Success In Business Is Not Without Challenges!

DEFINITION OF BUSINESS GROWTH AND TRANSITION 

I often refer to my business planning as “Business Growth and Transition,” because I consider the business and the owner, as two separate and distinctive entities.  

For example, when the business is growing, the owner of the business needs to grow with the business and envision needed growth. As a business owner, he/she needs to continue to learn, ask more questions, depend on their instincts, experiment, be willing to fail, along with many other experiences to create the changes neededWithout the business owners’ creativity and involvement, the business will stop growing.  

Likewise, when planning for the business entity, we also plan for the owner personal needs. The business success creates personal challenges for the business owner, such as succession, estate taxes, family distribution, protection of the assets, and a host of financial and personal planning areas.  

STAGES OF A BUSINESS 

The business has two distinct stages it goes through which are critical; I define them as survival period and growth period 

Survival period is just what it means! Staying alive! This is where owner learns how to maneuver through the maze of “business savvy” strategies. “What doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.” 

The survival period of business consists of: 

  • Excessive amount of time, sweat, and patience, luck, and much more.  
  • Bottom line:   Survive staying in business.  
  • Cash flow, Capital improvements, Inventory, client development create many challenges. 

The Growth Mode: 

 Not to simplify, but this is where the action is. It is up, up, and awayWhat needs to be done during this stage:  

  • Creates the opportunity for the future value of the business.  
  • To expand in all areas of the business. 
  • Inventing yourself and the company if needed, this includes building value drivers and transferable values. 
  • To become creative, reinventing of products, customers, process. 
  • To reinvent your markets and your clients. 
  • To build a customer base with loyalty, creating culture, and next level management. 
  • Much More… 

The expansion in Growth, (NOT ONLY) in markets and products, but also employees and the culture of the business. This is extremely important for the future of the business value, with the focus on growing your business value and to create transferrable value for the future. Owners need to start the process of giving up some of the control to middle management. This also means creating strategies which allow the owners to walk away and allow the business to run effectively and efficiently normally. This is my “Can you Take three months off” question, without an impact on your business profits?   

Disadvantages of Growth/ and letting Go 

You are giving up control to your management team! You are giving up things you controlled from the very infancy of the business. This is good because a future purchaser wants to buy your business as a running entity. They want a business that can run, and without YOU!  

When you start to delegate to others, things can happen. Your key people will learn how to run your business, and start thinking like an employer. They will develop greater relationships with your customers, advisors, and vendors. They will start to create profits for you, ease your time in the business, and allow you to enjoy more free time, however, there could be a price to pay!  

Tough Questions to Ask 

  1. What if your key people got to know your business so well, and they wanted to buy it from you, what would you do 
  1. What if you did not want to sell it to them at the time they want to buy? Will they walkWill they stay? Will the relationship change?  
  1. Will they go to a competitor 
  1. Will they take your customers and employees with them 

If this happened, what are you doing to protect yourself 

Consider this:  I recently had a client who went through this nightmare. The key people (2 key employees), left and started their own business. They also took other employees and customers with them.  

Unfortunately, the protection which we outlined to the owner three years prior was never implemented, and they are paying the price for it now.  

We told them to make sure they had programs in place to protect themselves from the business growth and success. 

Things Such As:   

  • Key person documents:  such as non-compete, non-disclosure and non-solicitation of customer and employee agreements.  
  • Benefits with Vesting:  We also suggested that they put in a vested benefit package for them and stagger the time where they would only have a partial vesting immediately  (we have found this to be a valuable motive to stay).  

Lesson to be learnedIf it happened to them, it could happen to you. Your key people will take over your business, which is good because as it creates transferrable value for the future. However, you must protect yourself from your business success.  

Insight 18 Key Groups Have a Voice In Your Company!

Your Key Group Holds The Key To Your Success! But! You Need To Listen To Them!

This was an interesting case we worked on. There were a few educational moments that I would like to share with you. 

Scenario:  Three brothers owned a successful manufacturing company. The company had several government contracts over the years and built an exceptionally good reputation with the government agency. These contracts were very profitable and kept the company busy. The company took pride in its work, delivery of the projects, and having the staff to accommodate the project, which lead to ongoing contracts. Over time, it became clear that doing work for the government and a few other companies was all the manufacturing company needed to be profitable and grow. 

So, what is the problem? On the outside, nothing, but inside there were some disturbing situations brewing. 

This scenario set up the problem we had to deal with. The key person in the firm developed a strong relationship with the agency head who awarded the contracts. He did an excellent job enhancing the relationship over the years. Through his efforts, the owners were able to be very profitable and to take sizable salaries each year. 

Because the key person ran the business like he was the owner, the three owners were able to take a lot of time off. They usually spend about two days in the business a week and took long vacations. 

The problem started when the owners decided to give the key person a large bonus the past year for doing a fantastic job. However, the key person assumed this would be the norm each year. A good salary and a fabulous bonus, which the key person was looking for each year. So, when a new year rolled around, there was anticipation by the key person to receive the bonus. When he approached the owners about the bonus, there was a clear disconnect between their vision and the employees. 

The owners felt that the bonus was based on performance of a particular year and did not think the key person would be looking for this substantial bonus each year. In a way, the owners felt they were being held hostage by the key person. “Once a luxury, it became the necessity”

However, when we broke it down for them, they realized the key person had the relationship with the government agency, not the owners (they did not even know the contact). The government contract represented about 40-50% of their sales. The keyman also had a great relationship with the private companies. We suggested to the owners that key person was more than a key person, he was their middle management! 

PROBLEM: The key person wants to receive a bonus as if it was part of his salary each year. Owners did   not want to pay it! Also, the company had 40% or more of its revenue in one basket (the government agency). 

Our part:  We communicated to the owners that based on the relationship the key person has with the vendors and customers, there would be a potential disaster if the key person were to leave. A few things which would happen: 

  1. He would take the business to a new employer.
  2. He could take employees with him. 
  3. He could stay but put less of an effort in building the business. 

After looking at all the facts, the owners realized they had a great deal and what they were receiving from the efforts of the key person was certainly more than what the keyperson wanted. 

 Educational moment:  We suggested the following.

  1. Owners communicate to the key person that he is a part of the growth of the company, and not only give him a bonus, but include an incentive of a % of business growth, or some metric that was measurable.
  2. Create a “graded-vested benefit,” which would be hard for the key person to walk away from. 
  3. Execute a non-compete clause and a non-disclosure agreement concurrently with the implementation of a selected benefit for the key person. “This is what we would like to give you, but for this we want you to agree to this.
  4. We discussed the disproportionate revenue from the government and discussed ways to increase their customer base. We suggested that no more than 10-15% of revenue should be coming from one source. 

These were only a few of the steps we suggested. 

It is common for owners to reevaluate their middle management; however, compensation is only part of the equation. Creating a middle management culture takes time, loyalty, along with compensation and benefits. Your key person(s), may be one of the most valuable assets of your company. Certainly, it is one of the value drivers which increase the value of your company. 

A Great Benefit Every Business Owner Should Be Aware Of! 

Over the years in the small business arena, when retirement is mentioned, the discussion usually focuses on programs like 401k, Profit sharing, SEP’S, and Simple Plans.   

 They are all very good plans and every business should offer one of them to their employees for the purpose of having a benefit plan where employees can save for their retirements.   

 However, not every employer wants to take on the burden of funding retirement for their employees for many reasons.  The reasons range from a lack of cash flow, employee groups who would rather take the money home.   

 In situations where the employer feels they would like to use their company to create a benefit for themselves, and not the employees, they should look into an executive compensation plan called the CEEP (Corporate Executive Equity Plan).  The CEEP is a hybrid of a few types of benefit plans used for the higher paid group in companies and for the owners.   

 The term “non-qualified “, refers to a plan that normally is not used for the masses, but used for a selected group of people.  As an example:  Employer A can decide that they want to put a plan in for employee B, C but not employees D-Z.  In most cases the plan itself would not be tax-deductible as a “plan”, however, it can be tax deductible under certain conditions. 

How the CEEP works!  

Mr. Jones owner of the Big Dip Donut shop decides that he wants to allocate $25,000 a year into a retirement plan for himself and no other employees of the company.  For the most part, he can’t have a qualified retirement plan without offering it to the employees.  Even a “Simple Plan”, which is the easiest to implement would have drawbacks.    Continue reading “A Great Benefit Every Business Owner Should Be Aware Of! “

Case Study#5 Using Corporate Dollars To Keep Wealth Out Of The Business But In Your Pocket

This is the case of Joey Bag of Donuts and his pursuit of keeping wealth outside of his business.  You see, over the years working with Joey Bag of Donuts we told him that leaving too much of his wealth in the business can be problematic, especially when the time came when he needed to exit his business.  He heard me tell him many times, that someday he will leave his business by either a death, disability, or retirement, and taking the wealth with you when you need it the most, can be a problem, if you don’t have the right exit strategy.

There are many reasons wealth gets lost in a business when it is sold.  It can range from bad planning to bad luck, but Joey Bag of Donuts always remembered to keep as much of his personal wealth outside of the business as possible.  By the way this is why he purchased his company building and put it in a separate LLC.  Joey Bag of Donuts also believes in putting as much of his income to the company pension plan, again, outside of the business.

We also taught him to have his company support whatever it can legally towards his personal lifestyle.  For example, his cars, gas, some entertainment, health insurance, retirement, and other things are paid for through company.

Joey Bag of Donuts wanted to put more money away for himself and his family’s future, but didn’t want to use his own funds, so why not have the company support more retirement contributions?

We already had a profit-sharing plan, and he was sharing company contributions with his employees.

We decided that a non-regulated plan was the best way to go, so we developed a plan for only him.  The plan is a combination of two concepts.  We call this the CEEP PLAN (CORPORATE EXECUTIVE EQUITY PLAN).

The plan is a discriminatory plan, so Joey Bag of Donuts can pick himself or anyone else he wants, unlike a profit sharing or 401k plan, which is a regulated plan.

THE PLAN:  As you can see, the company made all the contributions, and took the deductions for them.  Joey Bag of Donuts was the sole participant of the plan. His cost was “0” out of pocket and he ends up with almost $800,000 of cash at retirement.  He also could turn the cash into a tax-free income stream.  In this case it was $67,500 tax-free income. The stream of income is worth more than $1,215,000.  Along with that he has a death benefit of $2,300,000 payable to his family tax-free.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Joey Bag of Donuts gets retirement income using corporate funds.  All the contributions can be applied to just his account.  He also has the use of the account before retirement, like a  “family bank”, along with the ability to withdraw funds tax-free.[1]  There would be no 10% penalty if withdrawn before 59 ½.  Continue reading “Case Study#5 Using Corporate Dollars To Keep Wealth Out Of The Business But In Your Pocket”

The Story! The Cost of Funding Your Buy and Sell Agreement! Options!

The Story! 

The Cost of Funding Your Buy and Sell Agreement! Options!

Over many years I have experienced many business owners in total denial about the cost of funding their buy and sell agreements, thinking they can come up with the liability when the trigger of death occurs.

The four listed ways are compared below.

  1. Cash
  2. Borrow
  3. Sinking Fund
  4. Life Insurance

Let’s take the one by one.

Cash: This is assuming the company has the cash at hand, idle. Rarely is this an option. Growing companies reinvest in their company and only keep enough cash reserve as needed.

Borrow: A company just lost a valuable member of the company. Most bankers would probably want to see how the company will fair after the death of a key person and would want to know how the liability which has just been created will affect the cash flow of the company before loaning more money. There probably is a good chance that outstanding line be pulled in by the bank (probably a covenant in the loan agreement).

Sinking Fund: Mostly just theory! In 48 years, I have never seen a company try to develop a sinking fund. If the company was putting money in the sinking fun, they are losing the opportunities this money could create by investing in the business rather than on the sidelines. Not reasonable as the actual amount of money needed is available should death occur prior to the target date of accumulation. The least appropriate method.

Life Insurance: At its simplest benefits, it is immediate, tax free and the funding level is immediately known. Also, the cost is only 17 cents on a dollar rather than the much higher costs of the other three options.

Summary: While we don’t know when a death or disabilitymay occur, the company should at least be prepared for this trigger. Today the price of life insurance is low-cost. There is no reason not to purchase at least temporary life insurance (10-30 years), such as term insurance. The cost of life insurance in the example is using cash value life insurance.  Increased Sales To Fund Cost: Another measure of effectiveness of funding the buy and sell is to measure how much more in sales the company has to do to pay for the funding method.

Costs:  Funding over 15 years. 

Cash; 1,039,464 Loan: 1,306,085. Sinking Fund: 901,613 Life Insurance:  171,512

Also, what do you need to have in sales to pay for the method: 

Example, with Life Insurance Cost, @20% profit, sales would be $857,560

With Cash: There would have to be $5,197,320

 

 

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Alternatives To Buy And Sell Agreements – Different Documents To Put Buy Sell Agreement Language In!

  1. Governance documents– Articles of incorporation, partnership, organization, bylaws or operating agreements frequently have Buy And Sell Provisions (BSP). Is critical that you change your agreement within these documents should you update to a formal BSA, so the language is consistent.
  2. Compensation based plans: Such as consulting agreements and salary continuation plans.
  3. Entity recapitalization: It is possible to recapitalize the ownership interests of the entity which could create differences and ownership interests.
  4. Gifts of ownership interest: this could change the ownership and voting rights.
  5. Charitable gift of ownership interest. Same as #5.
  6. Private annuities: You could transfer ownership of your interest to someone else in exchange for a promise to make payments for you for the rest of your life
  7. ESOP’s: EMPLOYER STOCK OPTION PLANS.
  8. Non-qualified deferred compensation plans.
  9. Qualifying for section 6166 deferral.
  10. Division of an entity.
  11. Confidentiality and non-competition agreements; In conjunction with a buy and sell buyout , the former owner could be paid to not compete with the entity and to keep secret all confidential trade secrets, customer lists, and other private proprietary information of the entity.
  12. Installment sales: The owner simply wishes to retire and sells the stock in exchange for promissory note that is payable overtime.
  13. Sale to outsiders.
  14. Public offering.
  15. New generation opening a similar type of business: This is where senior generation winds down and a new generation may open a similar business preferable to allow younger generations to open a new look but similar to the identical business of the old. The dying on the vine concept.

*A good read would be “Buy and Sell Agreements (US Legal Series); Paul L. Hood Jr.  Also, I have included a link to article from Ed Partesi, ASA,CM&AA of UHY Advisors “Covering the bases:  “The Need for Effective Buy -Sell Agreements”. Effective Buy and Sell Agreement!

Lastly,  a very good book to read about the future of the selling your business,  “Your Exit Map”   by  John Dini;  This gives you a great insight as to the next generation of buyers and the market place for selling your business.  

 

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!”

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! “

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!”

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. “