Circle of Excellence: Profile of Inductee Craig West

Headshot of Craig West surrounded by laurels with title

Craig West remembers the moment he realized being an exit planning advisor was his path in life. It was not long after he earned his CEPA in Chicago in 2010. On the long flight home to his native Australia, West was too energized to sleep. He knew his clients at Succession Plus—an accounting and tax firm—came to him about taxes, but they were really crying out for a methodology. They didn’t know how to prepare themselves, their families, and their businesses for an eventual exit. 

And so, on that flight home, he wrote a plan for owners—using all three legs of the stool—to help people have a framework for succession planning.  

Not long after, he received a card from a client. Inside the card was a receipt—for a $5 million gift to a charity. The note, he recalls, said that the $22 million exit for a business valued at $8 million would be life-changing—for the client, his family, and hopefully, the client’s charity of choice. 

“It was so crystal clear,” West recalls. “I need to do more of this.” 

West continually refined his process, developing the intellectual property he developed at Succession Plus into a SaaS tool named Capitaliz. Through 21 steps, and the same five stages of value that Exit Planning Institute uses, he built tools and checklists to implement with clients that answered the “how” of exit planning.  

Pioneering Exit Planning in Australia

While exit planning isn’t as mature in Australia as in the United States, West has played a large role in bringing exit planning to the fore in his home country. He estimates that of the 25 Australian CEPAs, 20 work with his group. He’s licensed his methodology in New Zealand and the United Kingdom—countries where exit planning hasn’t reached the heights it could. 

And, as a new doctorate, he’s started an academic body of research through his 2022 doctoral thesis, reading everything written in the previous five years on exit planning. He found that the underlying driver for Baby Boomers has changed—relevant to the unprecedented transfer of wealth our world is experiencing as Baby Boomers transition to retirement. 

“It used to be ‘I need to sell for this amount of money to fund my retirement,’” West says. “But anyone who bought property in the 1980s is a multi-millionaire now. Legacy—looking after employees, suppliers, and key people—is now the main driver.” 

Insights and Achievements

Craig West's journey as an exit planning advisor is marked by numerous accomplishments and insightful perspectives. Here are some key highlights from his career:

Write On

West has written five books on exit planning, and hundreds of blog articles. He’s also recorded over 250 episodes on three different podcasts.

The Two-Part Leader

West defines a leader as someone who has developed innovative ideas or products that are about more than making money and is also someone who people are willingly happy to follow: “It’s not about saying follow me. It’s about them naturally gravitating to that leader.”

Impact Driver

West has worked with over 800 business owners. “All had fantastic businesses in their own ways. Helping people expand is nice, but it’s not as impactful as getting an exit strategy right. Financial impact, social impact, economic impact beyond your own family—it’s about impact beyond the owner.”

Practice Makes Perfect

“I had practical experience with people needing help. I didn’t know what to call (exit planning) and neither did they. Finding EPI and a group of people who thought the same way I did gave me theoretical knowledge. I walked away feeling that these were my people.”

Adapt to Thrive

“No one predicted the impact COVID would have. I think about the people planning to exit in 2020—the whole thing changed. You have to have a growth mindset, and that’s the element of challenge I like.”

Community Connections

“Somebody just rang me yesterday—an Australian woman thinking about the CEPA course. I told her it’s not just about the five-day program. It’s about the relationships. It’s about experts around the world you can go to.” 

About the Circle of Excellence

The Circle of Excellence—a new yearly recognition of the people who have created 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. 

In our inaugural year, we inducted nine members to the Circle of Excellence at the 2024 Exit Planning Summit. Throughout 2024, we’ll profile each of them to highlight their contributions to the field of exit planning. 

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