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.  

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.) 

Case Study#5 Using Corporate Dollars To Keep Wealth Out Of The Business But In Your Pocket

This is the case of Joey Bag of Donuts and his pursuit of keeping wealth outside of his business.  You see, over the years working with Joey Bag of Donuts we told him that leaving too much of his wealth in the business can be problematic, especially when the time came when he needed to exit his business.  He heard me tell him many times, that someday he will leave his business by either a death, disability, or retirement, and taking the wealth with you when you need it the most, can be a problem, if you don’t have the right exit strategy.

There are many reasons wealth gets lost in a business when it is sold.  It can range from bad planning to bad luck, but Joey Bag of Donuts always remembered to keep as much of his personal wealth outside of the business as possible.  By the way this is why he purchased his company building and put it in a separate LLC.  Joey Bag of Donuts also believes in putting as much of his income to the company pension plan, again, outside of the business.

We also taught him to have his company support whatever it can legally towards his personal lifestyle.  For example, his cars, gas, some entertainment, health insurance, retirement, and other things are paid for through company.

Joey Bag of Donuts wanted to put more money away for himself and his family’s future, but didn’t want to use his own funds, so why not have the company support more retirement contributions?

We already had a profit-sharing plan, and he was sharing company contributions with his employees.

We decided that a non-regulated plan was the best way to go, so we developed a plan for only him.  The plan is a combination of two concepts.  We call this the CEEP PLAN (CORPORATE EXECUTIVE EQUITY PLAN).

The plan is a discriminatory plan, so Joey Bag of Donuts can pick himself or anyone else he wants, unlike a profit sharing or 401k plan, which is a regulated plan.

THE PLAN:  As you can see, the company made all the contributions, and took the deductions for them.  Joey Bag of Donuts was the sole participant of the plan. His cost was “0” out of pocket and he ends up with almost $800,000 of cash at retirement.  He also could turn the cash into a tax-free income stream.  In this case it was $67,500 tax-free income. The stream of income is worth more than $1,215,000.  Along with that he has a death benefit of $2,300,000 payable to his family tax-free.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Joey Bag of Donuts gets retirement income using corporate funds.  All the contributions can be applied to just his account.  He also has the use of the account before retirement, like a  “family bank”, along with the ability to withdraw funds tax-free.[1]  There would be no 10% penalty if withdrawn before 59 ½.  Continue reading “Case Study#5 Using Corporate Dollars To Keep Wealth Out Of The Business But In Your Pocket”

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.

The Major Reason Why Business Owners Don’t Plan For Maximizing Their Business’ Financial Potential Is Now Eliminated!

Many business owners spend the majority of their time running their businesses and inadvertently end up neglecting some of the more important aspects of their business. This is the time where all the details of the success of your business are planned. We call this “working ON your business”.

Business owners can be vulnerable to financial mistakes because of many factors.

One of the key details of a business owner is what happens to their business in the following scenarios:

  1. What happens if I die?
  2. What happens if I become ill, or have a long-term disability?
  3. What happens if I lost my key person, or my key group of employees?
  4. What happens if I can’t control cash flow, or just don’t want to run the business any longer?

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t spend the time working on their business for many reasons.  Many owners think it’s expensive, complicated and very time consuming.

The truth is that by not working on their business, should any of the above scenarios occur, the consequences would be much more expensive, time consuming and potentially devastating.

In our planning practice, we estimate the average time to create a business and estate financial plans for a business owner, is five to ten hours, not including time with attorneys and accountants who are a part of the team.

How does our process work?

Our system is built around planning with the least amount of time needed for the business owner’s time.  To do this we use technology in communication such as phone conferences, video conferences, and audio and video productions to explain our client’s situation.  This allows the business owner to eliminate using work hours for this project.  We can do this technologically with clarity and brevity.  Our plan is focused on brevity for the business owner.

Our Process: 

  1. Viewpoint Meeting: Define what are some of the areas of concern using our Viewpoint System.  This is a 30 minutes conversation.  Our business owners need about ten minutes to prepare using this aid.
  2. “The Selection Meeting”. Once we define the areas of concern, we dig deeper with a 45-minute Selection Meeting. This is where we discuss all of the possible areas where the client may have problems and concerns.
  3. “The Planning Stage” is the longest meeting. This is about 1½ hours.  Prior to the meeting, we send our client material which they can review and prepare on their own time.  This takes them about 20-30 minutes to complete.
  4. The Discovery Meeting is about one hour where we bring together our findings based on their personal situation and discuss which issues and direction of implementation the client may wish to go. Again, our client receives the information to review prior to our Discovery Meeting[i].
  5. Implementation Session: This is where we start implementation needed to solve the issues.  This is the time when all of the client’s advisors work together to get the planning completed.  For example, our findings are discussed with the professional team and look for their advice and suggestions.    Also, this process brings everyone on the team up to date on the business owners’ situation.  This process breeds new ideas and strategies (earlier in the process, I would have been in touch with these advisors between the Discovery and Implementation Meeting). This may be the first time the client has had all of their advisors working together and sharing knowledge about the business owner! 
  6. Semi-Annual or Annual Review:  This is where we move on to the next area of concern; One concern at a time (in some cases, there may be overlapping of concerns and they can be bundled in the planning).  If there are no additional concerns, we review what has been implemented. This is an automatic process, so we are always adjusting as the business situation changes.

For business owners who realize that they need work  on their business, our process can maximize their business’ potential profit, organize them in a timely fashion, and fine-tune them in the future, so they can maximize their “business potential value” when they exit from their business.

[i] We plan for this time, but do not limit this session to a time schedule.

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”

Good Luck You Are Now In Business! Now What?

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

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

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

THE NEEDED CHANGE IN MINDSET! 

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

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

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