Expert Insights From CEPA of 15 Years: Marquita Trenier Wiley

In 2007, EPI released and hosted the first Certified Exit Planning Advisor® (CEPA) credentialing program. The curriculum followed the principles found in The $10 Trillion Opportunity and was designed to educate professional advisors who worked with business owners on the specific process for exit planning. The course exposed advisors to the diverse set of disciplines that contribute to an effective exit plan and the tools needed to execute the work. 

Since its inception in 2007, over 4,000 professional advisors have earned the CEPA credential in the past 16 years. 

We spoke with Marquita Trenier Wiley, a CEPA since 2007 to learn more about her growth through exit planning over the past 16 years and how the exit planning profession has evolved. 

Meet Marquita

Marquita Trenier Wiley is a business executive with 30 years of experience in the Information Technology and Financial Services industries.  She is CEO of Trenier Enterprises, LLC.  Trenier Enterprises is an affiliate of Innovative Business Advisors and delivers M&A consulting and intermediary services through its relationship with IBA LLC. 

Marquita earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and a Master of Business Administration degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  

Ms. Wiley began her career in sales and marketing with IBM.  Ms. Wiley joined Boatmen’s Trust Company in St. Louis as Senior Vice President of Product Development for the Institutional Trust Division.  Later, Marquita was appointed Premier Banking Executive for the Midwest region of Bank of America, responsible for the affluent/premier line of business in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.  

Ms. Wiley holds the following professional designations and credentials:

  • CBI (Certified Business Intermediary)
  • Real Estate Broker, Licensed in the State of Illinois
  • CEPA (Certified Exit Planning Advisor) 

What Led Marquita to Earn Her CEPA®?

After decades in a corporate sales, IT, and operations environment, Marquita retired in 2005. She was looking to buy a staffing business but after a long engagement, the deal ultimately did not go through. During these initial conversations with the owner, she shared some of her strategies and plans for the business in the future. Unfortunately, while Marquita was unable to execute these plans in the business she hoped to buy, the current owner incorporated these strategies into the business anyway. She shares that she learned, “Don’t start negotiating or spilling strategies before the deal closes.” 

While she was unsuccessful in her acquisition, she began working with M&A on transitions and became a business broker. She soon realized that owners were not ready for their transactions and needed proper coaching on exit planning strategies prior to the M&A event. Marquita researched programs to learn more about exit planning and attended an in-person Certified Exit Planning Advisor program in Chicago in 2007 to earn her CEPA Credential.  

As one of the first CEPAs, not many advisors and owners were aware of the benefits of working with a CEPA during their exit. Marquita shares, “People had a lot of questions. I went to IBBA conferences to share the need for CEPA and many built exit planning into their business brokerage firms.” 

How CEPA Helped Build Marquita’s Practice

The CEPA program provides the conceptual learning needed to extend into a new service area. Marquita hoped to build her business with assessments and charged $5,000 per assessment. She utilized several educational sources in her practice to build her exit planning and business coaching acumen. These included EOS, The ValueBuilder System, Profit First, and Action Coach. 

Additionally, Marquita went back through the CEPA program in 2015 after the creation of the Value Acceleration Methodology. She shares, “I continued to use my old training but incorporated the Value Acceleration Methodology into it. This methodology incorporated life after business planning. Many of my clients had post-exit regrets, and I wanted to be their resource for every aspect of their exit.”   

The Evolution of Exit Planning 

The immense growth of the exit planning industry highlights the need for this important and life-changing work. Marquita was one of the first CEPAs certified and has continued to renew her credential for over 16 years. She now is one of almost 5,000 CEPAs in our ever-expanding community. She shares, “It is not just about exit now. It is about growth, acquisition, and strategies for growing your business.” 

Marquita continues, “Back when I was in business school, the education was for the corporate world. Now business school educates the next great entrepreneurs. This growth in entrepreneurship has led to more than 50% of my clients being under the age of 50.” Previously baby boomers were the main generation of focus for business advisors as they were expected to be the generation most likely to transition their businesses in the next few years. 

However, with the increase of younger business owners looking to start, build, and sell multiple businesses in their lifetime, the industry is changing. Marquita states, “As long as business owners continue buying and selling businesses, we will continue to grow.” 

As the industry grows, the diversity of the advisors working in exit planning has grown as well. Marquita shares that she has “always been one of few women in the business.” As more women join the M&A space, Marquita has worked closely with the IBBA network to bring more women into this field. She works closely with the IBBA IWEN, IBBA Women’s EmpowHER Network. IWEN provides insights, forums, and networking opportunities to the business brokerage community that center around the unique challenges and opportunities women face and the unique qualities they bring to the profession.              

Advice to Business Advisors and Owners

When looking back at her 15 years as a CEPA, Marquita emphasizes the immense impact the CEPA credential has had in her practice. She says, “If you engage with owners in any capacity, the information and experience you gain from the CEPA program and community is invaluable.” 

To owners considering their exit strategy, Marquita asks, “Are you ready? So many owners are not ready or prepared for their exit or their life post-exit.” She highlights the importance of working with a coach to build value in the business prior to exiting. A CEPA is the perfect coach for a business owner as they manage the owner’s personal, financial, and business goals and can build significant transferable value in their business. 

Are You Interested in Becoming a CEPA?

The Certified Exit Planning Advisor credential is for those advisors who want to expand their expertise and differentiate themselves from the competition. 

  • Differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Gain better access to business owners
  • Become more engaged on a business owner's advisory team
  • Have deeper and more holistic conversations with business owners
  • Grow your referral network of professional advisors
  • Access hundreds of marketing and business development tools tailored for owners

Learn more about the CEPA program and become your client’s Most Valued Advisor today!