Business Owners Essential Planning Tools! Part 2!

Good planning can often begin with owners transferring ownership interest to family members, without giving up control of the business. This type of planning sets the stage for the future passing of the baton and can be highly effective.

The long-term plan of business transition can also focus on who can run the business operations once the senior guard leaves the business. Just because a family member has worked in the business, it does not mean they can run the business effectively.

Business Transition And Succession Planning requires many years to develop the right plan. It starts with finding the right employees to train for the job, and the right people to run the business (this includes family succession situations).  

I have found that “Passive Ownership” can be a particularly good possibility for many business owners. They stay in control and slowly give away the duties over time while running the business, but at the same time slowly disengaging from the business. It gives them time to help prepare the junior successor for the job.

The procedure for “Transition Planning” is critical for a long-lasting understanding amongst the family members, both in and out of the business. Without clear communication to the family members, conflict and bad feelings may occur. 

Business Succession Planning  (Click to receive full report and guide; R-1)

  • What would happen to the business if one of the partners died? 
    • Who will buy your interest in the business?
    • Will the company, shareholders, or the heirs keep the right to own the shares. Are the party’s mandated to buy your shares? 
    • Where will the capital to buy the shares come from? 
    • Do you want the deceased shareholders/beneficiaries to have the choice to run the business? 
    • What is the funding mechanism to buy the business? 
    • How is the life insurance structured to help fund the purchase price?
    • Is the same true for a disability? If so, what is the definition of a disability to trigger the sale. Is the disability funded?
    • What are the rules if a partner wants to sell to a 3rd party? 
    • Is there a “put” right; to have the company buy the shares of a disputed share holder? 
    • What are doing concerning incentives to key employees?
    • How are you supporting retirement through the company? 
    • What are you providing in executive compensation to the key people active owners, and officers of the business?

There are many more questions that need to be answered. The elements of your business succession plan will normally be in your business succession agreement and incorporated in the operating or stockholder’s agreement.

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Operating Agreement:  

An agreement which regulates the company and manages the relationships between the members of the company.

Buy-Sell Agreement

An agreement between the business owners to buy and sell interest in the business at a specified price upon a “triggering event”, such as death, disability, divorce, voluntary withdrawal, non-voluntary withdrawal, bankruptcy, and retirement.

This document is important and serves to obtain a fair price for the stockholder and a path for a smooth transition for the parties involved.

Type of Buy and Sell agreements:

  • Cross purchase: This is between stockholders to buy departing stockholder’s shares
  • Redemption agreement:  The entity (business) buys the shares
  • Hybrid/ a combination of above: A “wait and see buy and sell[1]

Provisions in the buy and sell agreement

The sale price of the departing owners’ interest and how it will be paid

  • Installment
  • Sinking fund
  • Cash 
  • Life insurance[2]

Other Methods To Transfer Property:

Although the buy and sell agreement is an effective method to transfer property, other methods, such as ESOPs, compensation plans, and pension plans have a place in funding.

There are other areas and issues in your business planning that need to be addressed at some point and redefined over time.

The valuation of your company should be done by a qualified and certified appraiser. Business owners seem to think they know the value of their business, however, in more cases than not, they are incorrect.

Having A Team Of Financial Experts Will Help You Plan Your Business And Your Estate.

My suggestion is to create a team of advisors who can meet periodically and report on the status of the business to the “team”.

I have found this to be a valuable tool as everyone gets on the same page in the planning process and understands what the owner wishes to accomplish. 

Over the years I have created the team consisting of the CPA, attorney, banker, investment, insurance and other professionals who come together and review what the status of the planning is up to that point for the business owner. Normally, the team consists of the professionals who have a relationship with the business owner and are currently doing planning for them. Unfortunately, each professional has their own agenda, and rarely knows what the other professional are doing for the business owner.,

In most cases this is the first time the advisors have communicated with each other. I have always thought this was in the best interest of the business owner and was prudent to use these resources. Putting the business owners’ advisors in the same room once a year could be the best planning strategy, they can employ. 

The Bottom-Line Thought

The solutions and strategies are in abundance to solve the issues. The problem is defining what the owner wants in their plan.

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[1] A combination of the redemption and the cross purchase. Usually, the stockholder or trust owns the life insurance on the partners.  Normally driven by tax issues and positioning.   

[2] Life insurance is normally the least expensive way of funding the death benefit when compared to alternatives. The life insurance can also play a role in providing funds to help stockholders purchase interest in the company. 

Business Owners Essential Part 1 Of 2

Introduction 

As professional planners, one of the most important services we can do for business owners, is to communicate to them the importance of the planning of their personal and business   assets in a coordinated effort.   My experienced is that business owners are so focused on running their businesses, they tend to neglect many parts of their personal financial objectives.     When you break it down, they have the same financial problems as individuals with the additional and complex areas of business transition and succession.    The purpose of this white paper is to discuss the various elements of their financial planning and highlight some of the critical areas.  “Key Essentials Elements” are financial areas which cannot be neglected. If the key essentials are neglected, owners are destined to financial failure, no matter how hard they work in their business, they will have a financial failure, with few exceptions.   

Many laws come out of Washington, which are relentless and never ending. There is no mercy for the taxpayer as the game keeps changing from one administration to another. Most tax policies change over time as new administrations are voted in. Consequently, taxpayers are always planning to maneuver around the tax changes to help avoid a financial disaster.  

A perfect example is the current estate and gift tax exemption which will sunset in 2025.   This will require more extensive planning, even though taxpayers have updated their estates and paid huge fees, when the exemptions were changed some years ago.  The reality is laws change all the time and taxpayers can either change with them or do nothing and face the consequences, leading to financial conundrum.     

A well-designed estate plan will consist of both the estate and business planning.   The business plan would not only consider business growth and distribution, but also, the ultimate transition and succession of the business, due to an event such as your death, disability, or retirement. 

Basic Planning documents:   

Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Disposition of Remains Appointment (DORA), and Will. 

The use of a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) can be used, as opposed to a Will, for estate disposition. The RLT is a valuable tool. Assets are transferred into the trust and titled in the name of the trust.  The Grantor creates the trust, and is normally a co-trustee, keeping asset control.   The trust creates successive trustees to manage the assets in the event of your incapacity.  

A Limited Liability Company is an additional tool which may be used, in the context of your business.  

Advanced Directives Business Powers of Attorney:  

These documents deal with the unexpected disability, illness, or incapacity. It only makes sense that you should have these documents in place since the odds are great that you could have a long-term disability before age 65, and the odds only increase after that age.  

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Power of attorney (POA):  

This document names an agent(s) to manage financial affairs if one becomes incapacitated. Fiduciaries act on your behalf. They are called an “Attorney in-Fact”, and they manage financial decisions and transact business on your behalf. It is possible to have two separate power of attorney documents. One for your business, and one for your personal property. You can also appoint different people for each POA document. This makes sense because your personal representative may not have the business sense and experience to deal with some of the tasks needed when dealing with your busines affairs.  

The POA can be effective all the time or can be effective only under certain situations. This is called a “Springing Power of Attorney”.  An example of this is when the POA only springs into effectiveness when a doctor signs off on your incapacity to deal with your affairs. The person in that role should be aware of this.  

The purpose of the POA is to avoid costly and complicated court appointed guardians which is the procedure when there is no POA, and when someone is considered incapacitated. Since it is in place when executed, there is no delay upon the incapacity of an individual.  

Health care Proxy (HCP)/ also referred to Living Will.  

This appoints someone to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. Disposition of Remains Appointment (DORA): Provides a way to appoint, in writing, someone who shall control one’s final arrangements.  

WILL:  

The Will is to provide instructions on how your assets are to be distributed amongst your beneficiaries. A Will does the following:  

  • Outlines your distribution wishes- specific gifts of tangible personal property 
  • How your business is to be continued or distributed 
  • Names executive(trix) or personal representative responsible for probate accounting and filing, tax liabilities and the payment of them, and the disposition of the balance of your assets 
  • Appoints guardianships 
  • Establishes trusts to protect assets 

The Will specifies instructions regarding your intentions of the business; sold, liquidated, continue.   If your intention is to continue the business, your Will has instructions to do so. It would refer to any operating or buy-sell agreement if they exist.  

Through your Will you can establish a Testamentary Trust that will direct that your assets are managed and distributed based on your specific wishes. Assets can be managed for family members and distributed at the times you specify.  

For example, if you wanted certain property to go to certain members of your family, you can direct that. You can also preserve the principal of your assets for your children should your spouse remarry.  

Revocable Living Trust (RLT) 

A RLT can control your assets during your life and after your death. Once a RLT is set up you would transfer the title of your assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, life insurance, etc.) to the trust. You would then become of the trustee of the trust. This gives you complete control of the trust assets, and the trust. The RLT is not irrevocable until your death. You can change it anytime or collapse it if you wish. Property is not tied up in the trust, as you can change the title back to yourself in the future.  

At your death, there are no assets in your name, so, no probate. The successor trustee will gain control of your assets to distribute them according to your exact instructions. At your death assets will go directly to your heirs. No probate, so, lower estate administration costs, and no court delay in distributing your assets to your heirs.  

Along with the issue of distribution, the trustee will ensure continuity of assets management during a period of incapacity.  

Limited Liability Company.  

There are several advantages to using an LLC in the context of estate planning. 

  • Enables you to preserve significant control and management while reducing your estate costs 
  • Ability to transfer assets to family members, tax efficiently 
  • Can create significant valuation discounts using limited liability interests 
  • More income tax savings compared to estates and the double taxation of a C corporation 
  • No limit of number of shareholders   
  • No limit on the types of entities the interest of the LLC can hold 

Business Succession Planning  

The challenge of a business transition upon the death, disability, or retirement of the owner(s), is will the business survive?  This requires long term constant planning. Admittedly, transition planning is one of the of the most complex challenges in business and estate planning.  

Objectives:  

  1. Income for business owner’s retirement 
  1. Maximum but fair price for share of business 
  1. Smooth Transition 
  1. Could include compensation for family members in and out of the business  

Major Challenges 

  • Retirement for owners/income 
  • Reduction and payment of estate/State taxes 
  • Creating liquidity for the transition and new ownership 
  • Creating a formal business succession plan 
  • Family ownership and non-family ownership needs, communicated 

To be continued in Part 2 

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Life Insurance USES For Business Owners! The Uses of Permanent and Term Life Insurance!

In my very long career as a professional advisor and insurance agent, there were many occasions when I worked with CPA’s, and attorneys that were misinformed about the type of life insurance that would be appropriate in certain situations in a business arrangement.  

Many times, I found that the advisors were basing their opinions more on their personal feelings rather than the actual case fact pattern.  In most cases, when I explained to them the long-term nature of the need, or even the short-term nature, they had a better understanding of the situation, excepting my suggestion of the type of coverage to be used.    

I do believe in term insurance and that it has a place. I have used it over the years in situations where we felt the insurance benefit was only needed for an ascertainable period.   An example would be to fund a liability in a company where the company is new and does not have the cash flow to pay the larger permanent coverage.   

Another area would be when the need is temporary, such as a short-term bank loan, or an outstanding company loan.     

I have experienced clients purchasing term insurance because the premiums were very low, at least for that time frame.  I have had clients tell me they would buy term and invest the difference.  They don’t invest the difference.  They wake up one morning only to realize the term insurance started to increase in premium at an unsustainable rate to pay, and the client still needs the coverage.  Oh, yea, they didn’t invest the difference. Trust me on this, they never do.   

As a side: Term insurance was designed not to be in force when the insured dies. Insurance companies make a lot of money on term insurance because they know the policy will not be in force when the insured dies (based on their mortality data).   

Term insurance was designed to do one thing. Cover the capital liability for the period which the liability will exist.  

Now that that is out of the way, let me review some areas where permanent insurance works, and in many cases works better than any other financial vehicle.   

Business Succession:   

Many times, when I review the Business Succession Document, I find that the life insurance does not correspond to what the agreement says. Either the life insurance is underfunded, lapsed, or will be terminating soon, as it was term insurance.   

In this case permanent life insurance would have been the best solution as it has double duty dollars.  It would fund the death of an owner, help fund the retirement of an owner, or help should the owner become ill, help with income when needed.   Until the business owner transitions his position; the insurance would be needed.  This could be for many years. 

Example:  Sole Proprietor 

Many sole proprietors will tell you they don’t have a market for their business.  In essence they have a job, not a business.  However, through insurance planning, they could create a market.  For the cost of 1-3% of what the business owner feels their business is worth, there is a ready market.  At the owner’s death, the life insurance company (for 1-3% of capital), will step in and pay the family the value of the business, with tax-free dollars.   

The family also can sell the business assets without a fire sale.  Even if they sell it for pennies on the dollar, they made out better than without having the life insurance.  In this way, the business owner can keep the family in the lifestyle they have become accustomed too.  

If set up correctly, the sole proprietor could have paid the premiums through the business check book. Depending on the business structure, the premiums would be taxable to the owner, however, the cash flow comes from the business.  If the sole owner was a C Corp, they could have used split dollar and paid the taxes on the economic benefit, or the taxes on the loan regime. Either way it would have been a less expensive way of providing the market value for the company, while making sure the family received the business value, tax-free.   

This is an example of where permanent coverage is the best.  The owner of the business can also have a plan that will pay them a retirement income from the policy, while they are trying to sell the business.  An example of double duty dollars.    

The life insurance also has triple duty dollars as it can be used to help fund the costs of estate taxes, probate and settlement costs at the business owner’s death.  

PROFIT  PROTECTION 

 Most profitable organizations have key persons and key groups.  They are the people who if they didn’t come to work tomorrow, would have a negative effect on the earnings of the company.   

Once you define them, insuring them will protect your profit center.  Not only will you protect you earning and profits, but the insurance would also create new tax-free dollars at a key person’s death.  

The benefit will help the owner:  

  •  Find a replacement for your key person 
  • Fund the “usually the first one doesn’t work cost”, search for the key position and person 
  • Absorb the period where no profits are being generated by the new key person(s), for the period of the learning and adjustment period 
  • Create benefit where you can lower or eliminate turnover with your key person group 

There are “double duty dollars” using permanent life insurance.  Not only are you protecting your profits from a loss, and the cost of capital to replace, but you can also use the life insurance as an executive benefit to keep the key person from leaving the company.  The cash values of the policy can create a very rich tax-effective retirement benefit on top of the normal retirement plan.   

You can create a benefit with vesting schedules and restrictions which give the owner control over the cash values and create a benefit where you are rewarding the key person(s) with a very high retirement benefit if they stay.  This type of benefit is very effective in lowering turnover of your key people.  A salary, bonus is forgotten and expected, however, a special key person benefit is substantial and hard to walk away from.   

This again is another area where permanent life insurance works, and where term does not. 

Golden Handcuffs 

In many small companies there are key groups that are the major reason for the profits.   They know the company, know how things work, and in many cases act like an owner of the company.  They are the group that create the profits, allow the owner to live a nice lifestyle and allow the owner to come and go as they wish.   

These are the people you want to keep for life!  However, they are well known. The competition knows them very well.  Not surprisingly, the competition makes it a point to meet them when they can, such as at trade shows, industry meeting, and gatherings, hoping to test the waters to see if they can sway them away with some type of financial offer.   

They are that good, and if your competition could sweep them away from you, the owners world would change overnight.   

 THE GOLDEND HANDCUFFS  

To keep this key person or group, you need to create something they can’t afford to walk away from. A benefit so good, that even your competition would find it hard to offer to them. This is all possible by using the proper permanent life insurance policy, and the combination of well-established tax law.   

Over the years I have done many comparisons using mutual funds, annuities, stock, and company earnings, but nothing compares to the combination of a permanent life insurance policy and the tax law which allow this type of benefit.   

Using “Golden Handcuff” programs allow you to write the rules, have a vesting schedule, recover your costs, take tax deductions, and other design flexibilities.    

 By using the leverage of the tax code, and life insurance tax code, you can create a non-walkaway benefit for your profit center.   

Example:  We just finished a plan, where the key person will walk away with a substantial income at retirement.  The employee’s cost was less than $266 a year.  The employee received a large deduction and had complete control of the funds until the employee retired.  The employee would have to make over 40% ROI on his contribution to the plan in order to receive the benefits he will be receiving.   

Not only will the employee have a great retirement benefit, if he died prior to retirement, his family would have received $74,500 tax free for the next 10 years.   

As you can see, there are some very good uses of permanent life insurance, and in many cases the best and most economical solution.   

A Tax-deductible Life Insurance Plan 

One area that many small business owners are not aware of is section 412(I), where owners can design having a life insurance policy with 100% tax deductible premiums.  Normally, this is a plan that works very well with small companies and a few employees.  Again, another area where permanent life insurance works the best.  

Finally, A Way To Work On Your Business Without Giving Up Working In Your Business!

Give Me Two Hours A Month, And Your Problems Are Solved!

In my book, “Unlocking Your Business DNA”[1], I discuss a system called, “The One Page Blueprint Solution”, or “OPBS”.    This system is designed to help business owners solve specific problems in their business, effectively, efficiently and without giving up time to work in their business.  It is a way to finally have business owners “work on their businesses” and solve business issues important for the success of their business.    

The OPBS does many things, among them:

  1. Prepares the owner for the planning session in advance.
  2. Organizes what needs to be discussed.
  3. The business owners control the agenda discussed. 
  4. Covers the elements which need focus. 
  5. Allows owners to work at their own pace.
  6. Creates brevity in your planning, leaving more time to work in your business. 
  7. Planning time is 1-3 hours a month which 60% of the time involves a self-study review. 
  8. Issues get resolved very quickly.  
  9. Many other benefits…

I use 15-20 key areas that I feel most business owners need to address if they wish to maximize their business growth and create the highest potential value for their business.  Here are two of 15 as examples of what is needed in the planning. 

This is an example of two of the many areas of planning.  I work with about 15-20 areas.  Not every company needs to fix all the areas, however, over time without reviews, areas of planning which were up to date at one time, can lose their effectiveness when not fine-tuned.

The Sale of Your Business to The Outside: 

  1. This could be in two months or thirty years; it is different for each business. In this planning session there are several areas the business owner needs to focus on. 
    1. Systemized business
    1. Put business in growth mode
    1. Delegate to middle management and upper management
    1. Lock the key group into the company
    1. Attract several potential buyers 
    1. Receive maximum cash for the sale
    1. Prepare to leave when you want to leave (maybe stay only if you want to stay)
    1. Plan to do something the rest of your life
    1. If you start early, you can control the whole process
  2. Tools needed: 
    1. Value Drivers
    1. Systemizing the business
    1. Golden Handcuffs for management and stay documents, (disclosure, competition, non-compete)
    1. Controlled Auction for the sale
  • #Sale of your Business from Inside the business or to your family! 
  • Make sure the new owners can run the company without you 
  • Lock in non-owners’ managers
  • Delegate your responsibilities to management
  • Due diligence to make sure you don’t end up with the business after the sale
  • Put business in growth mode
  • Guarantee income stream from the sale
  • Minimize taxes to you
  • Minimize taxes to the seller
  • Have a lifetime plan
  • Teach employee to be employers

Tools needed:

  1. Market Value Drivers 
  2. Systemizing the business
  3. Golden handcuffs for management team 
  4. Well Designed transition Plan

With the help of “zoom”, phone conferences, and the cloud, we can discuss an array of topics without parties leaving their offices.  Our designed meetings are previewed before our discussions so questions can be prepared about the subject matter.  (This creates a great give and take of the subject) 

It is my opinion that business owners should review all the key areas of their business periodically to make sure they stay “a fine-tuned machine” and maximize their future potential value of growth.  

If you wish to participate in a one-minute business assessment, to see how ‘fined tuned” you are; 

 LESS THAN A MINUTE SURVEY

Trust me: (it takes one- minute to do).  I will send you a FREE report card and summary of where you may want to focus for your business efficiency.  ALSO, along with the completion of the survey, I will send you a copy of my newly published book: Unlocking Your Business DNA”.


[1] You can purchase this book at Amazon-kindle and paperback. Profits go to “Wounded Warrior Foundation”

Creating Legacy By thinking Creatively !

Many of us own qualified plans such as employer sponsored 401k and IRA. Over the years they have contributed to the plans and have created a great amount of wealth.  While creating the wealth they received a tax deduction by making   contributions to the plans which were tax deductible.  Sounds good so far.  

However, there comes a time when the governments gratuitous treatment of qualified plans must end.  Now they want their money, In the form of taxes on the withdrawal of 100% of the money, not just the accumulation, but also the contributions which you received a deduction for (I always wondered why they did not just tax the amount of your contribution when you withdrew them instead of the whole account). 

Many seniors when they get to age 72 find they do not need the money to support their lifestyle but are forced to take the withdrawal (Required Minimum Distributions-RMD) anyways.  Recently, the required minimum withdrawal rules changed, and instead of taking the distribution at 70 ½, the distributions will start at 72.   

The segment of the population that does not need the distribution of the qualified money, have a few options that might end up being more helpful than just taking the distribution, paying the taxes, and then reinvesting the money, only to be taxed on the interest once again.   

LET US TALK LEGACY.  

Option 1:  Take the distribution.  Pay the taxes and re-invest the money once again, only to be taxed.  Upon death the money is distributed to your heirs.  Depending on the inheritance tax laws in effect at the time of your death, you may have federal and state taxes to pay on that asset left to the family. Once again, taxes.  So far, I have counted three taxes:  Federal taxes/state on the distribution.  Federal/state on the invested after-tax reinvestment, and Federal and state taxes on the distribution of the asset to the family.   

Option 2: Take the distribution of the qualified money which is taxable. The net after tax withdrawal is gifted into   the irrevocable trust.  The trust will use the money to buy a “second to die life insurance policy”, on life of the IRA owner (the grantor), and the spouse.    At the death of husband and wife, the policy will pay a tax-free amount to the trust.  This tax-free amount can be distributed tax-free to your beneficiaries at a future date.  

Note:  If this were a qualified account (Like a 401k or IRA), the balance of the account would be considered an inherited IRA if left to other than a spouse. Withdrawals would have to be made within ten years of death.  The withdrawals are taxable.    

If it were left to a spouse, they could continue the account, however, they would pay taxes on the withdrawal of the funds. Also, assuming no marital deduction (if left to other than spouse), there could be a federal/state inheritance tax on the value.  

Option 3:  Set up option 2, however, the balance of the qualified account(IRA), payable to the children, or grandchildren could be used to buy life insurance on the parents’ life, again recycling the RMD’S to create a tax-free legacy for the grandchildren. The distribution could purchase life insurance on the life of their parents, to pay for the life insurance over a ten-year period (inherited IRA’s need to be paid out over ten years). The proceeds of the life insurance would be tax-free to the grandchildren. They would not have to make mandatory distributions from the life insurance, unlike the inherited IRA. The children, who may be the beneficiary of the trust in option 2, would also not have to take mandatory distributions from the life insurance. Consequently, both generations would save a lot of taxes, inherit much more, and have a plan which did not force them to liquidate inherited assets.  

THE NUMBERS:   

Option 1: Take RMD and invest the money 

Assume the IRA was worth $1,000,000 that dad owned:  Assume he takes out the mandatory distribution of $37,000. He paid taxes (35%) and net $24,000 (rounded down). Let us say he invested at 4%. In 20 years, he would have accumulated $743,000. His gain would have been $92,000, which he would pay tax on. His net value of the account would have been $650,000 to leave to his children and grandchildren. After tax, the net ROI would have been 2.81% before federal and state inheritance taxes.  

Option 2:  Take RMD and buy a 2nd to die life insurance policy and put into an irrevocable trust while living (there is no need to wait to age 72 to do this).  

The 2nd to die life insurance policy would be worth $1,000,000. At his and his spouse’s death, the beneficiaries of the trust would receive $1,000,000 tax free. None of the life insurance proceeds would be subjected to inheritance taxes (fed/state), unlike in option 1. The ROI on the death benefit would be the equivalent of a net of 6.56%, or pretax rate of 10.10% on investment, (we are assuming parents paid $24,000 for 20 years, then died). By having the life insurance/trust, he would have left $350,000 more to his children and grandchildren compared to if he had invested the money at 4% gross. When you take into consideration inheritance, federal and state on option 1, option 2 would have been even more of a gain.  

Note:  Any balance left in the qualified account at the parent’s death, could also be used by the beneficiaries (children or grandchildren) to buy life insurance on their parents, much like their parents/grandparents bought life insurance via the trust.  

Considering the new rules on inherited IRA’S, using the life insurance as leverage can make a lot sense. As mentioned, this strategy is highly effective for families in the situation where the RMD is not needed to fund their current lifestyle.  

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 “