The Role of a Coach in Exit Planning


Defining the role of a coach on your exit planning team doesn’t just happen. Like any other aspect of working with consultants, you need to set expectations upfront.

Many advisors like to characterize themselves as the “quarterback” of a transition planning team. I’ve always objected to that. We regard the business owner as the quarterback of the planning process. After all, the coach never gets sacked by a 300-pound defensive lineman. The advisor may want to win every bit as much as the business owner, but it’s the owner who actually has skin in the game.

A Coach’s Responsibilities

It’s one thing to say that you are a coach and another to act like it. Here are seven basic rules an owner should expect from the coach on a planning team.

role of a coach

  1. He (or she) speaks the truth always, even (or especially) if you don’t particularly want to hear it.
  2. He must act as a Fiduciary, putting your needs first.
  3. He should offer options and alternatives, especially when you have a fixed idea of how things need to be done.
  4. He acts as the defender of your objectives and points out when other advisors on the team are drifting from those objectives.
  5. He documents the progress of your engagement, as well as that of the other advisors.
  6. He respects the work of other advisors and solicits their input.
  7. He delivers your contributions on schedule, but respects your need to attend to business first.

These “rules” can be verbalized or set out in writing, but it is important that your expectations are discussed at the outset.

Let’s continue with the coaching analogy for a moment. The quarterback must not only accept the coach’s advice, but in his role as leader of the team he should be telling the position players that his plays are the ones they are going to use. The quarterback understands that the route assigned to the wide receiver is only part of the picture. There are other men that are going to protect him so he has time to throw, or occupy defenders so the receiver can get open. The pieces have to work together as a whole.

Leading a Team

Similarly, the business owner must make plain that the coach’s responsibility includes overseeing the other members of the advisory team. No receiver would dream of coming into the huddle and saying “Hey guys. I just thought up a different play. Here’s what I want you all to do.” Some advisors, however, seem to think that is OK.

But if the receiver comes to the quarterback while the offense is on the sidelines and says “They are using the same coverage on me every time. I think I have an opportunity down the sideline,” it’s the quarterback’s role (and obligation) to bring that to the coach. Then an appropriate play can be drawn up that involves the entire team. Similarly, you should be open to other advisors’ input, but bring it to the coach right away.

Every team needs a coach. It’s his or her responsibility to help them work together for a single outcome. It’s not your job as an owner. You have neither the experience nor the time to devote to the task. Defining the role of a coach leaves you, the quarterback, the ability to focus on winning the game.


This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on John develops transition and succession strategies that allow business owners to exit their companies on their own schedule, with the proceeds they seek and complete control over the process. He takes a coaching approach to client engagements, focusing on helping owners of companies with $1M to $250M in revenue achieve both their desired lifestyles and legacies.


Updated: Nov 30, 2023

About the author
John Dini of The Exit Planning Coach is a member of XPX San Antonio

I have owned companies in manufacturing, distribution and services, along with well over 10,000 hours of coaching business owners. I will understand your business and your objectives.