuring our future emotional and financial well-being.

Professional mediation is an immensely valuable resource that can help facilitate productive, honest discussions that ultimately help to retain the long-term health of the family and the individuals involved.

Mediators understand historical issues and resentments sometimes resurface during discussions about wills and estates and can threaten relationships. Mediators are also aware of how inherent generational differences can make it hard to reconcile the older and younger generations’ visions for the future.

The mediation process is foremost geared toward improving family communication so the complex dynamics, found in all families, are dealt with in a productive way. The process gives everyone a chance to be heard and individuals are able to be open and honest about what they feel is important. Open communication, with a mediator, is one of the best ways to avoid future upset over wills and estates.


The Situation

The following is an example of a farming family who found value in the mediation process.

John and Ellen are in their 60s and have two married children, Jake and Rachel. The family has been trying to build and implement their succession plan for the past two years and, for various reasons, have found themselves unable to.

John plans to transfer the farm to Jake, his current employee, but is having difficulty relinquishing control and ownership. For John, much of his identity comes from his status as a farmer and the way it enables him to provide for and give generously to his family.

Both Ellen and Rachel fear John is overworking himself (and Jake) and putting his health at risk. Ellen would like to see more of her husband so they can start the third act of their lives and enjoy retirement together.

Jake wants his father to fully transition into retirement so he can gain more experience managing the farm, while his dad is healthy and be able to “start his life” with his wife.

Historical sibling issues between Jake and Rachel also factor into the succession planning process. Rachel has never been involved with the farm and does not want a share of the estate, rather, she wants Jake to succeed their father and take over the business. With her parents in retirement, she will be able to see them more frequently. She considers Jake lucky because he has the luxury of seeing their parents on a daily basis whereas she lives too far away to do so.

Jake, however, feels that he missed out on the parent-child relationship Rachel got to enjoy because he was so accustomed to working for John, as his manager rather than father. Both perceive each other as having an advantage in their relationships with John and Ellen. Even though Jake and Rachel are not at odds over their parents’ financial assets, the emotional complexity of their relationships with their parents and each other were inhibiting open, productive dialogue.

John and Ellen’s financial advisor recommended working with a mediator to facilitate a meeting with the entire family to discuss the family’s estate in a productive manner.


The Process

*         Before calling a family meeting, the mediator spoke to each member to hear their individual concerns and was able to assess them as a neutral, unbiased party.

*         The mediator emphasized:

  • Better communication practices such as explicitly stating what position individuals were speaking from (e.g. when is John speaking to Jake as a father and when as a manager?)
  • Ways to start dialogue and better articulate feelings and concerns
  • Taking accountability for the actions each individual committed to

*         John realized he needs to work on his life after business plan given that so much of his identity is tied to his role as a farmer. It took a neutral party to open his eyes to the concerns his family had already been voicing to him.

*         Jake and Rachel realized their historical perceptions of each other were not necessarily reflective of their current realities and were better able to understand one another.



Professional mediation is not a threatening or intimidating process. Mediators lay the foundation for healthy communication which ultimately serves to enhance the overall well-being of your family.

Seeking help from professional mediators who are outside of traditional planning roles (e.g. lawyers, accountants, advisors, etc.) can be immensely beneficial to the planning process.

At Intent, we work with a collaborative collective of professionals and are therefore adept at bringing in the best individuals to meet the unique needs of every client to ensure your long-term welfare.


Connect with us to learn how mediation can help advance your financial, estate and succession planning goals.

Exit Planning: What Baby Boomer and Millennial Business Owners Have in Common

In the world of business ownership, “exit planning” is still misunderstood.

For mature business owners, the term “exit” can make them feel as though they are being rushed into retirement. For Gen X (1965-1980) and Millennial (1981 -2000) business owners, the idea of “exiting” may seem like a vague and distant event with very little impact on the day-to-day demands of owning a business.

In fact, exit planning involves much more than simply “exiting”. It is a holistic approach to maximizing the value of your business in the present, to achieve optimal value in the future when it’s time to transition or sell. Just as a baby boomer planning on retiring in the next 10-20 years needs an exit plan, so does a millennial business owner who’s just starting out.

This is especially apparent given the potential for an entrepreneurial boom in the coming years, “beginning with two of the biggest demographic forces shaping the U.S. [and Canadian] economy: the aging of boomers and the emergence of millennials into the workforce” (Kaufmann Foundation, Sixth Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address).

Millennials are expected to be the most educated and entrepreneurial generation to date; surpassing even baby boomers whose needs, desires, and ambitions have consistently stimulated the creation of numerous global industries and cultural shifts. This said, millennials also have the most student debt in history and fewer financial means than many baby boomers did when they were starting a business.

An exit plan can help to mitigate financial stress by refining the direction of your business and ensuring it runs smoothly. Amongst other things, a comprehensive financial analysis (i.e. bank fees, pay-roll, assets, inventory, processes, etc.):

  • Increases stability
  • Standardizes business processes
  • Provides a valuation of your business and,
  • Fosters team enlightenment and empowerment

As millennials increasingly join the workforce, they will continue to challenge companies to redefine what it means to work effectively, be productive, and attain success. They are likely to change careers more than previous generations and will strive to attain a work-life balance, even if it means foregoing promotions or pay increases. Some millennials may start, sell, and/or buy numerous business in their lifetimes and having an exit plan means your business is attractive, saleable, and leverageable when the next great opportunity comes knocking.

Connect with us to learn more about building your exit plan.

Exit Planning is a Journey, Not a Destination

To many baby-boomers, the idea of retirement is more terrifying than it is exciting.

For the generation of entrepreneurs who invented the 50-60 hour work week, the thought of shifting away from a work-centric lifestyle can be unfathomable. Countless hours – years of your life– have been invested in growing your business and its continuation and success is significant.

In the next 10 to 20 years, the majority of baby-boomers will be ready to transfer their businesses. This will create a buyer’s market and making your business attractive will be key to a successful sale.

In other words, younger generations (Gen X and Gen Y) will have the opportunity to be very selective with where they invest their money. In his book Walking to Destiny, Christopher Snider writes, “only 2 out of 10 businesses that go to market will actually sell.”

For those business owners that expect to transfer their business to a family member, only 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. Twelve percent will still be viable into the third generation, with 3% of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond” (Joseph Astrachan, Ph.D., editor, Family Business Review).

Creating a succession or exit plan is one of the best ways to ensure you either get the best value from your business or that it continues to thrive when it comes time to start the third-act of your life. Pulling all your key advisors – lawyer, accountant and financial advisor, to name a few – together to work with a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) will enable you to build an exit plan considering all scenarios.

Questions like “who will I be when I am no longer a business owner?” and “how do I want to spend my time in retirement?” can be intimidating enough to dissuade business-owners from establishing an exit plan. Sometimes, baby-boomers are put-off by the thought of transferring their businesses to younger generations for fear that years of hard work will be squandered by those who don’t understand their vision.

The key thing to remember is: exit-planning is a journey, not a destination. A critical aspect of establishing and running a business is also having a succession strategy in place, even if retirement is decades away.

Having an exit plan, put simply, is good business strategy. It integrates business, personal, and financial goals and works to maximize business value while also prioritizing what life after business will look like.

If you have any questions about your exit plan or how to find a Certified Exit Planning Advisor to help you make yours, connect with us.