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!”

Building Your Leadership Team And Going Deep!

One important issue an owner can spend their time on, is getting the right people to fill the right positions in their company, while removing the wrong people from positions.

Situations are always changing and can change the dynamics of the business.  For example; the retirement of a key owner or other key employee, the unexpected loss of a key person due to death or disability can pose a significant financial hit to any company.  Planning can reduce the adverse impact.

Continuity of leadership is important.  Having a backup for the key positions would be ideal.  Sometimes you don’t have the personnel to accomplish this.  A company training program can be a valuable tool for the long-term growth of the company.  Cross training is worth the time.  Having personnel filling in for important jobs when needed is a valuable element for the business growth.

Trader Joe ‘s is a very good company and a great example of a company with interchangeable job descriptions.   Employees learn multiple jobs and task.   They rotate their jobs every few hours on the employee’s shift.  They create teams, with captains and the team helps with on the job training for the e different jobs.  Their education is ongoing.  Trader Joe’s has a bench ready to go.  This is also done with their management team.  Their candidates are always being educated to move up the line and into the position.

Board of Directors

Having an active Board of Directors can help with guidance in implementing employee growth.  This is next level management.  This is a value driver which is of importance to the growth and value of the company.  It is what a potential purchaser looks for in a company that they may be interesting in purchasing.

The board helps provide management continuity and immediate oversight in triggering events, such as divorce, death, disability, or withdrawal.  The board can be made up of key insiders and some outsiders who have insight to your business, but not necessarily in your business or industry.    Continue reading “Building Your Leadership Team And Going Deep!”