Introducing the Circle of Excellence and the Inaugural Inductees

gold wreath with text that mentions the announcement of the inductees

The Circle of Excellence—a new yearly recognition of the people who have pioneered the exit planning profession—is meant to acknowledge the people who have built community and the body of knowledge we all use to advise business owners.

Forging the Path: Origins, Development, and Expansion of Exit Planning

The exit planning profession has a short yet rapidly growing history. In 2001, Peter Christman, an accomplished investment banker, recognized that despite the successful sale of a business, owners lacked the level of satisfaction he aimed to bring their businesses. As a result, Peter set out to create a holistic approach to exit, to change the lives of his clients. What he created was the exit planning profession.

In 2005, Peter and Richard Jackim officially formed the Exit Planning Institute, a professional organization for advisors. In 2007, the Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) Program was launched, and five years later, Christopher Snider and Scott Snider acquired EPI through Snider Premier Growth. At the time, EPI was serving 200 advisors worldwide.

Today, there are nearly 5,000 CEPAs worldwide. EPI serves over 20,000 advisors—all focused on helping business owners exit their companies successfully, with an estimated $14 trillion opportunity over the next ten years. Moreover, much of the growth is due to the influential people who saw value in exit planning and taught, inspired, and mentored advisors and business owners worldwide.

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Meet the Inaugural Inductees to the Circle of Excellence

The nine inaugural inductees to the Circle of Excellence will be recognized at the Exit Planning Summit—as a part of the Excellence in Exit Planning Awards session—on Monday, April 29. Be sure to check back on our blog throughout 2024 as we profile each of the inductees individually.

Christopher Snider: Creator of the Value Acceleration Methodology and author of Walking to Destiny: 11 Actions an Owner Must Take to Rapidly Grow Value & Unlock Wealth, Christopher Snider has been CEO of the Exit Planning Institute since 2013. The Value Acceleration Methodology became the core curriculum for the CEPA program, changing exit planning forever.

Sean Hutchinson: A partner in the international value growth consulting firm Ready for Next Global, Sean Hutchinson helps owners in the USA and Canada increase the enterprise value of their businesses, achieve transition readiness, and, ultimately, harvest that value to fund their “third act.” Sean was one of the first 100 CEPAs to be certified, is the longest-serving EPI faculty member, and has been recognized as EPI Exit Planner of the Year and EPI Leader of the Year. He founded the San Francisco EPI Chapter—one of the first in the network.

Gordon Bell: Owner of The Midland Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Gordon Bell advises clients with revenues ranging from $10 million to $5 billion. He developed the Advanced Value Enhancement Solutions program, guiding clients in building, growing, and exiting their businesses. A former EPI faculty member, he is best known for his “Next Best Step” approach, a value acceleration methodology, and is a former Exit Planner of the Year.

Mark Kravietz: Earning his CEPA in 2013, Mark Kravietz is the Managing Partner and Founder of ALINE Wealth, a financial solutions firm in New York. He is the founding member and president of the New York Chapter of the Exit Planning Institute, receiving EPI’s 2016 Thought Leader of the Year award and the 2014 Excellence in Planning and Volunteer of the Year Award. He was one of the first people to create and host an owners’ forum event, now in its 11th year. His podcast, Find Your Exit, helps owners think about how to successfully exit their business.

Julie Keyes: A national speaker, teacher, and EPI faculty member, Julie Keyes owns KeyeStrategies, an advisory and public speaking firm that provides exit planning education and consulting to business owners across multiple industries. Julie is the founding president of the Twin Cities EPI Chapter and is an EPI faculty member. She was EPI’s Thought Leader of the Year in 2017 and 2022 and serves on the EPI Leadership Council.

Justin Goodbread: Host of the Justin Goodbread Show, a production of Financially Simple Productions, Justin has started and sold seven businesses and is now focused on teaching others how to exit. Through Financially Simple, he produces coaching and educational materials for business owners to unlock the value of their companies. He is an EPI faculty member and a two-time winner of the Excellence in Exit Planning Awards.

John Warrillow: The creator of The Value Builder System and the author of Built to Sell, The Automatic Customer, and The Art of Selling Your Business, John is an entrepreneur, speaker, and author focused on helping owners build, accelerate, and harvest value. He hosts a podcast, Built to Sell Radio.

Peter Hickey: Founder of Maus Business Systems and the Institute of Advisors, Peter Hickey has designed several business tools now in use by more than 60,000 companies around the world. He is the former president of the Exit Planning Institute’s Australian Chapter and continues to advise business owners and educate advisors on exit planning.

Craig West: Founder of Succession Plus and Capitaliz, Craig West has developed methodologies and software that have influenced owners and advisors in his native Australia and beyond. His 21-step process is one of the profession’s most-followed Value Acceleration approaches. In 2022, he earned a doctorate from Charles Sturt University, where his thesis explored the key drivers of business exit options for owners and serves as one of the first academic research projects on exit planning.

Honoring a Legacy, Embracing the Future

As we recognize the achievements of these exceptional individuals and their introduction into the Circle of Excellence, we also look forward to the continued growth and evolution of the exit planning profession. The contributions of the inductees have not only shaped the present landscape but will undoubtedly influence the future trajectory of exit planning. They leave an enduring impact on business owners and advisors alike.

Learn more about, and join us in celebrating the achievements of these exceptional individuals, at this year’s Exit Planning Summit.