Dyanne Ross-Hanson

Her consultancy helps family businesses look at all aspects of transition.
Dyanne Ross-Hanson

Dyanne Ross-Hanson started her family business consulting company 13 years ago by thinking about the exit. The need for her services is greater than ever.

According to a 2017 survey by the Denver-based Business Enterprise Institute Inc., 79 percent of business owners plan to transition in the next 10 years, and, typically, 85 percent of an owner’s net worth is tied up in the business. Despite the risk, only 15 percent of those owners have talked to an advisor about their plans, Ross-Hanson says.

In other words, a great many family businesses still need her help. Ross-Hanson’s firm, Woodbury-based Exit Planning Strategies LLC, focuses on “helping business owners navigate what I believe is probably one of the most significant financial events that an owner will face,” Ross-Hanson says. “And that is the transition of ownership within their companies.”

For her work helping family businesses handle this particularly complex challenge, Ross-Hanson is being recognized as this year’s winner of the Hubler Award for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Working with Family Businesses.

“She’s a collaborator,” says Tom Hubler, founder of Minneapolis-based consultancy Hubler for Business Families Inc. and the creator of the Minnesota Family Business Awards. “She works with not only the other technical professionals—lawyers and accountants and so on. She also collaborates with the psychological professionals who handle the more emotional side.” The result is a more satisfactory transition experience for the owner, the family, and the employees.

Before founding her practice, Ross-Hanson built a 25-year career in the Twin Cities financial services industry. During that time, she says, “I found myself gravitating naturally to entrepreneurs.” Ross-Hanson admired their willingness to take risks and innovate. But she also saw that many of them hadn’t thought out the financial ramifications of transition—especially given “the major impact that they have on their employees and families and communities.”

In starting her consultancy, Ross-Hanson took an entrepreneurial risk of her own. Demand for family-business transition services wasn’t yet in high demand. That’s changed in recent years. Not only are there more retirement-age owners, but more and more of them want to be able to pursue other interests in their retirement years rather than die in the saddle.

Ross-Hanson soon realized that the financial aspect was only one part of a business transition. Part of her practice involves working with the other experts that are needed. In some cases, she helps put these teams together. She also gets owners to think in terms of an “actionable checklist,” rather than simply “discussing” with an attorney or accountant. The goal, Ross-Hanson says, is to “help them gain control over the largest financial decision they’ll ever make.”