Julie Keyes Shares the Top 10 Lessons To Become A Successful Exit Planning Advisor: A CEPA Spotlight

The community of Certified Exit Planning Advisors® (CEPA) continues to grow. Over 5,000 CEPAs are now active in the exit planning industry, providing the necessary expertise and resources for business owners looking to build business value, exit their business, and have a fulfilling next act. The CEPA® community comprises advisors from diverse backgrounds, including accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, wealth managers, and more. 

Today we spotlight multi-award-winning CEPA, EPI Faculty member, author, and podcast host, Julie Keyes. A CEPA since 2015, Julie has since grown her advisory practice, adds value to her owner clients’ lives, and is known as a trusted thought leader in the exit planning space. 

We spoke to Julie to learn more about how her CEPA credential has helped improve her business and what lessons other CEPAs can take from her entrepreneurial career! 

Meet Julie Keyes

Julie Keyes is the founder of KeyeStrategies, LLC in Minneapolis, MN specializing in exit and transition consulting. She became a CEPA in 2015 and founded the EPI Twin Cities Metro Area Chapter in 2016. She has since hosted several Owner’s Forums and released two State of Owner Readiness Surveys in her market since then.

Julie has been an entrepreneur most of her life. As the founder and operator of several companies, she understands the responsibilities of ownership and the struggles that come with being an owner, especially as a woman.

Julie is an EPI faculty member, a member of its Leadership Council, and recipient of EPI’s “Thought Leader of the Year” in 2017 and 2022, and nominated for “Exit Planner of the Year” in 2023.

Her speaking engagements for various professional organizations include IEC, NAIFA, WIFS, FPA, NAWBO, Merrill, UBS, LIMRA, IBBA, Lincoln Financial Services, LeClair Group, Principal Financial Group, Frost Bank, and many more.

In 2021, Julie released the 2nd Edition of “Poised for Exit: A Woman Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Transition” a book that helps owners of privately held companies navigate the process of business exit. Her weekly podcast, also called “Poised for Exit”, provides content relevant to business owners and advisors alike, and can be found on all major podcast platforms. The show was recently picked up by a local radio station and airs weekly.

She also produced a self-paced, online course specifically to educate business owners on the process of Exit Planning called “Business Transition Readiness: An Owner’s Guide to the Process”. And a virtual program for advisors specifically built for CEPAs looking to utilize their credentials in the best way possible.

What about exit planning interests you the most?

Julie: I love being an advocate and guide for business owners, so they can achieve their best possible outcome, as well as find new purpose for their lives. My own exit many years ago wasn’t the best, mostly because my ‘advisers’ lacked the expertise. It could have been a much better, more lucrative experience had I known then what I know now. So, my mission is to coordinate the best outcomes possible for the clients I work with and do whatever I can to perpetuate excellence in exit planning among my peers by speaking and writing on the subject. 

Of which of your professional accomplishments this past year are you most proud?

Julie: Successfully partnering with advisory firms who wish to implement exit planning services, but don’t perform the Value Acceleration work. I’ve had numerous requests for this kind of partnership and it’s working out well because, in addition to being a partner for Value Acceleration, I’m also a valuable resource for the education of their newer advisers and staff who are not familiar with the exit planning process and thereby are missing opportunities for cross-selling other services in the firm. 

What tips would you share with CEPAs that would make them more successful exit planning advisors?

Julie: There are 10 aspects a CEPA must consider to be successful in the exit planning field. 

  1. Empathize with the owner; for most, they have one shot at exit
  2. Once the owner believes you have his or her back you’ve become a trusted adviser; trust must be granted over time with a proven track record
  3.  Your words and your actions must match; do what you say you’ll do
  4.  Know and deliver your best work from your strengths
  5. Accept that you will never have all the answers, but on behalf of the client you will find them
  6. Collaborate (even if you’re the only one who really knows what’s going on)
  7. Give good referrals and engage yourself in the introduction; your client and your colleague will both benefit from and appreciate that.
  8. Adopt a personal best policy of continuous learning and improvement
  9. Create an action plan, then execute it. Revise quarterly. It’s simple, but not widely practiced
  10. Keep yourself and your firm informed on technology and industry trends

How has your practice changed since you earned your CEPA Credential?

Julie: Before I became certified, I worked as a business coach and consultant. Over time, I started acquiring more clients who needed help with exit planning. Once I became certified, I changed my business model, built a better collaborative team, and re-launched my business. It took a few years to implement many business development strategies, but it was worth the effort. 

How has the EPI Community changed since you became a CEPA?

Julie: We have a great system for learning and collaborating through the growth of the Member Center, Chapter Network, Summit, and other events. All of which have grown and evolved since I became a CEPA in 2015. Anyone obtaining their CEPA now is set up for success! EPI has made it a no-brainer for anyone who really wants to grow their practice and learn how to be best in class. The whole system just keeps getting better. 

How do you define a leader?

Julie: One motivates and inspires others, and who has earned their trust by taking risks and challenging the status quo. A person who serves his or her profession with courage, generosity, and vision. One who is ethical and dynamic, who champions the success of their followers as much as their own. 

How do you share your exit planning expertise with the exit planning community as a whole? 

Julie: The podcast show has become an integral way for me to interact with the advisor community. I’ve accumulated a large group of loyal listeners, many of whom are CEPAs. I know this because of the feedback I receive. I love to hear how they are learning from and sharing the content because that was the whole purpose of the show. The Second Edition of Poised for Exit was published a year ago. It has truly become a tool for advisers and business owners. It’s also a catalyst for learning for advisers and business owners alike. Aside from the book and podcast, I am regularly introduced to new CEPAs who are looking for help with launching their practices, and I’m always open to sharing what I’ve learned. 

Become a Certified Exit Planning Advisor® 

The Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) credential is for professional advisors who want to effectively engage more business owners, build value within their business, and exit on their own terms. Through the process of Exit Planning, utilizing the Value Acceleration Methodology, owners can build more valuable companies, have stronger personal financial plans, and align their personal goals. Earning the CEPA credential expands your expertise and enhances your ability to engage business owners and conduct value-added conversations around growth and exit.

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!