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”

Your Key Group Has Great Value And Creates A Better ROI For Your Company’s Value!

Over the years I have written of the importance of the key group in your company is, and how they enhance your profitability and company value. Not only do they make you profitable while you are running your business, but this group is the key element to selling the business for the highest potential value in the future.  

 The inside key group creates the actions that help enhance value, such as implementing value drivers and making sure they are being applied correctly. Key management groups make sure the value drivers are implemented, working, and being enhanced constantly. 

The Key group learn about the business, in some cases better than the owner. They make business more valuable. They are so talented the competition is aware of their value, and in many cases would like to recruit them.  

It would be wise for the owners to recognize the value of the person or group (key person) and put in place strategies to keep them.  

  1. Incentive programs:  The purpose of this is to keep the key person around. To continue the growth of the person within the business. He may be the person who buys, or totally runs the company.  
  1. A vested incentive program:  This is to carry out #1, but also to protect the employer from the key person leaving.  
  1. Address the potential of your exit strategy in advance. This can be in the form of a discussion about a “stay bonus.”  The “stay bonus,” is used when an owner wishes to sell the company but would like the key person to stay on with the new owner. This enhances the value of the purchase price.  
  1. Keyman/group:  Potential purchasers of the company. It is also important to recognize that the owner may be thinking of becoming a passive owner, wishing to have the key group run the company while the owner peeks their head in occasionally.  

There are many ways to address the future knowing the key group is key to your exit strategy. This can range from incentive plans, to things like stock options.  

 Existing Key Employee  

Equity Based Incentive program:  

  • Stock Bonus 
  • Stock option 
  • Stock Purchase
  • ESOP

Cash based incentives 

  • Cash bonus 
  • Deferred compensation 
  • Phantom stock bonus 
  • Stock Appreciation Right 
  • Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan (SERP) 
  • Executive Coaching Program 

Awards based on 

  • Individual key employee performance 
  • Key employee group performance 
  • Company net income growth 
  • Company sales growth 
  • Vesting Formula 
  • Forfeiture Events 

      Agreements 

  • Non-compete 
  • Non-disclosure 
  • Non-solicitation 
  • Any other agreements that will protect the owner should the key person (group), leave 

Success In Business Is Not Without Challenges!

DEFINITION OF BUSINESS GROWTH AND TRANSITION 

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

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

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

STAGES OF A BUSINESS 

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

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

The survival period of business consists of: 

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

The Growth Mode: 

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

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

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

Disadvantages of Growth/ and letting Go 

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

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

Tough Questions to Ask 

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

If this happened, what are you doing to protect yourself 

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

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

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

Things Such As:   

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

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

Insight 18 Key Groups Have a Voice In Your Company!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Educational moment:  We suggested the following.

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

These were only a few of the steps we suggested. 

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

Without A Conclusive Direction, We Know This Case Will Go Bad for The Family!

Re:  Limited Information Case!

Current fact-pattern (albeit scarce)

This was a case which a professional advisor brought to us. We did not engage this client because there was a lack of facts collected. However, we did want to demonstrate to the advisor, that there were options his client could consider if there were more accurate facts.[1]  As a professional advisor you must obtain many accurate facts of the current situations.  This was a case which had great potential; however, the client was not willing to put the work needed to find solutions.  

Dad is planning on leaving family business to son A, with son B to inherit other assets.  Dad is hell-bent on leaving business at death to get the stepped-up basis. Which is fine if you know all the facts, but he didn’t know all the facts, nor did his advisor council him on them.  

There is no certified appraisal of the business, worth $10,000,000(owner suggested). Spouse would inherit other property (rental real estate and residence along with stock portfolio about $5,000,000). There are no mortgages on the commercial real estate or the residence. 

  1. There is no certified appraisal of the business. 
  2. No estimate of real estate value. 
  3. Dad’s health is questionable. 
  4. No life insurance or corporate benefits other than health insurance.
  5. Estate documents are very old- 25 years old. 
  6. Accountant was not proactive in the planning.
  7. Advisor did some investing for the estate owner.

MODELING:  Until we had more facts about the client’s situation we are limited in our models. However, there are some hypotheticals as options.  As mentioned, the options available need more facts before for these can be considerations. 

  1. Do a current certified appraisal. The cost to litigate in Federal Tax Court compared to a certified appraisal is dramatic. 
  2. Recapitalization of company, creating non-voting stock to create a minority discount, and to use the gift tax exemption to gift this stock to his son maximized before 2026 the gift tax exemption and estate exemption ends.  
  3. Family trust for income purposes for the spouse with son B as beneficiary.  (stepped up basis, and unified credit available)
  4. If exemption credit were less at dad’s death after 2026, use marital deduction and continue gifting program.  
  5. There is also the possibility that Dad could gift limited shares to Son A and then also sell the other shares to Son A with a SCIN[2]. Self-Cancelling Installment note based on his health this could be a consideration.
  6. If company was a pass-through company, spouse could enjoy income from the company after dad’s death without employment.   
  7. Suggested using the company to create tax-effective benefits for the family members, such as a Cash Balance AccountExecutive Compensation such as Deferred Compensation.  
  8. Family could set up an irrevocable trust funding it with a second to die life insurance policy and gift the premiums to the trust.   The tax-free life insurance death benefits could clear up any liabilities, taxes, or level more of the estate value to the sons. 

Keep in mind, this is a hypothetical model, and there are many more directions which we could go.  It is extremely important that the professional advisor get as much information they can from the clients, and their other advisors, so there is a correct representation of the current situation.   In this way, you can build the models needed to satisfy the clients financial wishes.  


[1] DISCLAIMER:  we did not engage this client. Lack of facts.

[2] This is a method of transferring property when the mortality of the owner is questionable because of health issures. There is a premium that must be paid on the sale.  If the owner lives longer than mortality, the family will end up paying more.  However, if death occurred less than mortality, the note would be cancelled.  (owner must not be terminal ill when they enter this transaction.) 

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.   

 

THE SECRETS OF BUILDING A GREAT ORGANIZATION

I recently read a book called,” The Secrets Of Building A Great Organization”, by Bruce Clinton owner of BusinessWise, L.L.C., a business consulting and coaching firm based in Connecticut.

I found the book to be very interesting because, not only does it provide a road map of management for newer managers, but it re-educates older experienced managers in the most up to date strategies.

Bruce is the first person to mention that there are no magic formulas in being a good manager, however, with the basic strategies that he covers, a good manager, through their own talents, can become a great manager using the strategies Bruce discusses.

Many of the strategies are ones that Bruce uses in his practice as a business coach, and strategies developed while he ran different businesses.

For anyone who is a business owner or running a business, I would suggest this read.  In the book it is mentioned that most business owners don’t consider themselves good managers or they feel they don’t know enough about managing.

Any business owner who does $1-$150 million in annual sales, has 8-200 employees, is family owned and may be facing growth or succession issues, should read this book.

What I really enjoyed about the book is the small details that Bruce covers which are needed to build a successful business.  These are details which are not normally discussed in detail.  The book covers the importance of them.  These are the small details that make all the difference in the world of a business’ success, and Bruce covers them extremely well.  For example:

  • Overcoming communication breakdowns
  • Dealing with levels of incompetence
  • Fitting family members into the business
  • Retaining good employees
  • Building a workable succession plan

Continue reading “THE SECRETS OF BUILDING A GREAT ORGANIZATION”