Compensation of Business Owners! The Good And The Bad!

Owners of small private companies normally receive income as a salary, rather than dividends, and capital gain on the sale of their stock. They also receive other compensatory benefits. In many cases, the business owners can receive rental income from property and assets leased to the company and owned personally (either outright or in trust) by the business owner.  

Because of the tax structure of the company, business owners often find it more tax effective to pay the compensation, rent, royalties from their company to the owner, at the high end of the scale, rather than the low side (common in C Corps).  

A Detriment to The Owner When There Is an Exit 

Receiving this higher scaled income and rental, may have some advantages for tax purposes, and the creation of wealth.  

Having the tax advantages for the business owner, may be a detriment to the selling price during exit planning. This is because the rents and compensation paid to the owner on the higher side lowers the net income of the business.  

When rental and salary compensation are paid on the elevated level, they affect the net income/or net operating cash flow, which creates a downward impact on the selling price! 

At the Time of Exit Transition 

The owner must justify the payout of rental income, compensation, royalties, and other compensatory income. They need to justify the overpayment of this compensation. In a way, the owner must back track the justification of paying the enhanced payouts in the stated areas of compensation. This may put the owner in a position of receiving nondeductible “constructive dividends” paid by the company, resulting in a retroactive tax liability.  

Minority shareholders of the company could complain that the enhanced payments to the owner’s transgression of overpayments is a breach of a fiduciary duty owned to them. Since the over self-generous payouts to themself, there is an effect on the stock value. Consequently, minority stockholders are going to be affected by depressed value. This concerns stock bonus to minority stockholders and key persons.  

One of the solutions to this issue is to start to shift part of the enhanced payouts to more of a mid-level range of the fair market value. This will allow you to enhance the net income/net operating income for the company.  

Along with enhancing the net income and net operating income for the company the shifting of revenue to middle-management, will build a stronger management team.  

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.  

BEWARE FINANCIAL ADVISORS: THIS IS AN EASY TAX TRAP YOUR CLIENT COULD MAKE! LEARN A FEW EXEMPTIONS AND YOU WILL STAY OUT OF TROUBLE!

 Recently, we worked on a case which involved an endorsement split dollar plani, where the split dollar agreement involving the trustee   of an irrevocable trust was terminated pursuant to a “rollout. The agreement was between the employer and the trustee (endorsement split dollar). The result would have been a “transfer of value,” in which the death benefit exceeding the consideration would have been taxable income.  

If the split dollar plan were a collateral assignment split dollar, there would not have been a  “ taxable event”, as the sale of the policy would have been made to an exempt party, the insured, (grantor and the insured are one in the same).  Under the endorsement Split dollar, the company was selling to the trustee, not an exemption entity.  

Transfer for value jeopardizes the income tax-free payment of the insurance proceeds. Under the transfer value rule, if a policy is sold for consideration, the death proceeds will be taxable as ordinary income, more than the net premium contribution.  

Besides the outright sale of the policy, there can also be a taxable event if the owner is paid in consideration to change the beneficiary. This would be a transfer of value; thus, the death benefit is taxable beyond the consideration paid for the policy. The consideration paid to change the beneficiary can be any amount.  

Consideration does not have to be money, it could be in exchange for a policy, or a promise to perform some act or service. However, the mere pledging or assignment of a policy as collateral security is not a transfer for value.  

Transfer for Value Exceptions:   

  1. Transfer to the insured 
  1. Transfers to a partner of the insured 
  1. Transfer to a partnership in which the insured is a partner 
  1. Transfer to a corporation in which the insured is a stockholder or officer (but there is no exception for transfer to a co-stockholder.  
  1. Transfer between corporation in a tax-free reorganization if certain considerations exit.  

A bona fide gift:  is not considered to be a transfer for value, and later payment of the death proceeds to the donee will be paid income tax-free.   

Part sale and gift transfer actions are also  protected under the so-called “transferor’s basis exception”  which  provides that the transfer for value rule does not apply where the transferee’s basis in the policy is determined  whole or in part by reference to its basis in the hands of the transferor.   

Another transfer for value trap can occur in the situation when you have a “trusteed cross purchase buy and sell agreement”, to avoid a problem of multiple policies when there are more than just two or three stockholders. When the trustee is both owner and beneficiary of just one policy on each of the stockholders, a transfer for value may occur when one of the stockholders dies and the surviving stockholders then receive a greater proportional interest in the outstanding policies which continue to insure the survivors. This can be remedied by either using an Entity Redemption where the Corporation purchases the interest of the deceased stockholder’s interest.  

This can also cause exposure of transfer of value when transferring existing life insurance policies, insuring stockholders to the trustee of a trusteed cross purchase agreement, which does not fall within one of the exceptions to the transfer of value rules.  To avoid this initial ownership problem, the trustee should be the original applicant, owner and beneficiary of the polices.   

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. 

Critical Step Needed To Create An Exit Strategy! Part 1 

Some business owners think that selling their business is a matter of getting an appraisal and putting the business on the market hoping for a good offer.

Many business owners that I have worked with initially assumed they knew the value of their business and what they could sell it for.

Through our education process they realized there is much more to selling their business, then just the establishing a value and then going to market.     One of those factors or variables is whether the business owner needs the business value for their future retirement, most do!

Helping the owner figure out what they need for retirement is critical in establishing what they need to sell their business for, and what action is needed to increase the future value of the business (Value Drivers).  In this article I will cover two of the seven steps that  are the most critical when planning a future exit from the business.

Whether the sale is one year or ten years from now, these are the steps needed to sell  a business.

  1. Must identify the Exit Objectives (why, when, and in some cases who) 
  2. Identify Personal and business financial resources; (this is part of the future financial security of the business owner and their family).  
  3. Maximize and Protect Business Value
  4. Ownership Transfer to Third Parties
  5. Ownership Transfers to Insiders
  6. Business Continuity
  7. Personal Wealth and Estate planning

In this post I will cover steps 1-3, and cover steps 4-7 in the June issue.  

In comprehensive Exit planning, (when you break the process down it looks like this):

Your Exit Objectives

  • Building and preserving business value
  • Selling your company to a third party
  • Transferring your ownership to insiders

Your Business and Personal Financial Resources

  • Business Continuity
  • Personal wealth and estate planning

Owner’s goals and aspirations are

  • Financial Need
  • Overall Goals
  • Value based goals
  • Defining the owner’s goals and aspirations shows the client’s wants and needs and identifies what is  important to the business owner. By spending time collecting this information from the business owner we establish a strong relationship, while differentiating you, and allowing you to be the quarterback of the plan.

Accurate information from the owner is critical to planning.      Calculating what the GAP of resources the owner needs to have in order to supply their future retirement income is critical.  It is here where the measurement of their resources helps to decide what they need to sell their business for, to help fund the gap.    Continue reading “Critical Step Needed To Create An Exit Strategy! Part 1 “

Planning Your Business For An Exit! 

Repeatedly, when the topic of exit planning is discussed in conversation with   my business clients, they tell me they are not ready to sell their business.   In which I reply, “the moment you started your business, your “exit planning” should have started.  I get the raised eyebrows.   

Let me explain why this happens; The generic term “exit planning” has taken on a meaning of, “when I want out of the business and when I am ready to sell.”    Advisors use the term as though it was a noun, such as a piece of property.     

To me “exit planning” means: “Actions taken by an owner to create the highest potential value for their company, so when the need arises in which they wish to sell,   or make a financial transition with the company they are prepared”.   

I liken my reasoning to owning a home, keeping it up to date, and fixing problems as they arise, knowing at some point someone may knock on the door and make a great offer to buy the home.  The great offer is the highest potential value for the home.    

If on the other hand the homeowner let the home deteriorate over time, under the same type of scenario the offer the owner would have received would have been much lower, if any.    

If an owner chose to use my definition of “exit planning,” they would start at once to implement the value drivers needed for a company to create the highest potential value for the future. Creating these transferrable value drivers take time, in many cases years to implement.    

There are 8 Value Drivers:  

  1. Financial Performance:  Your history of producing revenue and profit 
  2. Growth Potential: Your likelihood to grow your company in the future and at what rate.  
  3. Structure:  How dependent is your company on any one employee, customer, or supplier?  
  4. Valuation:  Can your company control cash flow?  
  5. Recurring Revenue:  The quality of automatic revenue you collect  
  6. Exclusive control: How are you differentiated from competitors in your industry?  
  7. Customer Satisfaction: The likelihood customers will re-purchase and refer your company.  
  8. Are you needed:  How would your company perform if you were not able to work for three months?   

As you can see there is a difference in the term “Exit Planning.”  Therefore, I suggest, to everyone who opens a new business that they should start their exit planning at once, so all the value drivers needed to increase their company to its highest potential value will have time to create the value.   

 

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! “

A Road Map For A Succession Planning  Essentials For Planning   Creating Your Team Of Advisors 

Who Are They 

Their Role 

Accountant 
  • Develops financial statements 
  • Provides tax advice 
  • Assists in Estate planning 
  • Assists in Business value 
Attorney 
  • Negotiates agreements 
  • Tax Advice 
  • Prepares estate documents 
  • Advises on business structure along with implementation 
Management Team 
  • Manages the ongoing operation  
  • Operational advice and expertise for new owner 
  • Enables business continuity 
Business Appraiser 
  • Estimates fair market value of Business  
  • Provides the credibility of asking price 
  • Advice on how to maximize business value 
Business Broker 
  • Finds buyer and market insight for value 
Financial Advisor 
  • Facilitates and council’s family goals and value 
  • Plans for the future of the estate and distribution 
  • May have the capacity to help fund Buy and Sell Agreements and Deferred Compensation situations 
  • Offers financial advice to all the members 
  • Helps project future financial needs 
Banker-Commercial 
  • Financing options for acquisition 
  • Access to other experts that may be needed 
  • Supports the business transition before and after the acquisition 

Exit Options: 1 

  • Transfer the business to a family member; This represents about 42% 
  • Sell to partners or your employees (directly or through ESOP); This represents about 17% 
  • Sell to a third party; 19% 
  • Partner: 10% 
  • Wind down business -3% 
  •  Don’t know -8% 

Questions To Consider 

  1. Are there one or more family members who want to take over the business?  
  2. Does the family successor have the skills to operate the business and guarantee the return on your investment?  
  3. What are the qualifications and skills someone would need to purchase your business to guarantee the successful transition?  
  4. If you transitioned to your family member, how will your employees, suppliers and customers react?  
  5. What is the most tax-efficient way to pass ownership to family members?   
  6. Will you continue to have a role in the business? 
  7. How will this succession option impact the rest of the family? 

Selling to partners or your employees 

  • Which employees or partners are best suited to purchase your business?  
  • Do they have funds or access to funds?  
  • Will you have to finance part of the sale?  
  • Do they have the management capability to run the business successfully?  
  • Can the business take on debt for this transaction long term?   
  • Where will the purchase price come from?  
  • Do the purchasers have assets as collateral?   

Third party  

  • Who are likely candidates in your industry that would be interested in your business?  
  • Do you want to sell the whole business or only part of it?  
  • Will the potential buyer have the entire financial resources to purchase the business, or would you be prepared to partially fund their acquisition?  
  • What is the most tax-effective way to sell your business?   

 

Why Use Non-Compete Agreements!

Non-compete agreements (NCA) represent a separate agreement. They could be in an employment contract, or as a separate article in a buy and sell agreement. Sometimes they are referred to as Covenants not to complete. “

This is based on the possibility that an employee can do harm to a company upon termination.  They could know sensitive information about the company’s operation, owners and employee’s personal information, special operations, and proprietary information to a competing advantage, along with so much more.

Picture a very long-term employee working side by side with the owners, for many years, and then leaving to work for the owner’s competitor.  Certainly, there can be issues.

No compete agreements (NCA), can be used to retain employees also.   It would be very difficult to change jobs within an industry or profession when the leaving employee is limited to compete in a geographic and specific industry for a period of time.  However, non-compete agreements are hard to enforce, because in many instances the agreement has overreached and is very broad in the definition of industry and geographic coverage.

Continue reading “Why Use Non-Compete Agreements!”

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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