The Journey of a CEPA in Australia: An Inspiring Interview with Dr. Craig West

The Certified Exit Planning Advisor ® (CEPA) credential is the leading exit planning credential in the industry. Since being founded in 2005, EPI has established itself as the authority in exit planning in the United States as well as on a global scale. To date, we have educated advisors from over 18 countries across the globe. 

Today, in honor of Australia Day, we feature Dr. Craig West of Capitaliz, Gold Partner for the 2024 Exit Planning Summit and one of the first CEPAs in Australia, to see how he has embraced the CEPA and Value Acceleration Methodology in his practice in Australia. 

Meet Dr. Craig West 

Dr. Craig West is a strategic accountant and mentor with more than 25 years of experience in advising business owners on exit planning, succession, and mergers and acquisitions. Craig holds two master’s degrees in Taxation Law and Accounting and Finance and has been a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) since 2011.

Craig is the founder of Succession Plus, the largest Business Succession and Exit Planning consulting firm in Australia. He leads a team of experts who help clients maximize the value of their businesses and achieve successful exits. Additionally, he founded Capitaliz, a platform that connects businesses with investors and advisors for growth and exit opportunities. Since its establishment in 2009, Craig’s consulting firm has worked with over 800 business owners.

In October 2014, he was awarded the Exit Planner of the Year at the Exit Planning Institute Annual Conference in Texas, USA, due to his innovative development of a 21-step exit planning process. In July 2022, he was awarded a Doctor of Business Administration for his research thesis titled “Examination of the key factors driving business exit options in Australian Small and Medium Enterprises.”

Craig is passionate about educating and empowering business owners to achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals. He has authored four books, hosted three podcasts, and delivered several seminars and keynote presentations on exit planning, employee incentives, asset protection, and valuation. Craig is an engaging and highly sought-after presenter who has received international recognition and awards for his work in the field.

An Interview with Craig

What inspired you to become a CEPA?

Craig: I was a CPA in practice previously, and many of my clients were business owners (and many baby boomers) – they started approaching me about exit and succession planning for their business. I had no idea, so I researched the best methodology and approach and found EPI and Peter Christman. I traveled to Chicago and completed the CEPA course in 2011. I have used what I learned to build the consulting firm – the largest exit planning advisory firm in Australia/New Zealand.

How does the CEPA credentialing program differ from other exit planning education you have received? 

Craig: At that time, the course was different (all face-to-face) before value acceleration and the five stages of value. But it was all focused on exit planning practicalities, which I needed for my clients. It gave me the tools to go away and provide solutions to clients. It also gave me a very strong view that this service was much needed, under-resourced, and a real growth opportunity. On the way home (15-hour flight), I wrote out a process with 21 steps (in five stages of value) and published a book (called Enjoy It)  with that process in 2013.

Since earning your CEPA credential, how has your business grown? 

Craig: Since that time, the Australian business has helped over 800 business owner clients and has 20 advisors (in every capital city) – all based on that model. We have had 40 % growth year on year and are now working with major banks, accounting firms, and industry bodies nationally.

As a CEPA in Australia, how does your practice differ from those in the US? 

Craig: We are the largest consulting firm in the Australian marketplace, BUT exit planning is less mature than in the USA (though not as far behind as in the UK). Our country is the same size (geographically) but has only 25.6 million people (all spread around the coast – as the middle 50 % is desert and full of things trying to kill you). We have advisors in all major centers, but many also operate as CPA attorneys or financial advisors. In many other ways, it is very similar. 

The people are similar, business and trade are similar, our economy is similar, and we have a lot of family-owned businesses owned by baby boomers, and we both speak English (sort of).  

Interestingly, our practice ONLY does Business Succession and Exit planning – this is our focus, and all of the other work we do is collaborative with other experts working with business owners. We have a very education-oriented approach to both owners and other advisors, and our ongoing development of large volumes of content has generated a lot of interest and growth.

As one of the first advisors in Australia to earn the CEPA credential, how have you paved the way for other advisors in Australia to achieve this credential? 

Craig: We set up an Australian Chapter of EPI for several years and trained about 30 advisors (20 work for me). We were also lucky enough to have Chris Snider come out and present a CEPA program in Sydney in August 2014, and this opened up a lot of people's minds to exit planning and how they could get involved. I also regularly refer people to EPI to learn and get accredited, as I still believe it is a must.

I have written four books on exit planning or related topics, and (in July 2022) I received the Doctor of Business Administration award for a research thesis titled “Examination of the key factors driving business exit options in Australian Small and Medium Enterprises.” This all provided credibility and some academic rigor to the exit planning focus and highlighted the need for both owners and advisors to get better educated.

I also launched Capitaliz  – exit planning software written by exit planners (using the 21-step, five-stage process we have used successfully) for exit planners – as part of my goal to help as many owners as possible. Advisors need the best tools possible, and I am confident we have developed the best exit planning tool.

As a member of the exit planning community for over a decade now, how have you seen the industry change over the years? 

Craig: The industry is far more mature and better understood by owners; Other advisors are far more willing to engage (they mainly recognize they don't have the internal expertise to manage an exit planning engagement). The focus on value acceleration and value advice is unique, and people now understand that exit planning is just good business strategy. The numbers have grown massively – the first Exit Planning Summit I attended had about 50 people in total.

How do you stay engaged in the EPI and CEPA community from Australia? 

Craig: Many of the events are in the middle of the night for us – but the new website and content are great and easily accessible. I keep in touch with EPI members online and on LinkedIn often and regularly comment and share exit planning-related content. I have been to the last two Exit Planning Summits and look forward to coming to Florida in April.

It only takes a little effort to engage, and I am very serious about helping as many owners as possible maximize the value of their business and successfully exit. 

Interested in More from Craig?

Exit Is Now Podcast 

Craig joined EPI President, Scott Snider, on the Exit Is Now Podcast to discuss his business in Australia in depth. Watch the full episode below or listen here


Attend the Best-In-Class Exit Planning Advisors Panel 

Embark on a journey into the world of exit planning with our distinguished panel of Certified Exit Planning Advisors® (CEPAs). This exclusive session brings together a lineup of award-winning, all-star advisors, recognized for their expertise in guiding businesses through successful transitions. Craig West. Justin Goodbread, Melisa Silverman, Mike Trabert, Vincent Mastrovito, and James Jack lead this panel session at the 2024 Exit Planning Summit on April 29. 

Join us as they share their proven strategies, industry insights, lessons they have learned, and success stories that have set them apart as best-in-class advisors in the field. This panel session offers a rare opportunity to learn from the best in the field of exit planning advisory. Attendees of this best-in-class panel will gain wisdom from industry trailblazers and enhance their capabilities as advisors. 

Register for the Exit Planning Summit here!