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. 

Ode To Mr. Business Owner!

Dear Business Owner,  

We’ve never met, but I know some things about you.   

I know because I have met and served many business owners like you in my 50 years.   

Here’s what I know about you:  

You have a successful business, but it comes with a significant investment of your time, time that you want to start taking back for outside interests.   

You pay the IRS a large amount every year.  

You wear all the hats; therefore, you are the value of your business.  You know that it would be worthless without you.   

You desire time to mentor someone, or better yet, a group of people to run your business so you don’t burnout. Your problem is, there is no time to do this because you are so busy.   

You feel trapped within the four walls of your business.  

You dread having the quarterly conversations with all of the people that you pay to do the work for you.  Accountants, Bookkeeper, Financial Advisors, Attorneys etc. In fact, these “professionals” probably have never met.   

If you died tomorrow no one would have a clue what to do.   

You have no escape plan.  

You think there is no other way.   

Hi, I am Tom Perrone and I want to virtually shake your hand, give you a pat on the back, and tell you “I Get It”.   

You, like many business owners that I have worked with over the last 50 years think that there is no other way than the same old song and dance that has always been done.   

No one listens to you, the one that makes all the plates spin and it upsets you.   

You are up at night pacing the floors wondering how this machine that you created has overtaken your life.   

That wasn’t your goal when you started, in fact, you have no idea how you got here.  

You need an escape plan.   

Like I said, “I get it”. 

I’ve put together a team to help business owners like you enjoy more time doing what you love outside the business while the machine runs itself.   

I’m passionate about teaching intelligent business owners like you how to get all you can out of your business before it takes all it can from you.   

You run your business…Your business shouldn’t run you.  

As a way of saying thanks for taking the time to read this,    

I’ve included a copy of my book:  

Unlocking Your Business’ DNA”- Cracking the code to a better business, bigger profits and more time on the beach!  

Click reply and let’s learn more about each other.  

Your escape plan awaits…  

Talk soon,   

Tom.   

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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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.  

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 

Three Key Value Drivers  and Why Do They Matter? 

Value drivers are the elements of a business (systems and procedures), which create business value.   This post will cover  Next Level Management (NLM).  In part 2, I will cover  diversified client base  and  operational systems.  

Although there are nine transferrable value drivers, I am going to concentrate of three of them. Although all the value drivers are important, the three I will discuss are considered key drivers.  

The three value drivers are key in creating appeal to prospective purchasers of the business. They are important drivers, and at the very least, drivers’ businesses must have in order to grow.   

When a new business owner asks me when they should be thinking  about their future exit of their business, my answer always is, “the day theystarted their business is the time to start planning for an exit.”     

As you will see, the value drivers in most cases  need time to develop.  As we go through the three of them, you will see that they are strategies that can be implemented at once, but in many cases, need time to develop.    

Next Level Management (NLM):  Successful businesses with value, require business owners to delegate responsibilities to the management team.  NLM is particularly important because without a good management team, it would be hard to implement the other value drivers which are needed to create the maximum business potential value.i    

Finding and developing a  NLM  team is a challenge for many business owners. However, once the NLM is created, they usually become the team responsible to make the difference between where the business is now, and where the business would like to be.   The NLM is the key to  implementing the value drivers and the operation of them.   

Roadblocks for Business Owners in Developing Their Next Level Management

Many owners believe only they can keep and control the company’s success, since they built the business from infancy.   They  struggle  giving up even small types of control. The thought of not being involved in some of the daily business decisions, scares the daylights out of them, nor do they like the loss of control.    

Lack of installing the value drivers over time.   

 They spend their time working in the business as opposed to working on the business.   I call it their “Business DNA.”    Change is scary and thinking that someone else would be running the business is not consistent with their  fundamental  beliefs.  The possibility of someone else making decisions, which could build or ruin their business is too much for them to imagine.   

Fear of change.    Even if a business owner is not thinking in terms of an exit plan, they do like to think of creating business value. Once they are educated as to how value drivers affect the future value of their company, they become more open to  creating the value drivers, and making the changes.    

Misconception of owners:   Benefits derived to the business owners by installing value drivers is the result of the “full potential value of the business.”   The business grows as the business owner does less work, since the work has been handed off to the NLM.     However, owners have the common concern that installing value drivers will take too much of their time.  With proper planning, implementing the value drivers will create a more stable business, create better performance and scalability.   It is important that the owner understand the concept of developing the NLM team, so that team can create, implement, and manage  the value drivers, as opposed to the owner.     

It is possible for the owner to create the NLM where the owners have some control, and still can play a key role in the company.  Their leading role would be to delegate more responsibilities to the NLM, while focusing on other business responsibilities.    

 Many owners continue to do tasks they despise, just to keep a perceived control.  In many cases, the owner needs to take small steps in giving up control before they can start to feel more comfortable.  This is understandable since these are the things, they did to grow their business from day one of the business.     

The owner will see more growth in their company by implementing the value drivers, which will create more options for them when a future transition is a being considered.   

In my book, “Unlocking Your  Business  DNA,” I  discuss the problems business owners have working on their business as opposed to time spent working in it.  One of the factors missing is the value of creating value drivers for their business growth.   Once they realize value drivers create increasing company value, they get on board for future changes.  

 Through our discussions with business owners, we need to express to them that most future buyers will not want to buy the owner.   They want systems, management, and growth ability.       

Many owners think that they need to be involved with all the problems and issues of their company, thinking they have all the answers and the solutions.   Although this makes the owner feel in control and gives them  self-worth, it does absolutely nothing for the future value of the company, and in some cases may decrease the value.   

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. 

Succession Planning: 6 Key Questions You Must Answer!

THANKS TO CZEPIAGA DALY POPE & PERRI, LLC, author of this article. (written, March 22, 2019) 

*I came across this article last year and I thought I would pass it forward.  I thought it was written very well and had a great message to it.  Should you have any questions, give me a call.  Thank you Czepiga, Daly, Pope and Perri.  

Building and growing an independent family business is an accomplishment to be proud of. It takes an enormous amount of passion, ingenuity, and downright grit. Preserving and protecting your business also requires some effort, but it’s a task many business owners overlook or put off. 

Business succession planning, like any kind of estate planning, is something that should be addressed with the help of a professional well in advance of the actual event. Unfortunately, the majority of family business owners are missing that window of opportunity. According to a 2016 survey from Price Waterhouse Coopers, while 69% of family businesses surveyed expected the next generation to take over the business, only 23% had invested in creating a robust and well-documented business succession plan. 

It’s not difficult to understand how business owners find themselves without a succession plan. It’s a complex and time-consuming process that involves addressing hard realities and tough questions. But, it’s also a task that’s well worth the investment of time and money in the long run. 

If you own a family business and have not yet developed a thorough business succession plan, you may want to consider the following list of questions. These cover just some of the issues a good plan would address. It’s really never too early to start thinking about what’s next for your business, and these questions will put you on the right path. 

Who will take over when you’re gone? 

  • Whether you’re taking the precaution of planning in case of unexpected tragedy or simply doing due diligence in advance of a planned retirement, one of the biggest questions you need to answer is who will take the reins when you’re no longer in charge. 
  • If you were to become incapacitated or die unexpectedly, is there someone ready to step in to run the business? 
  • In such a situation, would your family or other business stakeholders have fast access to funds that would allow them to hire any necessary resources to keep the business going? 
  • Is your family protected against financial risk if you should pass unexpectedly? 
  • Do you have a detailed management succession plan that clearly defines who will take over which roles? 
  • If you face a temporary disability, do you have a business Power of Attorney in place to manage financial affairs related to the business? 

How much control would you like to retain?  Continue reading “Succession Planning: 6 Key Questions You Must Answer!”

A Great Benefit Every Business Owner Should Be Aware Of! 

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

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

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

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

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

How the CEEP works!  

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