Featuring purpose-driven leaders who are making a meaningful impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Jared Johnson and I’m the CEO of BEI, or Business Enterprise Institute. We serve advisors to the business owner community, specifically with regard to helping them prepare their business-owning clients for an eventual transfer of that business whether that’s to a third party, an outside buyer, private equity, financial buyer, or a transition to their family members or key management. We are experts in exit planning and provide attorneys, CPAs, financial planners, insurance advisors, business coaches, and anybody else who supports the business community with tools, software, and marketing resources to help their business owner clients leave their business on their terms.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I actually started my career as a door-to-door book salesman with a company called Southwest Publishing out of Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love with sales, and at about the same time, fell in love with a woman (who is now my wife) who took me to Arizona. Between Arizona and North Carolina, I worked for America Online, Citibank, and a Citibank vendor called Convergys, and built my career on being a turnaround specialist for underperforming organizations helping them improve sales and implement operational techniques and strategies to execute on their goals and targets.
When I returned to Denver, I felt like I had done my time in big business and looked for an organization that I could grow and build and establish an impact. I did well working in big companies, but I was a part of a group that was performing at a steady pace – there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for growth or a whole lot of risk of moving backward. So when I found BEI, I fell in love with the vision which is to support as many business owners as possible. I went through big business and then fell in love with the mission of this smaller organization because I believed I could really help a lot of people. I was brought in as the VP of sales for BEI in 2013 and was named the CEO in 2016.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Growing up as a sales guy, I built my sales philosophy on Zig Ziglar. One of the things he says is you can have everything you want in life if you help as many people as possible get what they want. That really has been my personal rally cry. I have built my career on developing teams, helping people improve their own performance, optimize what they can do, and recognize and realize their potential.
When I found BEI, it really fell in line with my personal vision and mission. Our rally cry as a company is to help as many business owners as possible benefit from their life’s work by exiting their business on their terms. For us, we believe that small to medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy, both domestically and globally.
The baby boomer generation really sparked the entrepreneurial period. There are thousands upon thousands of business owners in this small to medium-sized space that are ready, or becoming ready, to transition. Many of these business owners went through the 2008 recession and they’re now going through a second pretty wild economic crisis. There are thousands upon thousands of business owners saying, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore. I need to figure out a way to transition this onto somebody else.”
We truly believe those business owners should benefit from all of their hard work. Additionally, if those businesses do not transition successfully and go away, our economy is in tremendous trouble. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why I fell in love with the organization seven years ago, and that’s why I’m so passionate about the work we do.
My father was a business owner and I watched him own, run, and unsuccessfully leave three businesses. He’s now 65 years old and sells cars six days a week. If somebody had helped him the way we would like to help business owners, he’d now be in a totally different position.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
I truly believe some of the impact we have is an economic impact as we are helping the economy (domestic and global) stay strong because we are directly driving these businesses to a successful future.
However, the biggest impact for me personally, is watching business owners transition their business from the second, third, and fourth generations; watching business owners who have supported a community for years be able to retire; and watch their community still flourish because of the work that they’ve done.
I am inspired by the business owners who built a company from a dream. They may have been frustrated at a dead-end job and decided to leave and start their own thing. Or they only had one option – they didn’t go the classical education route and didn’t have the means or the connections to get that big corporate job, so they built something from the ground up. Those business owners have an ultimate goal – some want to sell their business to the highest bidder, or there are others who aren’t interested in the money and want to keep the business in the community and continue to support the company’s employees and families.
Around 75% of the transitions are an internal transfer, meaning the business either transitions to the next generation, or there’s a management team involved that steps up and buys out the owner over time. That just doesn’t happen without proper planning. It’s inspiring to know that we’re supporting business owners accomplish their goals of not just achieving financial security, but who also want to leave a lasting legacy – goals they may not have even thought were possible before they had the education and support in planning their transition.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
Both of my parents really taught me to support others. Also, early on in my career, I had a mentor named Angela Crawford who told me that I will get everywhere in life that I want to go if I understand that I don’t know everything and if I build a team around me that does the things I’m not good at or don’t like to do so I can focus on my strengths.
That has really impacted me because when I think about the work we do with business owners, and the work that the advisors who are our clients do with their clients, we teach them that exit planning is a team sport because a financial planner can’t write the legal documents, an attorney can’t do the investments or compensation design, and a CPA isn’t going to do the insurance work. There are multiple disciplines that are involved in exit planning and that requires a strong team.
Essentially, the only reason I’m in the position I’m in today is because I have surrounded myself with talented and capable people and I love sharing that with business owners and with advisors.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
A few will always laugh when I say world domination. But it’s not in the political sense. My vision is that every business owner who has a desire to plan for their future realizes that they can accomplish a goal that they didn’t think was possible. I want to support the business owner who’s just starting their organization and has the vision of going public and selling to an IPO, the business owner who has a plumbing company and wants it to be a family business that support five generations, and the business owner who says, “I’ve worked with Jane for 15 years and I want to make sure that she sees a path forward for this organization.” My vision is that no matter what a business owner’s goal is that the advisors who work with us can support them in accomplishing those goals.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
I think the biggest challenge is that exit planning is really an emerging market. When I found BEI and started looking at an opportunity here, I had no idea what exit planning was and I Googled it. In 2013, the search results were all about plans to pull troops out of the Middle East. Now when you Google “exit planning,” the results are of individual advisors who help business owners with exit planning as it relates to their discipline. The challenge, however, is that business owners need a holistic approach to transitioning out of their business and that’s where we come in by putting together teams of advisors who can effectively help business owners move forward.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
BEI supports advisors by providing them with education and resources to help every business owner they work with leave their business when they want to, with the money they need, to the successor of their choice. Our vision is that we can help as many business owners as possible through the advisors who work with us.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
One of the quotes that I live by is from Og Mandino, “I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency.”
That’s important because even as a business owner, it’s never growth for growth’s sake, but for continuous improvement – “We did well yesterday, what more can we do today?” Whether that’s in business, or supporting others in your community, if we can wake up with a passion for growth, be it personal or professional, I think we’d all march in a different direction.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Whether you’re a business owner or whether you’re an advisor, the biggest way that folks can support BEI is to let those in the community know that there are organizations that can help business owners prepare for their eventual exit. No matter where you fit in that market, we love to talk to you. We call it “exit planning,” but really it’s just good, common-sense business planning. We have a lot of educational material on our website and we’d love to share our knowledge and support owners and advisors in every way that we can.
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