(Sponsored Content) — When asked about their plans to retire, more than a quarter of owners at growing businesses don’t expect to retire. Ever. While that may seem like a noble approach, at some point owners will be forced to retire, often quickly or unexpectedly.

When is the last time you asked your business owner clients about their retirement plans? Our research shows they need your help when it comes to planning for the future of their business and their own financial future.

In a recent post, I shared results from our latest study, Business Owner Perspectives, where 500 business owners shared their thoughts on a wide variety of financial topics. We took a closer look at what they had to say about exit planning and a few key things stand out:

  • Almost six in 10 have no written business continuation plan
  • For those with a plan, life insurance is the top funding vehicle
  • Only slightly more than a third have had their business valued

What this all means for you is a chance to help your business owner clients put together a game plan for how and when they will exit the business. A formal business continuation plan gives owners an action plan for both an unexpected or intended exit.

Our research shows that owners with written plans are engaged. More than half have reviewed their strategy in the past year, which means they create an opportunity for you to continue to check in with your clients. Those with a plan also have a grasp on the importance of funding their business continuation plan. Life insurance, business cash flow and disability buy-out insurance are all top choices as buy-sell funding vehicles with owners; all are good options as long as they are part of a comprehensive plan. Funding the agreement to protect against both death and disability is critical to the overall financial health of the business.

One of the biggest challenges business owners face in this planning process is not knowing the real value of their business. Most have never had their business valued and half of those with a valuation have not had one within the last two years. Knowing the current value of their business is a great first step in creating a long-term financial plan and making smart planning decisions.

Business owners have a lot to consider when planning to successfully transition out of their business. They need your help developing a plan, determining the value of their business and accessing funding for their buy-sell agreements. In the end, making the time for these steps will not only help secure the future of their business, but also their continued relationship with you.

In future posts I’ll share more of what we learned from our business owner research and how you can use this information to grow your own business.

About the research: 2015 The Principal Financial Group® Business Owner Market Study, conducted by Harris Poll.