Ground Rules for Successful
Life Planning with Clients

Most people do not feel comfortable talking about their life plans. Almost all people do feel comfortable talking about their dreams and wishes. Our greatest challenge as professional business advisors is to help our clients see the difference between life plans and dreams. We all have dreams. How many times have you listened to a client talk about "someday I am going to"? Life plans are different because, if carefully crafted, have the clarity, feasibility and likely promise of returning real and measurable value to the planner.

So you say to yourself, "this is nice but what’s your point? What should I be doing about this in my own practice?" The answer is simple. Challenge your clients to reach comfort in sharing with you their dreams and wishes for the future. The next step is critical. Ask your clients to consider a few basic ground rules in shaping their life plan. Suggest to them there are some known factors that have been found to be helpful in developing a life plan.
Here goes:

Rule 1. Plan with your spouse and others who are significant in your life. Getting others’ feedback is imperative. It keeps you aware that you are not in this life alone. Very importantly, many of your personal goals can be thwarted by the unexpected demands of family and/or other areas in your life.

Rule 2. Develop superior communication attitudes and skills. Becoming an excellent communicator will assist you in communicating effectively and persuasively with those others that are important in your life. Communication is the single greatest asset that you will carry with you through your life plan. Use it well and wisely.

Rule 3. Brainstorm! Be open to new ideas, perspectives, and alternatives to business decision-making, alternatives to exit strategies. Look at the possibilities, consider multiple choices, and brainstorm as many options as you can think of for redefining your important relationships, family life and business structure. We tend to get more "hung up" over our current problems than for planning our vision of what could be.

Rule 4. Shoot for the moon. Allow yourself and your significant others to dream. The key is to take those dreams and make them viable, real, practical and worthwhile. Try to quantify the value in your dreams and take the time to develop a carefully thought through plan with strategies and actions for how you will accomplish those dreams. You may not get to the moon in all cases, but you certainly will fail if you never try.

Rule 5. Plan for the worst. This may sound pessimistic, but the value is in planning. For example, ownership and management succession is a life planning process dealing with multiple business and family dynamics occurring over a lengthy period of time. If you have contingency plans, you feel less threatened by the unknown. However, it is important to not be guided by your thoughts of the worst possibilities. By considering such as balance in one’s life planning, plans takes shape with realism and high probability of being achieved.

In Summary
In the process of life planning for a business owner, the decisions and choices one make’s along the road of life will indeed affect his/her personal and estate goals, taxes, management rivalries, family issues, exit strategy, and most importantly, your sense of well-being and peace of mind. We strongly recommend that consideration of the life planning approach will help you navigate through your business and personal financial cycles as well as through your other life cycles and the result will be greater business value as well as peace of mind.