Three areas of focus for
business owner planning

Transfer, protect, and grow — how you can empower your expertise with the pyramid of business owner planning.

Working with business owners for most of my career, I understand the emotional rollercoaster that comes with launching and growing a business. In the early stages, the excitement takes over and they’re running on adrenaline to get through late nights and early mornings. They have pride in seeing their ideas come to life and their dedication to exceeding customer expectations. Yet at some point, they start to experience the weight of financial responsibilities and ongoing pressures of running a successful business.

As much as business owners need your support with financial planning needs, one of the most valuable roles a financial advisor plays is that of a good listener. Business owners face challenges ranging from the routine and administrative to those that define the mission of their company. By listening to your client’s needs and being in touch with their emotions, you’ll find three common areas where your advice can help guide them.


Business owners typically understand that they won’t live forever. Even so, they often wrestle with decisions and emotions when it comes to their business succession plan. Although there is no special formula for the perfect succession plan, the process should begin with goal setting, data-collecting, and reaching deep down into the heart and soul of the business.

As financial professionals, addressing both personal as well as business goals and values will help guide your clients to the right transfer strategy, whether that transfer is to an employee, a family member, or a third party. Beyond identifying the successor(s), how the business will transfer is another detail that needs to be coordinated. Does your client envision an immediate buy-out? What about a stock transfer? Or can an earn-out provision be established for the new owner to make yearly payments from company earnings over a designated time period? 


Consider your clients’ employees. Protecting the business, the business owner, and their staff with smart benefit choices makes it easier for your clients to attract and retain talented employees, as well as help them plan for and protect their financial future. Programs such as employee benefits and executive compensation can address areas of importance for today’s talent including the following:

  • Paid maternity leave
  • Short- or long-term disability leave
  • Financial support for beneficiaries after the loss of a loved one
  • Dental or vision programs


Whether your clients are just getting started with their business, or they just recently inherited one, proper entity planning can be one of the most-important decisions for business owners. Determining the right business structure regulates how they’re taxed, their personal liability, how they acquire capital and ultimately valuate their business.

Pyramid of business owner planning

Business transfer, employee impact and entity planning are the basic and essential layers of effective business owner planning. I often refer to these areas of focus as part of the pyramid of business owner planning (PDF) .

Through resources like the Business Intelligence Institute (BII), financial professionals can receive support throughout the life of their clients’ businesses. Available expertise includes raising capital, transferring stock to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and management buy-out or a successful “external sale” transaction.

About the Author

Dianna Parker

Dianna Parker CFP has over 25 years as a planner in private practice. Dianna's expertise includes a broad knowledge of complex estate planning, business succession planning and retirement planning concepts. She spends most of her time developing and helping implement creative design ideas that enhance the financial well-being of her clients. Her private practice is chiefly focused on the intricate needs of owners of large, closely-held businesses. 

In her role as a National Resource, Dianna provides technical support to advisors throughout the country. She also frequently hosts a variety of nationally disseminated educational sessions focused on tax reduction and financial planning strategies.