Business Exit Planning, with Drew McLellan

Episode 38:

Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group and the owner and leader of the Agency Management Institute. In his fourth appearance on the Progressive Agency podcast, Drew discusses agency owners’ succession and shares tips and strategies to begin business exit planning. Hear insights about:

  • What hot topics for agency owners does Drew expect to see throughout 2022
  • How do agency owners find a balance between tax planning and building value and equity in the business
  • Why business owners should wait until January to empty their bank accounts at the end of the year if they are planning to sell
  • What should business owners do if they think they may want to sell eventually
  • Why owner financing is often a good option if you are selling your business to an internal employee
  • How long does it typically take to close a deal beginning from the initial conversation to consummation

Business Exit Planning

Business Exit Strategies for Agency Owners

My encore guest for this week’s episode of the Progressive Agency podcast is Drew McLellan from the Agency Management Institute. Drew is an expert at helping agencies plan their succession, and in this episode, he shares tips and strategies to begin business exit planning if you plan to sell within the next five to ten years.

Business Exit Planning

During our conversation, Drew explained that he and the Agency Management Institute team help agency owners with their succession. This includes actually helping an agency owner identify internal buyers, and then facilitating the entire process of mediating the deal and financing it.

One of the problems Drew continuously sees during the succession process is that agency owners are often very good at tax planning – too good in fact. They focus on getting their bottom line and their profitability number down to as small as possible by the end of the year so that they don’t pay tax on those dollars. The problem is, if they’ve been successful at that for many years, once they do the valuation, the agency looks far less valuable than it really is.

Drew and I discuss the importance of finding a balance between reducing your taxable revenue while still building an equitable and valuable business, if you are planning to exit. The key to business exit planning is preparing well in advance for a potential sale. It is crucial to talk to your CPA early and keep them in the loop. You will also want to be sure that you are taking proper compensation as an owner. Drew and I discuss what income range is typically good for most owners planning to sell their company.

Preparing for Valuation

When looking at your profit and loss statement at the end of the year, you want to show that your business has the potential to make a lot of money. To achieve that you want to have items that you can easily move “below the line.” Adding items to the other income and expenses line on your profit and loss sheet can help you demonstrate that you could add those expenses back into the profit of your business. This will help buyers understand the business’s true value during valuation.

To learn more about Drew McLellan and the Agency Management Institute, please visit their website at And of course, please visit for more informative, money-saving podcast episodes like this one.

Additional Resources

How to Connect with Drew McLellan

About Drew McLellan

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.