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 

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.) 

Designing a buy and sell agreement can be a challenge to not only the advisor but also the owners of companies! 

Factors to consider when selecting the type of Buy and Sell Agreement for your business.(I) 

Before you can design a buy and sell (BS) you need to consider the following:  

  1. Number of owners: the greater the number, the more likely the BS will be a stock-redemption. 
  2. Nature and size of the entity: As a rule, a larger company will call for a redemption BS, or hybrid do to the fact that ownership interests will probably be worth more.   
  3. Value of the entity: The higher the value, greater chance of a redemption BS. 
  4. Relative ownership interests: Because of larger interest in ownership, greater likely hood a redemption or hybrid because of the cost to purchase. 
  5. Ages of owners: If there is a wide disparity in age between owners, greater chance of using a stock redemption or hybrid BS agreement?  
  6. Financial conditions of the owners: The more questionable an owner’s finances are the more likely a redemption/hybrid. 
  7. Enforcement of buy-sell agreement:  If there is a question as to the likelihood of partners reneging on the BS, or unable to fulfill the purchase obligation, the more likely a redemption/hybrid. 
  8. Desires for new cost basis for the purchasing owner: Chances are a cross purchase arrangement would be used if surviving purchasing partner wanted a higher cost basis.  
  9. Health and insurability of the owners: When there are younger or unhealthy partners, the disparity in premiums will tend to adversely affect the other owners, consequently, redemption will be used.  
  10. Commitment of owners to business: Cross purchase or hybrid can be used so the more committed partner can purchase the non-interested partner directly.  
  11. Availability of assets inside of the entity for redeeming the interest: Since some businesses have minimum-asset performance-bonding, a cross purchase BS would be used. General Contractors would be an example.  
  12. State law with respect to entity redemptions: If lightly capitalized, use cross purchase.  
  13. Existence of restrictions under loan agreements on the use of the entity’s assets to redeem equity interests: Loan agreements may have restrictions on the use of assets as they are the collateral for the loans, usually would use cross purchase. 
  14. Family relationships within the business:  Maintaining equal ownership between family members can be a challenge, normally, a cross purchase agreement works the best, unless the business is capitalized to have different classes of stock. 
  15. Professional licensing or other qualification requirements: Licensing and professional designations with, (professional corporations) will have an impact on the type of redemption agreement.   
  16. Type of entity: If a family C corps, there would be concerns that a redemption would be treated like a dividend, if so, they would opt for a cross purchase, if that was an issue (attribution).  

 As you can see, depending on the situation and circumstances of the company, the type of Buy and Sell agreement is not a random decision. Planning and insight must be used.  This comes down to asking the right in-depth questions when discussing the designing of the buy and sell agreement.

(1) Paul Hoods great book:  Buy-Sell Agreements

If you would like to receive a free report on the 19 questions you need to ask yourself to have an efficient Buy and Sell Agreement, email me at:  tperrone@necgginc.com, request: 19 questions.  I will send this to you immediately,

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”

What Status Is The Stock After A Triggering Event?

Chris Mercer author of “Buy-Sell Agreements for Baby Boomers Business Owners” addresses a very good question.  Who owns the stock after the trigger event?  After a trigger event, does the affected shareholders retain the rights, risks and privileges of the ownership, things like, voting, distribution, access to financial information, etc., or are their shares converted to another status, such as (example), the “pending sales of stock” status?

If the shares are converted into the new class or status, do they have the right to receive dividends, or interest while in that pending status, if so, who should be receiving it?

The agreement can also have a clause where the stock that is waiting to be purchased would convert to a “non-voting “status prior to being purchased.

There are many times a stockholder has signed personally for a corporate debt.  The stockholder may desire to have the remaining stockholders make an effort to get the departing stockholder off the note, as they have ceased to be a stockholder.

The questions that Chris puts forth are legitimate issues and should be dealt with when business owners and their council set out to design a buy and sell agreement for the company.

Thank you, Chris Mercer, for bringing these topics to the forefront.

Over the years, many of the buy and sell agreements which I have reviewed over the years, do not address or mention these particular situations, and could create a void should the situation arise.

Check Chris Mercers publications.  He puts out very good information that is useful to practitioners.

Be An All-Star Employer and Build Future Value In Your Business!

When you go into your own business, do you have a place to go, a paycheck, and a position?  You basically have a job.   However, when entrepreneurs go into business, they look for the big payday, the selling of their business.    Would it be nice to sell your business for 10 or 20 times your annual salary?

Building a business is not easy.  If you are going to put your efforts into building a business, build a business with a great foundation.  It is easier to build value in a business with a good foundation.  Let’s assume you have systems in place and a business presence.  What is needed for real growth once you get through the systems and organization formats, is to create and develop a business culture!

By having a business culture, marketing and recruiting get easier and less expensive as people are more attracted to your company.  Long –term employees get to know the business, your customers you’re your suppliers.  They become more efficient and become the “team”.   You will attract better quality candidates to hire.  You can become more selective and create the right roles for your employees.

Go to Trader Joe’s and ask the employees how they like working there.  You will soon find out that there is little stress, a lot of fun, and the employees want to be there working side by side with each other.

When employees are happy and like their jobs, they stay, they learn, and they attract investors and future purchasers.  This culture promotes profitability and consistency, which is how you maximize your potential profitability of the company.  Consumers like consistency and the added value of having a company that is easy to work with.  I like to call this the “Amazon Factor”.  Who doesn’t like ordering from Amazon? They make it easy for many reasons.

Having this type of environment doesn’t automatically happen.  You need to invest in it to create it, however, it will pay off in the future.  They key is to start early creating the vision you have for your company long-term. Create the vision of being the “All-Star Employer”, and you will attract the best, like minded employees, and create a great business that people will want to work at.

 

Advantages Of A Buy Sell Agreement And Some Dynamics Of The Agreement!

It’s important to understand that every Buy and Sell Agreement (BSA) is different and has a separate purpose when put together and implemented. Because of the vast differences in BSA’s, using a standard form of BSA rarely accomplishes the needs and wants of the parties involved.

Each participant in the agreement has different purposes and objectives and looks at the transactions very differently. Neither party knows when the agreement will actually be needed, and what the triggering event will be. A triggering event could be death, disability, divorce, termination,  bankruptcy, and other defined events.   One thing that can is consistent in most cases is that when a triggering event happens, then each party becomes visionless to the other parties’ best interests, and only focuses on their own and best interests.

The two participants in a BSA are a seller and a buyer. They come in different forms, as individuals, trusts, or estates. Usually their purposes and objectives are very different, and there usually is a conflict between the parties.

While creating the BSA  the parties tend to be very fair before a triggering event. This is because everybody is in the same position and no one knows who will suffer the future triggering event. This is a positive viewpoint, as the parties are reasonable and objective about the possible and various scenarios. Everyone’s objectives are personal, and range from financial, tax, to personal protection for their families.  Having a designed BSA can offer the owners some satisfaction that their needs are documented and witnessed.

Objectives of BSA

  • To provide a predetermined roadmap for the business based on a triggering event which may call for the sale of a participant’s ownership interest.
  • To provide a guaranteed buyer for the owner’s business interest and to create a market for that interest.
  • If funded through life insurance or some other means, the BSA will provide liquidity for the payment of the business interest and help the estate pay for the estate taxes and other settlement costs of the deceased owner’s estate.
  • Can avoid an impasse between the parties in the event of a triggering event.
  • To protect the company and surviving shareholder from subsequent competition, should a terminated owner wish to sell to a 3rd
  • To avoid potential conflicts between the surviving owners and the deceased owners’ heirs, by creating a roadmap through the agreement at the owner’s death.
  • Can level the playing field for the estate or deceased owner’s as the agreement gives the deceased owner a say on how settlement of their interest will be to their heirs and estate. Especially, when the surviving family have little knowledge of the business entity.
  • Establishing the price and method of valuing the interest, establishing the terms of payments, and providing a method of funding for the payment of that purchase price.
  • Can create job stability for minority owners and key non-owner employees.
  • Can establish the value of the entity for tax purposes.
  • Can preclude owners from selling their interest without the consent of others thus avoiding the third-party ownership or voting percentages.
  • The agreement can restrict ownership to people who are actively engaged with the entity of full-time basis.
  • Can improve the credit worthiness of the entity.
  • Can avoid transfer violations/Licensing requirements.
  • Avoid transfers to individuals that would terminate the S corporation status.
  • Can dictate discounts for lack of marketability (minority interest discounts).
  • Can provide for voting agreements where necessary.
  • Can dictate what happens to in force life insurance policies on the terminated or surviving owners.

These are only a few of the many reasons for a buy and sell agreement, and the advantages of funding the agreement.

 

The Final Act! The Day Will Come – Part 1

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

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

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

THE SUBJECT THAT IS RARELY MENTIONED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insider Transfers! Ready Or Not!

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

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

Typically, The Transfer To The Insider:   

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

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

Benefit’s For The Key Group Becoming Owners:  

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

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