Insider Transfers! Ready Or Not!

Transfers to and insiders group appears to be the most   traveled paths for succession planning by business owners today, which are being successfully used by business owners.  

This is the method by default because of the lack of essential value drivers and systems developed by the business owner.  Because of the lack of transferrable value, insiders are the key market for the business owner.   However, it is possible that even though the employees might have the capital to purchase the business, they don’t have the necessary ability to run the business without the owner.   Consequently, this scenario may lead to an inside sale at a depressed value, or the owner becomes a semi-passive owner.   

Typically, The Transfer To The Insider:   

In many situations, the employee will put very little money down, because they don’t have what is needed, or is unwilling to finance a large part of the sale.    The Owner usually will take back paper and finance the sales price.  Typically, the buyer will default because there is not enough cash flow to support the operating expenses and pay the note payment.  

Even with that scenario, there are many employers who take the path of transferring their business to key employees. Even though in many cases the arrangement is ill-fated, and the business will fail.    The actuality is the transfer to insiders is the exit path most traveled by business owners. The point being is that there still needs to be planning done in advance, even if the transfer is two key groups.   

Benefit’s For The Key Group Becoming Owners:  

  1. The key group is acknowledged for helping to build the business; The owner wants the key groups to ultimately own the business, especially since they have been part of the success of the business.  
  1. Goals of the owner: The owner can see his legacy remain unbroken and his business culture continue. The business represents the owner’s value in the community, and the company’s consistent values.  
  1.  It enables the owner to plan their retirement and exit over a longer period of timeSince the process of transferring the business to the key group takes , the owner has the ability to plan their post retirement activities.  It gives the owner the chance to start delegating more responsibilities to the new ownership, testing the group’s ability to run the business. 
  1. It gives the owner a chance to share in the excess cash flow to build wealth outside the business.  This helps in transferring the business at, a lower net amount to the buying group, as the owner would have accumulated the wealth outside the business, but with business dollars.    
  1. The process of transferring ownership and control to the insider’s takes a period of time, anywhere between five and twelve years. This allows the owner to start adapting to a post business life. It allows the owner to start picking up other activities of interest. It allows the owner to contemplate his new life and start making plans well in advance. This is very important especially if the business owner has only singularly most of his business all his life.  The time gives the owner the ability to create new activities with interest, to test the waters.  
  1. Motivates employees: To stay with and grow the company if the owner has a properly planned internal transfer the owner can start this well in advance of their exit. The key employee becomes an owner through their purchases of non-voting stock. This is part of the powerful incentives for the employees to create an increased cash flow. It also motivates talented employees to see the future opportunities in the company, allowing them to stay and grow with the company.   
  1. Maintain senior control; The owner will not lose control of his company until he completely cashes out. Usually stock acquired by the employees is non-voting. Employees acquiring   the stock should be asked to sign covenants such as a not to compete, and non-solicitation agreement. This protects the owner from having the key person leave the company and take customers, trade secrets, and current employees with them.  
  1. Flexibility: A properly design transfer plan helps the owner maintain control until the owner can cash out. It gives the owner the ability to abandon the internal transfer so they can sell to an outside company, or a third-party at some point.   All ownership previously transferred would be subject to a buy and sell agreement requiring the employees to offer their ownership to you for repurchase at a predetermined price if the employment is terminated. 
  1. Business continuation at the owner’s death. By transferring ownership to insiders, it creates the succession plan should the owner die. The hope is that the key group has been trained well enough, to run the business without the owner. 

CHALLENGES AND LANDMINES!  Continue reading “Insider Transfers! Ready Or Not!”

Getting Ready To Sell Your Business Even Before You Thought About Selling It!

Business owners who have the ability to hire, train and retain excellent employees do themselves a great favor when it comes time to sell their business. Recruited employees who sign on to the company culture, are potential purchases of the company.  They get involved in all aspects of the business when given the chance.  The ability to nurture these employees not only creates a great long-term employee, but possibly future owners of the company.   The investment in good employees has the by-product of creating a potential market for the business owner’s business. 

Over time, these owners can create   employees who become extremely loyal, and feel part of a group and the business itself.    They observe how the current owners treat the business, the employees, and learn the long-term elements needed for a successful growing business.  They become clones of the current ownership, and start to think like owners, while taking on more responsibilities.

While the owners at some point need to make the commitment to the potential employee(s) purchaser to sell the business to them, it also means the employee or employee group needs to be able to commitment to the purchase of the business.  To the purchasing party, this means committing to taking on risk and financing for the purchase of the business.  In most cases this is something they never have done before.

The commitment to sell the business to key people, or key person is a long-term process.  The owners have to make sure the key person (s), have the ability to think like employees, and the abilities to run the business with expectations of the company being profitable.  The owners will spend time training and assessing the abilities of the key group to prepare them for the business takeover There is a commitment on both sides as to arranging this type of sale.

Financing the Sale: 

A sale of the business to an outside group usually is a cash sale.  Or, a combination of cash and stock of the new owner.  (Usually when a larger company buys a smaller company).

It is here that the advisors need to make sure the selling owner maximizes his sales with tax efficient transactions.  Many business owners sell their firms only to be surprised at the after-tax results of the sale.  Keep in mind that when you sell the business, usually there is a low-cost basis, the consequence paying higher taxes on the gain, means less net profit!

If it is an asset sale, there may be a low-cost basis   of the assets being sold, consequently creating more tax exposure, and more taxes.

Take for example, an asset being sold after it has been depreciated, it may be taxed as ordinary income.  Usually the asset is owned by the corporation.  If the company is a C corporation, the sale is taxed at the corporate level, then taxed at the personal level.  The combination of a low-cost basis, C corporation tax, ordinary tax rates, and double taxation can erode gross profits to a point where the owner wonders why they sold the company for the next. 

If the owner sells their company to a publicly traded company, and takes back some of the  purchaser’s stock, there should be pause as the consequences should the stock value fall because of the transaction, and the uncertainly of the value when the selling owners wish to cash out.

It has happened more than once when selling owners, ended up with much less in their pockets after the taxes and expense of the sale were taken out!

Selling to a key group or a key person is usually a different arrangement.   Usually the employee does not have the financial ability to purchase the company, thus a loan from the small business association or bank is needed.  Sometimes, the employee comes up with money by refinancing their home or borrowing from the family.  In many cases, the selling owner usually takes back a note expecting payment from the cash flow of the business.  It’s common to have a combination of refinancing, a promissory note, and possible deferred compensation payment to the selling owner.  In any event the selling owner usually has some skin in the game as to the financing of the sale.  Because of owner financing, the ultimate payoff might be extended over a longer period of time.  Not necessarily a bad thing, as the owner can spread the tax liability over a period of time.  The owner will also have a security interest in the stock, assets, and receivables of the company, until the loan is paid off.

Continue reading “Getting Ready To Sell Your Business Even Before You Thought About Selling It!”

Business Succession Planning Is  A Necessity For Every Business! 

Business Succession planning for businesses, especially private companies, should be on the a top propriety in the planning area.  Whether the sale will be to top management, middle management, family or to outside sales, it should be an ongoing planning concern.  

A number of private established company’s do not have any such planning, and newer companies in where the owners have no family to take over have the same problem.  In both situations there is a challenge to create a succession plan.   

Business succession planning could be the hardest planning of all.  However, it is a must in planning.  It is the only way the current owners can guarantee that the wealth of the company will either be passed on and continued, or the wealth is transferred to the families through the sale of the business.  Without the succession plan, the largest potential of business wealth can be lost forever.   

The lack of a Succession planning is the reason why many stockholder owners walk the floors at 2am.  They have a true concern for the successor of the firm and the protection of the wealth of the firm.   

 Some of the questions that the owners of firms have:  

  1. What if I die or become very sick?  
  2. What if I lose my key person or key group?  
  3. What if don’t want to do this any longer?  
  4. What if there is an economic downturn and I can’t recoup?   

Other areas of concern are:  

  1. If I want to sell, when do I sell?  
  2. What is the business worth?  
  3. Does the senior management want to leave and retire, or stay active?  
  4. Can the main group of owners afford to retire without creating a cash flow crunch?  
  5. How vulnerable is the company if key people leave and take the secrets with them, or even start their own business, using the company’s business model, or share vital business secrets?  

 The questions discussed above along with many other questions, are the basis of the planning and will help the planning team of advisors guide the owners through the maze of planning traps and opportunities as they walk the path together.    Continue reading “Business Succession Planning Is  A Necessity For Every Business! “

Shift Corporate Income For Your Personal Retirement! 

 If you own a business, using a split dollar life insurance plan can help you shift business income to you on a tax effective basis, without involving other employees!

 Split dollar life insurance refers to the concept of two or more parties splitting the benefits and costs of a life insurance policy, such as the premium, death benefit and cash value.   

The most common type of split dollar life arrangement involves an employer and the employee or owners, with one part owning the policy, one or both parties’ contribution to the annual premium, but both parties having a vested interest in the policy benefits.   

Split dollar plans are inexpensive and easy to administer as an executive benefit arrangement.   

Here is how it works:  

One party establishes a cash value life insurance contract under the ownership of the key executive.   

The employer receives a “collateral assignment” against the policy, entitling the corporation  to receive the lesser of the policy cash value or the outstanding loan balance.   The loan is based on the premiums contributed by the company.   The same assignment entitles the employer to a portion of the policy death benefit, equal to the outstanding loan balance.   

 The key executive pays the taxes each year on the foregone interest on the loan from the corporation to pay the premium.   

At some point in the future, the split dollar arrangement terminates when the employer’s loan is repaid (typically from the policies cash value), leaving the executive “free and clear” ownership of the accumulated gain in the life insurance policy.   

 The executive can access the accumulated gains in the policy by borrowing against it, which will typically allow for tax-free access to the values.  The policy loan is repaid to the insurance company at the death of the executive, and any residual death benefit is paid to the executives’ named beneficiaries.  

Split dollar is an easier benefit to implement than deferred compensation, and less expensive for the employer.   

 Advantages:   

  • Easy account entries 
  • Recovery of the cost for the employer 
  • Performance objectives to trigger the funding for employer 
  • Very little if any impact on company balance sheet 
  • A “golden handcuffs” for the employer and ability to set restrictions when cash value can be accessed  

 Today’s newer types of life insurance policies enhance the benefits of a split dollar plan  Continue reading “Shift Corporate Income For Your Personal Retirement! “

Business Valuation After The 2017 Tax Cut And Jobs Act

Because of the Tax Cut and Job Acts of 2017, the marginal rates are lower.  The impact of the recent tax cut is very straight forward.   Lowering the rate, means a higher after-tax cash flow which translates into higher value for businesses.

Business owners know their business better than anyone.  That being said, you would also assume they would know the value of the businesses? Not so fast!

Knowing your business and knowing what you think it is worth in reality can be two separate issues.  If it were that simple, appraisers would not be needed, but they are, and they play very key role.  They arrive at a fair market value after taking many facts into consideration.

Valuations; “The Walk Way Number

The “country club” concept of a business owner having a number in his/her head as to what they would take, if offered, offers some interesting conversations during happy hour!

Over the years I have spoken to business owners, and periodically I have been told that the owner has a figure in their head, and if they were offered that figure for their business, they would take it!  They seem to know their business better than anyone, so it is reasonable to believe they have a handle on the value of their company.   In more cases than not, that figure would allow the owner to go and do what they want in life as it would give them the capital needed, and the can walk away from the business.

However, there are some different sides to this concept!   A more logical way of knowing the business value!

Continue reading “Business Valuation After The 2017 Tax Cut And Jobs Act”

Questions you need to ask yourself if you are a business owner!  

  1. When would like to be done working in your business?
  2.  After you leave your business how much cash will you need (each year) to achieve your personal financial objectives?
  3. Who can afford to buy your company and who would you like to buy it.
  4. As you think about leaving your business, what keeps you up at night?
  5. What is the business worth?  How do you know its worth that amount?
  6. Do you have key people that handle the day-to day operations of your business which you feel is a substantial contribution and one that would be hard to find a replacement?
  7.  Would their be a great burden if they left abruptly?
  8. Do you have a strategy in place to reward those employees who you feel are helping you grow your business?
  9. Do you and your partners have a buy and sell agreement in place which is funded and up-to-date?
  10. If so, when was the last time you reviewed the agreement, and discussed the method of business valuation at a trigger event?
  11. If you could no longer run your company , what arrangement have you made to make sure that your family will benefit from your life’s work?

 

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.