Financial Planning: The Key to a Seller’s Sanity + Success

Portage Founder and Partner Jim Friesen sat down with Wesley Haynes, Senior Investment Advisor RBC Wealth Management, Parekh-Haynes Group for the second installment of The Selling Successfully Podcast. Jim and Wesley discussed what comprehensive financial planning really means and the role it plays in selling your business and enabling your future. They also stressed the importance of how your financial advisor and M&A expert can and should work together to help you better prepare yourself and your business for sale. 

Here are the 5 key takeaways for business owners thinking about or ready to sell.

  1. Start planning yesterday.

According to the CFIB, two of the main reasons for failed successions are the lack of adequate time to plan and execute the succession of the business as well as the absence of a proper deal team by the seller’s side.  

Many owners get caught up in the day-to-day management and growth of the business and let planning fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, failing to plan ahead can force an owner facing unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical event or death, to sell under duress conditions and take a loss. 

Wesley recommends a minimum planning lead time of 5-10 years in order to pull a full comprehensive plan together, prepare for the unexpected and execute on the agreed upon strategies..  

  1. Get real about retirement. 

We tend to think of retirement as a fun or relaxing stage in life to look forward to (golfing, traveling, spending more time with family) but this ideal vision or optimism isn’t shared by all. For some, just using the word “retirement” is anxiety producing. Slowing down or changing paths would be upsetting a decades-old routine steeped in familiarity and purpose. It can be a frightening reality. 

This provides insight into why The American Institute of Stress ranks retirement #10 on the list of life’s most stressful events. Although it can feel daunting, proper preparation and planning can ease anxiety and smooth the transition.

The American Institute of Stress also reports, 58% of retirees say “Financial Security is the most important ingredient to happy retirement.” In that case, the number one question business owners need to ask and answer is, “How much money do I need to retire and maintain my lifestyle?” It all starts with an honest conversation about what that next phase of life looks like and what it will take financially to get there.

  1. Understand business is personal.

Business owners typically have 80% or more of their wealth tied up in their business. This means a careful, customized and comprehensive financial plan is required to get your money out. It’s also important to remember your financial planning needs as a business owner are much more complex than a non-business owner. 

Generally, non-business owners who are retiring will have saved and accumulated sufficient wealth for their lifestyle through simple and traditional vehicles such as RRSPs, TFSAs and perhaps an investment property. Entrepreneurs on the other hand, may have accrued multiple properties in multiple countries, hold numerous corporations, have charitable needs to account for and could be looking at providing financial support to numerous family members. 

A comprehensive plan will merge business and personal into one document with a strategic focus on accumulating wealth, growing assets as well as the effective use of surplus assets. Tactics such as lifetime gifts and trusts, purchasing a tax exempt life insurance policy and charitable giving will ensure you and your family are taken care of while protecting your assets from high taxes and other potential liabilities that could adversely impact your net worth.

As part of your roadmap to a successful sale, one of the very first steps your financial advisor should recommend is a professional business valuation (CBV). What you may consider as market value will most likely differ from the realistic number and deal structure your M&A expert calculates. Working with accurate and realistic information early on will allow you to plan more effectively, grow your wealth in and outside of the business and in some cases, retire years earlier than you thought possible! 

  1. Strategize for seamless succession. 

Succession can be sticky, uncomfortable and in some cases downright volatile. The key to getting ahead of the game is conversation and collective understanding. Wesley is a fan of having all pertinent parties sit down together earlier rather than later to discuss needs and wishes. This creates a sense of cohesiveness and ensures no one is left in the dark or feeling unheard. 

A plan is then built around your succession strategy to minimize tax, improve the financial stability of the business and maintain family harmony. Estate freezes can help make businesses more affordable for younger generations, shareholder agreements can cover any “what ifs” and insurance can take assets in a holding company and allow them to be passed to heirs virtually tax free.

Having your succession strategy in place contributes to a smooth hand-off when your M&A firm enters the picture. Instead of having to manage emotions, your deal team can focus solely on managing the sale of your business. It becomes a much more enjoyable process for everyone involved. 

  1. Teamwork makes the dreamwork.

Over the years, Portage and RBC have facilitated many successful deals together. They understand and respect the expertise and tools each side brings to the table and how that can strengthen their client’s position to sell and favorably impact their future.  Jim is clear in stating, “Success boils down to the quality of advisors you have on your deal team.” Wesley agrees and adds, “We’re good at what we do but we’re not an M&A company.”

Jim and Wesley exchanged stories of how clients benefit from this integrated relationship. In one instance, a client with a medical concern was looking to move on. The market was down and from an M&A perspective it was not an ideal time to sell. However, the seller was able to move forward with the sale because of collaborative planning. The money the seller would forgo in the sale of their business was able to be made up through investment as the market was at an all-time low. 

Another client who managed to grow their business during COVID but had run out of steam to continue was directed by their financial advisor to obtain an updated business valuation. With this new information, the seller was able to sell at the peak of a hot market and is now able to gift large sums of money to their children and grandchildren.  

Stories like these are made possible through shared knowledge and collaboration. When your M&A expert and financial advisor work together you can rest assured that you will be supported from start to sale and beyond. 


The earlier you can plan, the better! Also, keep in mind financial planning is not a start and stop process. It’s a relationship that continues to build and extends beyond the sale to ensure your assets continue to work for you well beyond your role as a business owner.

For a deeper dive on financial planning, listen to the full podcast here or contact Wesley Haynes at