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All About Certified Exit Planners (CExP)


A certified exit planner (CExP) can help even young business owners start planning for their eventual departure from the firm they helped grow. It can be a difficult process and many business owners, still hard at work, may feel it’s unnecessary. But without a clear exit plan, it may be difficult to sell the business at maximum profit, take it public or transfer ownership to a designated successor. Finding the right CExP can take time, but if you own a business it can be useful to start by engaging a financial advisor with knowledge of this specialization.

What Does a Certified Exit Planner (CExP) Do?

A CExP helps with exit planning. Exit planning is a term for a strategy that outlines how business owners will sell or otherwise leave their businesses. The process has legal, financial and organizational implications and usually a business needs several years to implement it. It also requires advisors, such as attorneys and accountants, but often business owners need extra help visualizing their exit strategy. It also may be necessary to create more than one exit plan.

This is why hiring a CExP can be worth the investment. These advisors take stock of business assets and anticipate all the steps necessary to complete an exit. In short, they’re specialists who see a particular part of an overall business plan and help their clients’ write and sometimes implement their exit strategy.

What Does the CExP Certification Mean?

Offered since 2009, the CExP is a certification that provides holders with no particular powers or privileges. Instead, it demonstrates an interest and willingness to learn about advanced exit planning strategies. CExPs have studied and maintain good standing with the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), the organization that trademarks the certification and determines who can use it.

BEI provides professional education, marketing services and training materials to CExPs and maintains the certification’s professional standards. In addition, BEI offers business exit planning licenses and software for creating exit plans.

CExPs technically can work with any type of business, but BEI states that in most cases they engage companies valued between $2 million and $25 million.

Who Can Become a CExP?

Most prospective CExPs already are advising businesses in some capacity and have an existing professional designation. Approved credentials include certified public accountant, certified financial planner, certified life underwriter, chartered financial analyst and attorney. There are many specializations within these fields (such as business brokers, management consultants or family business advisors) that also qualify.

Essentially, CExPs have chosen to develop a skill set above their established credentials. The training helps them advise business owners on valuing the business, transferring ownership, maintaining continuity, handling the financial proceeds and related matters.

How Do You Earn a CExP?

Like many professional certifications, a CExP requires completion of a standard curriculum, passing tests and maintaining good standing through continuing education.

It starts with a two-day workshop that candidates can complete online or in a live setting. These “boot camps” teach participants how to market exit planning services, how exit planning can build a client base and generate additional revenue, how to create exit plans and lead or participate in exit planning advisor teams.

Next comes an advanced exit planning course series, which has nine online modules. Each is a specialized knowledge set, but in aggregate the modules focus on assessing current value of the business and its assets, identifying and refine owners’ objectives and advising on multiple types of exit plans. There are tests after each module ends and final case study exams. Students also must create two sample exit plans using BEI’s plan creating software.

Once accredited, CExP holders must take 30 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certificates.

How Much Time and Money Is Required to Earn a CExP?

The CExP requires considerable investments in money and – especially for working professionals – time. Students have 12 months to complete the advanced courses, which by BEI’s estimate should take 100 to 120 hours of study. The advanced course series costs $1,795. Additionally, the boot camp costs $1,495 when taken live and $995 when taken online.

Are There Certifications Comparable to CExP?

There are many certifications for accountants, valuation consultants, appraisers and others who work with businesses on exit plans. However, besides the CExP there are just two widely held certifications specifically designed for business exit planners.

The certified exit planning advisor (CEPA) certification from the Exit Planning Institute requires enrollment in a five-day course that costs $5,695. Prerequisites include five years work experience in a related field and a four-year college degree or equivalent experience.

Certified business exit consultant (CBEC) is a certification from Pinnacle Equity Solutions that consists of a series of nine weekly online seminars. The course costs $2,500. Before taking the first class, students have to complete a 10-hour core training course presented either live or online.

The Bottom Line

The certified exit planner certification demonstrates that a professional business advisor can assist with planning and deploying an exit strategy in accord with the owner’s wishes. For professional advisors, it can be an important value-add to existing relationships with business owners, especially since CExPs can assist in strategy execution.

Tips for Business Owners

  • CExP is a trademarked title that belongs to BEI. So if you are seeking exit plan advice, you might begin by exploring the BEI website and determining if its philosophy and course of study is aligned with your preferences and needs.
  • It’s important for business owners to establish a trusting, productive relationship with professionals who serve their business interests. But finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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