Starting a family business is often the beginning of a dream, but ending one can turn into a nightmare if you don’t have the right team to help you through the planning process. Many lawyers, accountants and financial advisors may not have the specific knowledge needed to wade through the complex and often emotional aspects that are involved.
Terri Hilliard, of Terri Hilliard PC in Westlake Village, not only is certified as an Exit Planning Strategist, but also has the compassion that is often needed in these types of situations.
“Terri has a number of clients who have closely held family businesses, and one of the things she has observed over the years is that many don’t think in advance about what they would do if their children choose not to continue the legacy,” says Jeff Millard, a marketing, development and consulting professional who is helping her firm expand this important offering. “So that’s one piece of it. Helping the founders really think about preserving the legacy.”
That might mean finding someone else to take over the business, he adds, or selling the business to a larger entity, and there are many things that need to happen in advance of that.
“You really want to engage someone early on in the process to help,” says Millard. “And it’s not just about thinking about the bigger picture of ‘What are we going to do with the business—are we selling it or are we transitioning it?’ but it’s also about having all the right advisors in place.”
You definitely want to have a financial advisor as part of this conversation, he says. You also want to have a good transactional attorney, because maybe this is a mergers and acquisitions kind of deal, and you also need an experienced accountant. Then you might have issues around ownership—what does the distribution look like?
“It can be really complex and that is really the bottom line. You want to have somebody who can advise holistically and make sure there are no gaps in planning,” Millard adds.
This is why, explains Millard, Terri completed the Certified Exit Planning Advisor® professional credential. Terri helps these families from beginning to end.
“The Exit Planning Institute is the body that grants this certification,” he says. “Terri went through a rigorous training and has the skill set to advise a family on how to sell a business and how to assemble a team, and to also help families identify, before they get too far down the road, what their exit strategy will be.
“Terri collaborates with CPAs and with financial advisors who work with multigenerational family businesses, so the term I think that fits her the best is ‘trusted advisor,’ not only for the families, but for these professionals as well. They’re often looking for someone to help manage the exit planning process at a high level.”
Terri assembles this whole team for her clients so they don’t have to go out and find them on their own. Because often, says Millard, the clients don’t even know where to start or whom to hire.
“And people should remember that planning should start as soon as possible,” he says. “Reach out to a trusted attorney early on and make certain that you don’t wait until there’s a crisis to start planning. The estate and business planning documentation really needs to be in place so when that moment comes, you’re prepared.”
The team at Terri Hilliard PC also focuses on elder and long-term care, estate planning and special needs planning. Terri has specialized skills around helping people who have family members with Alzheimer’s and special needs.
She has also written books on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, and on aging and family mediation. Millard refers to Terri as a “natural advocate” and points out that she serves on the Senior Concerns Board.
“Terri really views herself as a partner with the family and graciously gives her time and energy for them,” says Millard. “So she’s relationship-based, not transactionally, in that sense. And because she does become this trusted partner with families, when crises happen, they feel comfortable calling her.”
To find out more about Terri Hilliard PC, visit https://terrihilliard.com/terri-hilliard/.