The “What If’s”of a Business Owner’s Life!

The Four Life Changes Of A Business Owner

What is it that you think about the most as a business owner?   Chances are they are one of four things:

  • What if I don’t want to stay in business and I want to drop out?
  • What if I get sick, disabled, or die?
  • What if my key person (s) decides to leave me?
  • What if I can’t increase and improve my cash flow (life blood of the business)?

Besides running the day to day of the business, and the stress that goes with this, the four items listed above are probably the biggest stressful thoughts business owners have.   Let’s break them down.

Continue reading “The “What If’s”of a Business Owner’s Life!”

How the “Wait and See Buy And Sell” Works !

The Wait and See Buy and Sell arrangement is a combination of using a Stock Redemption and a Cross Purchase arrangement.  It affords both the company and the continuing owners the option to purchase an owner’s interest with great flexibility when a buyout situation presents itself .  Usually the company gets the first opportunity to purchase any  or all of the transferring owner’s interest.  Any balance of interest not purchased by the company, can be purchased by the continuing owners.  If the owners don’t buy the  remaining interests, the corporation must purchase them!

The “Wait and See” agreement gives flexibility to the owners in areas of:

  • Financing the purchase of interest
  • Cost basis positioning
  • Estate planning
  • Other planning areas
  • Changing the percentage of ownership

The biggest advantage however, is the ability of not having to make a decision until there is a trigger event. 

The Scenario

When a notice is received by the company of an option to purchase, whether it’s by a Notice of Intent To Transfer, right of first Referral, or notice of a business-disrupting event such as the retirement, divorce, disability, or death of an owner, the procedure for the option to purchase an Owner’s Interest in an agreement is triggered.  No matter how informally the notice may be given, it’s important to understand that the amount of time the company has to decide whether to purchase (the option period) starts to tick only after the company knows that the triggering event has occurred.  For example, if the company does not receive a formal notice that an owner has filed for bankruptcy.  Only when the company becomes aware of the bankruptcy does the buyback right get triggered, and the option period starts to run.

Company’s Option to Purchase

After the company receives notice, the company’s owners should meet with their tax advisors and each other to decide if it’s in their best interest for the company itself to buy the available interest.  The agreement will normally have a period of time in the agreement which stipulates the period of time the parties have to decide individually whether they want to purchase the available interest or not.  If the owners decide the company should buy all of the available interest, the company must exercise its option by delivery a written Notice of Intent to Purchase to the transferring owner within the designated time period.

 Notice of Intent Contents (THE NOTICE):

If the company or anyone of the continuing owners exercise their option to buy the available interest, the company sends out a collective notice to the transferring owner, or the current holder of the interest, regarding the company’s and /or continuing owner’s intent to purchase a part, or all of the available interest (called a Notice of Intent to Purchase).

Generally, the Notice is sent to the person who provided the original notice to the company of a proposed transfer, or the occurrence of any of the triggering events that give rise to a buyback.  Example:  NOTICE is sent to the interest of a deceased owner will go to the representative of the estate.

 THE NOTICE CONTENTS;

The name and address of the company and the name, title of the officer or employee who can be contacted at the company regarding the NOTICE.  A description and the amount of ownership interest to be purchased by the company/party, along with name and address of each party.  The total amount of interests to be purchased by the parties. The terms of the purchase are based on the agreement Copy of the buy and sell agreement. If the interest to be purchased is represented by certificates, such as share certificates, a request for surrender of the share certificates is made to the company.

Continue reading “How the “Wait and See Buy And Sell” Works !”

Characteristics Of An Effective Buy –Sell Agreement!

Creating a buy-sell agreement requires foresight about what could, might and will happen to the business if certain situations occur to the equity owner’s/stock holders of the company. This article looks at some of the important elements of the buy-sell agreement (BSA).

First of all, what is the purpose of the BSA?  Simply, an agreement between, interest holders, and the corporation as to what will happen to the company and interest holders should there be a disruptive and harmful occurrence in the future.  These are called triggers; death, disability, divorce, departure (voluntary and non-voluntary), bankruptcy, retirement, and others.

It is important that the agreement be entered into when parties are aligned and before triggers events occur.  It usually is a time when the relationship is aligned for the good of the interest holders and the company.  In short, they usually are of the same mindset that any of the triggering events could happen to them in the future,

This is a time where advisors should encourage interest owners to complete and sign the BSA, as it is the best time when their attitudes are in synch concerning future event happenings.

Interest owners know that when there is a trigger event, each party will have a different perspective as to outcomes for each person.   Terms and pricing transactions can become difficult or impossible to achieve if the issue was dealt with without an agreement in advance.

 Some of the characteristics required in the agreement;

  1. It should be in writing and signed by all parties. (good time to have spouses sign as to their witnessing and understanding of the agreements, although they are not signing as a party to the agreement)
  2. Trigger events should be defined and funding and price adjustment; Each event should be discussed as to what will happen as to the price, and the terms. Also, the definition of the trigger event should be in the agreement.  Example: definition of disability? What happens if a person is fired? What happens if a person decides just to leave?  What happens upon a divorce, or bankruptcy, retirement, or death?
  3. Determine the conditions that cause the triggering events.
  4. Determine the price (price per share) at the time of the triggering event.
  5. Methods of Valuation
    1. Fixed price; usually never updated with changing markets, and company condition.
    2. Formula: with all the variables of economic conditions, company conditions and market conditions, it is hard to find an accurate formula for any given company or industry.
    3. Single Annual appraisal (updated annually or bi annually); Suggest the initial pricing of the company by a single appraiser, and then update yearly or every other year.
  6. Define how the triggering event will be funded.
  7. Creating a buy-sell agreement takes future thinking by all the interest owners. There is always the “what if’s” of the future, but owners need to be aware of them and protect themselves.

The BSA is the most important document owners of a business can have.  They must have one.  Without it, there are no instructions as to what will happen, how much they will pay, and how to fund it.  There ends up being chaos, arguing, and lawsuits, not to mention the costs of fighting in the courts.

(Some great resources:  Buy-Sell Agreements for Closely Held and Family Business Owners by Z. Chris Mercer, and Buy and Sell Agreements, Paul Hood)

 

Your Business Worth

What is your business really worth?  If you don’t know this figure, don’t feel too bad, many business owners don’t know their real worth!

Why is knowing your worth important?  Think of it this way.

If you were to invest in the stock market, wouldn’t you want to know the current value of the company you are investing in, and the potential of it’s growth?

Business owners put time, money, and in most cases, most of their wealth in their business.  At some point you will want the wealth in your business.  It may because you want out of the business, you retire, you die, or a number of other triggers.

This blog is dedicated to sharing ideas about growing your business while putting you in the position of extracting your wealth…

Enjoy…

 

Tom Perrone

Why Would Anyone Want To Buy Your Business At The Price That You Set?

The present value of the cash flow is a way of pricing out your company.  A high certainty that the company will produce steady, predictable cash flow.  Cash flow is king! Predictability only creates more value.   

 A buyer is willing to pay your price  if you have a plethora of tangible and intangible assets and systems that function like a Swiss watch.  

 Swiss Watch” of a company needs to produce the consistent cash flow without you.  As an owner you want to sell your business and move on.  In many cases, a purchaser may want the owner to stay on and run the company for  a period of time.  However, if your company is able to produce a cash flow without you, it not only allows you to get your price, but allows you to get out of dodge.   

It is worth your while to put together a talented management team, that can not only keep the cash flow consistent, but has the ability to keep the cash flow machine working even if you are not there.  Your key management team may be the most important element of your business.   

 Whether buyers are strategic buyers, or financial buyers, they will be looking for value drivers.  From the beginning of your business ownership, these are the things you need to start working on.   

Partial list:   

  • Key management group 
  • Loyal client base with diversification (most of your firms revenue should come from more than 10% of the clients)  
  • Efficient production and manufacturing facilities 
  • Leading edge products or services 
  • Supplier network 
  • Intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, trade name) 
  • Steady, predictable solid profits and cash flow 
  • Proven growth record 
  • Effective workforce in place 
  • Transferable franchise or license 
  • Key location or territory 
  • Barriers to entry for a startup 
  • Research and product development team  
  • Company name 
  • Exclusive territory  
  • Above industry average financial ratios 
  • Systematized business processes/documented so continuing success is not dependent on any particular person (including the owner) 

 

These are the areas of your business you need to develop and maximize in order to demonstrate the potential for steady predictable growth in the future.   

 Since the price you will be asking for your business is relevant to your successful retirement (to fill the retirement gap), you will want to spend the time in the areas which will increase the value of your business.  Usually, they will be Industry-Specific Business Benchmarks.   

 Knowing how your competitors are using their resources and the efficiency which they are utilizing them can give you ideas about the strategies being used, and strategies you can compare to your methods.   If you are utilizing your resources better than your competitions, you will be able to negotiate a better price for your business.  

 

 

Building Your Leadership Team And Going Deep!

One important issue an owner can spend their time on, is getting the right people to fill the right positions in their company, while removing the wrong people from positions.

Situations are always changing and can change the dynamics of the business.  For example; the retirement of a key owner or other key employee, the unexpected loss of a key person due to death or disability can pose a significant financial hit to any company.  Planning can reduce the adverse impact.

Continuity of leadership is important.  Having a backup for the key positions would be ideal.  Sometimes you don’t have the personnel to accomplish this.  A company training program can be a valuable tool for the long-term growth of the company.  Cross training is worth the time.  Having personnel filling in for important jobs when needed is a valuable element for the business growth.

Trader Joe ‘s is a very good company and a great example of a company with interchangeable job descriptions.   Employees learn multiple jobs and task.   They rotate their jobs every few hours on the employee’s shift.  They create teams, with captains and the team helps with on the job training for the e different jobs.  Their education is ongoing.  Trader Joe’s has a bench ready to go.  This is also done with their management team.  Their candidates are always being educated to move up the line and into the position.

Board of Directors

Having an active Board of Directors can help with guidance in implementing employee growth.  This is next level management.  This is a value driver which is of importance to the growth and value of the company.  It is what a potential purchaser looks for in a company that they may be interesting in purchasing.

The board helps provide management continuity and immediate oversight in triggering events, such as divorce, death, disability, or withdrawal.  The board can be made up of key insiders and some outsiders who have insight to your business, but not necessarily in your business or industry.    Continue reading “Building Your Leadership Team And Going Deep!”

Your Exit From Your Company!

I read somewhere that over the next number of years, at least one in every four small businesses will be sued or threatened with a lawsuit.  The odds are great that it will come from within the company.   

Will your death, disability, or withdrawal cause a dispute?  In many cases it can come from not having communicated the exit or transition plan for the company.    

 Your Corporate Board of Directors  

 The Board of directors in your company is crucial to the short and long-term success of the company.  The board helps in the avoidance and resolution of disputes.  The board can help direct the company’s planning, officer selection and the compensation.  The board can help in dispute avoidance, dispute resolution and overall corporate management.   

Disputes, can come from compensation agreements, benefits, health co-pays, benefits paid.  These are many other ares which a dispute can occur.  The hope is that there is a board of directors to help with the resolution.   

 When the owner dies, becomes disabled or just wants out of their business, and there is no business continuation or a buy and sell, the risk of a dispute rises.  A buy and sell agreement will establish the rules in the event a trigger that sets off a change within the business.  Remaining partners will need to know what the value of the company stock will be sold for.  The surviving family will need to know what the value of the business is and what the family expects to do with the company values.  Without a solid written plan, there are unanswered questions and confusion.  Continue reading “Your Exit From Your Company!”

Transferrable Intangible Assets. 

Cash flow is what adds value to your business.  The value of your business to a potential buyer can be measured based on the expected future cash flow.

The price someone is willing to pay depends on the predictability, sustainability and the growth of that future cash flow.

Key elements of value depend on the continued presence of the key tangible and intangible assets which have been developed.  They sync to produce a product or service.

Intangible Assets:

Your workforce:   This includes the experience, education or training of the workforce. A study of (McKinsey & Company) 13,000 executives from 120 companies and case study of 27 leading corporations, found that talent will be the most important resource in the next 20 years.

Information base:  This includes business books, records, operating systems and other information base. This includes customer related information base, accounting or inventory control systems, customer lists, newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertisers.    This relates to a systemized system of your operation.  A business with a systemized operation/process for producing and selling products or services, has a higher value.  By having a developed and documented operating system (like manuals), you create more value to your business which a buyer is willing to pay a premium for.

Supplied-Based intangibles: Sometimes a business may have a relationship with another business who is exclusive.  This could be anything from a unique part of an engine to space in a major store to sell products.  This can be favorable supply contracts, or favorable credit ratings.  This helps with the future value of the company.

Licenses and Permits (private or governmental):

Covenants not to compete:  For example, an exclusive territory which competitors can’t compete in.

Franchises, Trademarks and Trade Names: This give exclusivity to the organization.    Trademarks, and Trade names.

Government Licenses and Permits:  Any right or license granted by a governmental unit is an intangible assets. The right to use, sell, or service in an area which is unique just to a business will add value to the concern.

Going Concern Value: A going concern value is the additional value that attaches to the property by the reason if its existence as an integral part of an ongoing business activity.

Absence of contingent liabilities: A business not having pending litigation, tax audits or breaches of contracts.  Also, a company without negligence claims, product liability claims and other contingent liabilities is considered an enhancement of a business.

Goodwill: Goodwill is attributable to continued customer patronage expectancy.  The goodwill can create value because of the reputation, along with other factors of the trade or business.     The public perception of a business.

 

Transferring Stock does not mean you have to give up control. 

  stock option plan is an option to give the key employees more incentive to stay with your company and potentially purchase your company.   Usually the owner will sell to the employee (or employee group), 10%-25% in total.  The amount of the stock will always be less than the majority of the stock.   

 The key person has a better chance of financing future stock purchases from financial institutions by owning this amount of stock in the company.   This creates the building blocks of a future sale for the current owner.  

This percentage of ownership doesn’t give the key employee control of votes during shareholder meetings.  The majority owner can maintain control over the voting as long as the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws have been properly structured.   

Another options is to issue only non-voting stock to the key employee(s) in Tier 1.  By amending the corporations’s Articles of Incorporation, you can issues non-voting shares.  You can even do this with S corporation.  The one class rule of an S Corp does not apply as non voting stock is not considered a second class of stock for purposes of this rule.   

CONTROL IN SELLING YOUR COMPANY  

Usually corporate laws generally require at least two-thirds approval by the shareholders when the corporation has a major event as selling the company to a third party.    As long as you maintain at least that amount of percentage ownership, will have the ability to control the decision regarding a future sale.  Continue reading “Transferring Stock does not mean you have to give up control. “

PREPARING  YOUR BUSINESS FOR A FUTURE SALE

In some cases, when a business owner wishes to sell their business, they may not be in the best possible position.  For example, they may be a C corporation.  Because of the double taxation of the C corporation, it does not create an effective tax environment for selling the business.   Consequently, positioning to a pass-through entity would be more advantageous.  However, that takes time to arrange.

The principal advantage of this flow-through entity structure is that dividends can be paid by the company to the owners without additional tax.  In other words, the dividends can be placed into the hand of the owner with having only incurred taxation to the owner, not to the corporation and then the owner.

Under a C corporation, when the corporation distributes dividends (distribution) to the stock holders, the corporation must pay a tax on the corporate side, then the recipient pays tax on that distribution.  Dividends are not tax deductible to a corporation, so consequently there is the double tax. Bottom line, double taxes!

When you have an S corporation or LLC the Key employees can receive its share of company dividends free of additional taxation and use the dividend proceeds dollars-for dollars to pay for their stock investments.

It is important that in the future when you consider exiting your business, you start the process of planning with the most effective tax structure for the future. The C Corporation is fine when you are not in exit mode, and there are no dividend distributions.

Timing is important as it takes time to move from a C corporation to another form of pass through structure, such as a LLC or S corp.  Early planning will be a benefit.

A change from C Corp to a pass-through company can have tax ramifications, so planning is essential in when to, or if to, make this move.

Tax on Assets:

If you sell an asset of the corporation, it is possible that there is a corporate tax on that sale.  However, if you sold an asset of an S corporation, there would not be a corporate tax.

If you are considering changing your business type, we suggest you discuss this strategy with your tax advisor. 

Creating Cash Flow In Your Business

Selling your business to a key employee, or a group of employees.

Assuming that all of the purchase price is to come from the key employee (s), you can help the purchase, by (a) using a stock dividend distribution, or (b) bonus of money to the employ, such as a bonus executive program.  (See Restricted bonus agreement). 

It is important that the company have consistent cash flow, (discretionary cash flow;) to use for this purpose.  (This is the cash generated by the company which is not needed to run the operations, for debt service or capitalization of the business).

Planning for the sale of the stock to insiders, and cash flow; 

It is important to have a accurate idea of the yearly cash flow.  For example, if the discretionary cash flow is $1 million a year. You might commit 10% of the company, or $100,000 a year to help pay for stock.  Continue reading “Creating Cash Flow In Your Business”