An Interview with EPI CEO, Christopher Snider

Exit Planning Institute recently sat down with CEO, Christopher Snider, to see how the exit planning profession has grown, what he is looking forward to at this year’s Exit Planning Summit, and some insights on his writing process. 

Meet Christopher Snider

Christopher M. Snider, CEPA, CEO of the Exit Planning Institute, is the award-winning author of Walking to Destiny: 11 Actions an Owner Must Take to Rapidly Grow Value & Unlock Wealth, a business strategy book about the Value Acceleration Methodology™ written for business owners and the advisors who serve them. Snider is a professional keynote speaker and content provider to the middle market business community, trade & industry associations, and professional education organizations. Walking to Destiny is a five-star rated book that truly empowers owners with the knowledge and path to effectively positioning their business and themselves for exit options down the road, sure, but perhaps more importantly, rapid business growth today.

Early in Mr. Snider’s career, he acted as a system integrator, supply chain manager, and mergers and acquisitions specialist for public companies such as The Sherwin Williams Company, Price Waterhouse, FedEx Logistics, Nike, Dell Computer, Hewlett Packard, Freightliner, and many others. A game-changing milestone in his career came when he began working with a middle market family-owned business which he helped grow from $90 million to $265 million in three years resulting in the sale to a large multi-national strategic buyer. For his written work and his contributions to the industry, Snider has been awarded recent honors that include the 2016 NACVA Industry Titan Architect and 2016 AM&AA Thought Leader of the Year.

How have you seen the exit planning profession change in the past 10 years?

Chris: Exit planning wasn’t even a real profession in 2012. EPI only had 180 members when we bought it. I had the advantage of being a member of EPI for four years before we bought it. What I saw was a lot of disparate practices and disciplines. No common language. No common proven process. Little to no collaboration. No community. But I just kept thinking about the possibilities if we could bring this industry together. 

Our community of CEPAs could be the force that could change the lives of business owners and their families across the country and maybe even the world. And business owners needed exit planning badly. We knew that. One of the things I am most proud of is that today exit planning is mainstream. It’s a profession. It’s an industry. When you look at the collective talent and intellectual power of our members today, they are a force that preserves what for many business owners is their life’s work and that changes people’s lives in a big way.

As a CEPA, how has the community created in the EPI network enhanced your advisory practice?

Chris: Integrating what I learned at CEPA into our consulting practice combined with the launch of the Northeast Ohio chapter put Aspire Management on the map. No one was talking about this let alone had a holistic process for how to do it well. People were very intrigued. Soon after we launched the chapter I was in the press 13 times over a 12-month period. At the time, most advisors were just focusing on their piece of the model. Few had a practice that addressed the whole process. EPI provided a platform for my voice and for other advisors. 

The chapter provided a vehicle to collaborate and learn from each other. If you open your eyes, you will meet some really smart people out there. The chapter was a catalyst for that. We started working together and approaching clients in a more holistic way – as close to seamless as you can get I think. This dramatically improved the experience for business owners and enhanced all our practices.

 EPI has written extensively on finding exit planning lessons in pop culture (TV shows, movies, and songs). Have you noticed any exit planning lessons in any of your favorite movies or tv shows?

Chris: I don’t watch a lot of TV or see a lot of movies. I am definitely a music person though. In the first edition of Walking to Destiny, I started every chapter with a set of musical lyrics that I felt related to exit planning and named by book after the gospel song Walking in My Destiny. I have a Walking to Destiny playlist that I listen to for inspiration. To me, the right set of lyrics complemented by music is musical poetry. I literally have music on all day and often go to sleep listening to music.

The 2023 Exit Planning Summit is heading back to Scottsdale, Arizona this May. What was your favorite part of Scottsdale to explore last May during the 2022 Summit?

Chris: Best Summit to date for sure. I think everyone was ready to gather again. My favorite part of the Summit is the Power Sessions. Scott and Mike stood out to me. And Gino and Sean had great keynotes. Denice and I love Scottsdale. We have been going there for many years. My grandfather, E.J., and grandmother Helen vacationed at the Camelback Inn in the 50s. Then Denice and I started taking the kids there on vacation. So, it has a history with our family and that was kind of cool. EJ would have been proud. We love taking trips into the desert. The pools and food are marvelous. But I would say most of all my favorite part to explore are the golf courses. I played three times at last year’s conference!

If you could vacation in any location, where would you choose and why? 

Chris: The beach is definitely my happy place. I wrote both books on the beach. I love jogging and walking on the beach. St. John USVI became a special place for us when we spent a month on the island to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We go back every year now. Family trips are always cherished. 

This year we took the whole family, including our four grandchildren, to Disney to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Seeing the kid’s faces as they met all the characters was priceless. Mickey and Minnie even visited our home on our last night. The kids were singing songs and dancing around on the pool deck with them. It was one of our most special trips to date.  

At the Summit this year, you will be leading two sessions. A main stage session on the evolution of the Value Acceleration Methodology and a live analysis of the Four Intangible Capitals. What led you to select these topics for the Summit?

Chris: As one of the earliest pioneers of this industry, I feel it’s important to stay connected to history, and to your roots in all things. It keeps you grounded and gives meaning to all the work it takes to be successful. We can all learn from that. We have come a long, long way since I went through the CEPA course in 2008. There were less than 100 CEPAs then. As of December 2022, we’ll have 5,000 and I really believe we’ll see 30,000-40,000 members in the years to come. Just stop and consider for a moment how many lives/families our community can affect using this methodology. Consider the massive wealth we can create that otherwise would go unlocked. We literally change family outcomes for generations to come. I think it is also proof that setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) and giving every ounce of yourself to something you really believe in can move mountains.

The 4Cs are the most popular and intriguing subject in Walking to Destiny. If you could take away one thing from Walking to Destiny to help business owners, it would be the concept of focusing your energy on growing the value of your 4Cs.

When you were growing up, what was one book that you could not put down?

Chris: I became an avid reader as I grew older. I have a whole library of business books – that’s probably not a surprise. I also love history, in particular, the 1700 and 1800s. I love reading about how the US expanded and changed during that time period and the different points of view of the people affected by those changes. My favorite modern author today is probably Malcolm Gladwell. His books are very intellectually interesting.

This year you will be releasing an updated version of Walking to Destiny. What can readers look forward to in the second edition?

Chris: I am so excited about this updated, revised, and expanded new edition of WTD. It’s been seven years since the first edition was released. I’ve learned so much more since then and share those insights and some of my own personal exit planning experiences over the last seven years. I feel like the whole thing is much more dialed in. Partly because we used a professional publishing firm this time around which provided me with many more resources to work with. I created two new chapters, added two bonus chapters, and combined others. I added a set of reflection questions for each chapter to help business owners internalize the lessons better. This will also be useful for advisors who give the book to active and potential clients. They can ask them to read a chapter and then use the reflection questions to have a conversation about the topic. 

I also created several supplemental products to go along with the book. They’ll be available online. Some are for CEPAs only. Plus, the market data has been updated which was necessary because the market has changed quite a bit. I talk about how I think these changes will affect exit planning going forward and the opportunities created. Let me just say, it’s a good time to be an exit planner and value accelerator. And finally, Scott contributed a lot more to this book, helping to organize the leadership concepts section, and writing the last chapter and one of the bonus chapters.

Meet Chris at our 2023 Exit Planning Summit this May 21-23 in Scottsdale, Arizona! Learn more about all our Summit speakers and view the agenda here. 

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