The Final Act! The Day Will Come – Part 1

Someday the day will come when you will want to exit your company, for better or worse.  Disposing of your company can be challenging! If done properly it can create great financial opportunity for you and your family, allowing for other options in life, especially during retirement.

However, if your business exit strategy is not effectively planned, the business, which has given you a comfortable living, may turn out to be worthless.  At the very least, you will be liquidating assets to take care of final debts and obligations.

Without a detailed plan you may not maximize the best potential price for your company.  Between the highest and the lowest potential value, many elements will decide which side of the ledger you will fall on.  Elements such as; a trained middle management group, systems, value drivers, culture of the company, consistent cash flow, profitability, and equity growth, are just a few elements that can  lead to an excellent or bad sale.

THE SUBJECT THAT IS RARELY MENTIONED!

Unfortunately, for most business owners, the idea of exiting their business is rarely considered until the time has come.  It most cases, the key planning elements of obtaining the best potential value of the business has been lost because there is a lack of time to implement them.    Most business owners know that in order to keep their business running profitably, like a well-oiled machine, they have to stay focused on the task at hand, always thinking the future will take care of itself as long as the business is profitable.  However, that is not necessarily the case in many situations.  Also, when owners started their business, they had a place to go, a paycheck and a position, not ever thinking about the end game until the time comes when the end game is staring them in the face. Continue reading “The Final Act! The Day Will Come – Part 1”

Good Luck You Are Now In Business! Now What?

Chances are that the moment you started your company you felt the need to be in charge of everything (the control thing).  Tasks such as ordering stationary, trips to Staples, talking to the utility company, dictating messages and a sundry of other things. You did pretty much everything including the bookkeeping, sweeping the floors and taking out the garbage. 

 You were proud of your new business and wanted to make sure it did well from the very start and in in every aspect of your business. Even if it meant you had to work 80 hours a week to keep it going to be successful.   

 Then you started to make more money, enough to hire employees to help you grow the business.  As you moved forward so did your business commitments.    Your mindset however, is control, just like when you started the business.   A natural reaction since you started and created your business, the tendency is to protect it, this is your baby! 

THE NEEDED CHANGE IN MINDSET! 

The problem comes when you have to change your mindset as an entrepreneur. When you started your business, you had a talent and believed that your talent could make you profit and grow your business. However, as your business and commitment to the business grows, there needs to be a new way of thinking on how you should run the business.  

 For example; I have a brother who is a great mechanic.   If he were to open his business, he would be the best mechanic you could find.  His work would be impeccable, and everyone would enjoy working with him.  However, the minute my brother had to start thinking strategically about how to lessen his working hours, grow new markets, start a branding campaign, hire people to do some of his tasks, he would become very stressed and would definitely lose interest in running his business.  He is a great mechanic but didn’t think about the other parts of running a business.  All he ever wanted was a place to go paycheckand a position. Little did he realize that it would take more than being a good mechanic to run a business.   He didn’t realize that some of the things he liked to do would have to take a back seat or be delegated to someone else, so he could focus on the details that will allow him to grow his business.    

Continue reading “Good Luck You Are Now In Business! Now What?”

Why You Must Concern Yourself With The Exit Of Your Business The Day You Start It!  

There are two areas small business owners have a concern in:  

  • When the business has no apparent successor to take over.
  • Where the business owner has young children to succeed him, but they are too young to include in the planning at this point. This is a void period should the owner want to leave, become sick or die.   

Succession and Exit planning can be the most difficult planning a business owner can accomplish. However, it is the most necessary planning a company can undertake to protect the value of its shareholders and their families over the long term.  Succession planning concerns are often what keeps them up at night, giving them an uneasy feeling of a task not completed, the loose ends!

Succession planning is the natural outgrowth of strategic planning. In reviewing operational and financial goals, the need to ask a series of hard questions such as;   Continue reading “Why You Must Concern Yourself With The Exit Of Your Business The Day You Start It!  “

Insider Transfers! Ready Or Not!

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

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

Typically, The Transfer To The Insider:   

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

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

Benefit’s For The Key Group Becoming Owners:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financing the Sale: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Succession Planning Is  A Necessity For Every Business! 

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

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

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

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

 Some of the questions that the owners of firms have:  

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

Other areas of concern are:  

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

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

Get Ready Now To Sell Your Business Tomorrow!

To get ready to sell your business, you will need to start preparing years in advance.  It’s like wanting to sell you home, you don’t know when, but you know you wish to sell it.  It could happen years from now or it can happen tomorrow.  Key to Success of selling your business!   Be ready at all times !   

 Some things to decide  

This is not a complete list, but it is a list of things to start the process of selling your business and marketing decisions.  

 Establish preliminary exit objectives 

  • Prepare for life after retirement 
  • Get market information  
  • Start working on your team-intermediary, investment banker or broker 
  • Review value drivers and what to do to enhance them  
  • Get your employee prepared 
  • Start your tax planning (this takes time to position yourself and organization 
  • Implement the incentive plans and stay bonuses 
  • Market to potential buyers  
  • Establish  a departure date 
  • Define what you need for your financial security from your business 

 This  is only a brief list of what you need to start working on before you sell your business.  Keep in mind that the sooner you start the better the chances or selling with more potential profile.  There is a lot of work to do if you wish to extract from your business the highest possible potential profit from your business.