Member Of The Year

Celebrating A Great Year: Member of the Year Nominees

The highest award we bestow on members is the Member of the Year Award, presented annually to a CEPA who contributes significantly to the EPI advisor community as well as the overall exit planning profession.  

The winner of the Member of the Year Award will be named at the Exit Planning Summit in Marco Island, FL, on April 29. 

Mark Hegstrom, , AIF, CEPA, CPFA, DSB, Rock Island Wealth Management 

Mark is a steadfast pillar whose dedication and commitment to his role as president—four years running—of EPI’s Twin Cities Metro Area Chapter is unparalleled. “His leadership skills have been instrumental in fostering a thriving and supportive community for our members,” his nominator shares. “Mark's passion for the industry and his willingness to share his knowledge and experiences make him an invaluable asset to our community.” 

For his part, Mark was quite surprised by the nomination—but appreciative, nonetheless.  

 “I believe in this so I’m trying to make a mark on business and the exit planning industry,” he says. “I want to make a difference in helping business owners figure out their next steps.” 

  • Year achieved CEPA: 2019  
  • Summit excitement: “I always love the Summits because, for me, job one is learning more about the business we are in. There is always something to learn to better help our clients and I pick up so much during the Summits. I’m also excited to meet with my fellow presidents at the brunch and workshop—it’s always a time to learn and share.” 
  • Forest vision: “A leader must be a visionary. I have this old painting in my home of a soldier on a horse looking far out at the forest, where the other soldiers are so far behind that they can only see the trees. In the same way, I believe a leader is like that soldier—you must be able to see further than those around you. And then you must have communication and enthusiasm to engage others with your vision.” 
  • Third base coach: “Since becoming CEPA certified, my business has changed substantially. I’m using the Value Acceleration Methodology to help owners with their most important asset: their business. I think of myself as a third-base coach. What got them to third base may not get them ‘home,’ and I need to help them put the play together.” 
  • Round of applause: “This year, I completed the merger of my own company, joining a slightly larger company to reduce my own risk as a business owner. It’s opened up a whole new area, and the integration of the two groups has been very powerful—creating a lot of synergy. 
  • Who’s the BOSS?: Mark’s BOSS—Business Owner Success Strategies—was a key draw in the merger because of the program’s effectiveness in helping owners with succession and continuity planning.  
  • Get what you give: “I make a point to talk with other financial planners and CEPAs a couple of times each month. I share what I do and how I do it. There are so many owners, I can’t possibly help them all, so I believe that helping others learn to do what I do is a benefit to all of us. And I get back just as much as I give.” 

Rick Krebs, CPA, CEPA, Business Sales Group  

Rick was surprised by his Member of the Year nomination, though his impact is clear to everyone else. As Founder and President of the EPI Utah Chapter, Rick has been instrumental in creating the EPI community in that region. After earning his CEPA certification, Rick wanted to connect with others and build his professional network. There was no EPI chapter nearby, so Rick started one.  

 “There were 70 people at our launch event, and I just kept looking around the room, feeling amazed at the level of professionalism represented,” he says. “We have top-notch business coaches, CPAs, attorneys, financial planners, wealth managers, and more. At our last meeting—which was standing room only—I thought to myself, ‘Look at us now!’” 

  • Year achieved CEPA: 2022 
  • Summit excitement: “I’ve created deep personal relationships with others around the country, so I love that the Summit allows me to see friends and talk about how we can work together more.” 
  • My shot: “With exit planning, owners get one chance to get it right, and we’re helping owners with what is the single largest financial transaction for most: the sale of their business. I work hard to maximize their value.” 
  • Learning from his mistakes: Rick is a business broker, helping companies market and sell their businesses. He got into the profession after selling his own company, Liberty Mortgage—without help: “I now help others know what not to do, so it’s not as painful as it was for me.” 
  • From lone wolf to traveling in a pack: “Before I got my CEPA certification, I used to be more of a lone wolf in how I served clients. Now I collaborate and try to take a more thoughtful approach, bringing in other CEPAs with areas of expertise that are different than mine so we can better address an owner’s needs. This allows more to have more of a client-first mindset, too.” 
  • A little goes a long way: “A little planning can move owners in a big way. Incremental changes can bring exponential outcomes—and this is the basis of my book, Sell Your Business by Design.” 
  • True crime (against businesses): In addition to being a best-selling author and advisor, Rick is also a podcaster. He is the host of M&A Murders and Accusations: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Selling Your Business. 

Mike Garrison, CEPA, Blue Ridge Legacy Partners  

“I was blown away by the nomination,” Mike shares. “I cried. I was on top of my game 20 years ago—with all the awards and accolades. Then life sidetracked me for a while. So, this is the first award I’ve been nominated for in 20 years. The nomination alone means a lot.” 

While Mike is new to EPI and not affiliated with any chapter since there aren’t any close by, he dove into EPI, nonetheless.  

“I love the EPI staff. They have helped me plug in, so whenever they ask if I’ll talk to a new or frustrated CEPA, I don’t hesitate,” he says. “I share my story and the things I’ve learned in hopes of helping others.” 

Additionally, Mike has spoken at conferences and is part of the EPI faculty. 

  • Year achieved CEPA: 2023 
  • Summit excitement: “On the personal side, I’m a long-time fly fisher, so I’m really looking forward to being able to try saltwater fly fishing while at the Summit. Professionally, I’m excited about connecting with the EPI community—especially the Summit 50. As a solo entrepreneur, the Summit provides me with a great opportunity to connect with other like-minded people who are serious about EPI  and exit planning. I’ve already mapped out who I want to connect with during my time there.” 
  • When you don’t get to choose the exit: Mike says that while there’s a lot of focus on the planned exit, not everyone gets to choose their exit. He learned that firsthand. “20 years ago, I had just sold my first book, was franchising, coaching, and consulting—and I had to sell everything. We had a 24-week preemie with a horrific brain injury, cerebral palsy, severe autism, and other debilitating conditions. He spent five months in the ICU, and the care he needed once released was astronomical. I no longer had the capacity that was required to keep the businesses going. I sold everything and lost quite a bit because I had operated with an ‘I’ll worry about selling later’ attitude.”  
  • Best-selling author: As a serial entrepreneur in the financial services industry, Mike has drawn on his vast experience to author Can I Borrow Your Car: How Successful Financial Planners Grow Their Business and Love Their Life and Truth or Delusion: Busting Networking’s Biggest Myths. He is also a contributing author to the number-one bestseller Masters of Success. 
  • It’s about the journey: “When I’m coaching, I’m more focused on why something isn’t doing something versus what they could be doing. The personal journey is so important to a successful exit. And it’s just as important to talk about the unplanned exit as the planned one. I tell clients, let’s dream and hope for the ideal together, but run the business so you have options for exiting—whether or not it’s planned.” 
  • New beginnings: One of the recent accomplishments that Mike is most proud of is the launch of a new company: Blue Ridge Legacy Partners. 
  • Next up: Mike is passionate about helping CEPAs make money. He is launching a 12-month program for CEPAs to change their lives via referrals. 

 Excellence in Exit Planning Awards Ceremony 

We will announce the winner of the Member of the Year Award at our 2024 Exit Planning Summit on Monday, April 29, in Marco Island, FL. 

The Exit Planning Summit is the coming together of the Exit Planning Community. The best advisors from around the world collaborate with their supporting partners and colleagues that are all helping business owners to create more significant companies. Advisors will develop new or further current relationships, learn best practices, and advance themselves as advisors. Advisors will leave the Exit Planning Summit not only galvanized to accelerate their practice but with the tools and connections to do so. 

Learn more about the Exit Planning Summit and register to reserve your spot today!