Our business owner planning often goes well beyond traditional wealth management firms. We have developed a deep network of resources who can help alleviate the pain points in running a business. This could help a business run more smoothly, weather future storms better or even make it more capital ready. 

Our Business Owner Moat analysis considers how healthy the moat is around your business castle and how to fix a leaky moat. The moat, barriers to barbarians overrunning your castle, continues to be a key competitive advantage regardless of how you are going to exit the business someday. A healthy moat, and avoiding a leaky moat, is even more important today when the barbarians have helicopters and artificial intelligence! To request a copy of the Moat Survey, complete the Contact Us Form and put "Moat Survey" in the Comments section.

We have helped business owners and their companies:

  1. Evaluate the company “moat” strategy and determine ways to add water and crocodiles to the moat. Here are just a few of the areas we examine:

    • Fanatically loyal customers – an oldy but still a goodie.

    • Riches are in the Niches – many of our most successful business owner clients have focused on niche areas where larger companies don’t want to play or can’t play effectively.

    • Profit margins or cash returns on invested capital that consistently exceed the industry average or those of their competitors. Has a profit focus sacrificed adding the right people or systems or new growth opportunities that may be a key to future survival?

    • Successful companies who combine brand strength with pricing power. Increasingly a challenge for many companies in the Amazon era.

    • Products and services that are not easily abandoned for a substitute or for a competitor’s product. What is the NextGen product solution?

    • Cost advantage: private companies need to scale while maintaining healthy teams and profitability, no easy feat in today’s world.

    • Networks Effect are more powerful than ever utilizing traditional and digital media tools. Are you using leading edge or bleeding edge tools?

  2. Create strategy and tactics around a promising new “bolt-on” growth opportunity, often around ideas you already have, combining existing and new people and resources to grow with intention.

  3. Eliminate areas that are creating a drag on your future. Through our Business Owner Moat analysis, we have created strategies and brought in our network professionals to help fix problems even as you’re growing for the future.

  4. Clunky succession plans or buy-sell agreements. We’ve lost count of how many existing succession plans haven’t been updated or have strategic flaws that are surfaced when we run our Business Owner Simulations.

  5. For over three decades, our business owner clients have valued having a personal Financial Independence Roadmap℠ that runs alongside their business plan and helps create good clarity in future decision making, balancing family issues and business issues.


Stearns Financial has worked for over three decades helping many business owners plan their sale, prepare the business to maximize value and provide a clear path from sale to financial independence and help in the transition to the next phase of their life.

Here are the top 10 frequently asked questions by business owners we’ve worked with who are contemplating the sale of their business:

  1. Will sale proceeds after tax be enough for my family and me to live comfortably? What expenses does my business currently cover that would be personal expenses going forward? Will my spouse be happy with the end result?

  2. If I delay the sale of my business for a few years, what are the benefits and risks? Is now an optimal time to sell? Is my business “sale ready?”

  3. What investment strategies are most likely to help me with both income and future inflation protection? How can I protect against downside risks?

  4. If the sale is cash plus a note or earn out, what would it mean to my personal situation if part of the proceeds are never paid? How can I maximize the potential for getting full sale value?

  5. How should I handle the due diligence process as the buyer kicks the tires? What should I disclose? How do I prepare my senior team for the sale?

  6. What are my options to compensate loyal team members before or after the sale? What are my options to reduce income taxes on sale

  7. What will I do with my life after the business sale?

  8. Should I consider a consulting arrangement? Buying another business? Should I consider a tax-free exchange for my business real estate?

  9. How should I change my estate plan as a result of the sale?

  10. What risks do I need to hedge in the future without the business in place?

SFG helps you answer these questions and more.


As part of our multi-pronged approach to helping business owner clients develop a smooth exit strategy, Stearns Financial develops a multi-scenario Financial Independence Roadmap℠ of your potential future course based on current economic conditions, assets, liabilities and your individual goals.

Our process helps put business sale scenarios into clear focus and sets the stage for pro-active (versus reactive) financial independence planning, potential income tax savings techniques before and after the sale (developed with your accountant and tax attorney), estate planning developed with your estate attorney), risk management and other key planning needed for the next chapter of your life. 


  1. Base Case- How does my future look? Sale of the business based on expected value or letter of intent.

  2. Partial Sale- What will my personal situation look like if a cash plus note or earn out is successful? What if only part of the note or earn out is paid? How can you improve sale terms ahead of the term sheet?

  3. Tax Planning Scenarios- Enhancing the base case with tax savings techniques. SFG has come up with many creative ways to save taxes, usually working closely with the client’s existing accounting team.

  4. “What if?” Fire Testing- Risk management scenarios in a variety of negative economic, investment and general risk events.

  5. Estate and Gifting Scenarios- Alternative scenarios for business owners who want to gift a portion of the sale proceeds now or later to family or charitable entities.


We know the issues that business owners face. Our firm has been recognized on such lists as the Triad Business Journal Fast 50 (2016) and the INC. 5000 (2016, 2017). Our leaders have also earned awards including Greensboro Chamber Small Business Advocate (2009), Business Leader Entrepreneur of the Year (2008) and Triad Business Journal Most Admired CEOs (2016).

Stearns Financial utilizes scenario planning. We look at plausible scenarios for you, your business and overlay our own proprietary economic scenarios. This helps both you and SFG understand the strengths and weaknesses of your situation and how to chart a course to your preferred future.

Stearns Financial is constantly a fierce advocate for our clients. We are professionals, not financial product salespeople. We have credentials like CFA, CPA and CFP®, and regularly participate in “best practices” workshops for regional and national conferences in the financial industry. Our firm is a fee-only (not fee-based) fiduciary. SFG has been named seven consecutive years (2014-2020) to the Financial Times 300 Top Independent Registered Investment Advisors in the U.S.