Critical Questions That You Need To Answer If You Own A Business!

Building a business is hard work. Protecting and preserving it is even harder and overlooked by business owners.

While many owners expect family members to take over the business (69%), very few have actually made plans to make sure their wishes are accomplished (26%), even though they realize the importance of estate and succession planning as is an integrated part of that planning.[i]

A succession plan is complex, time consuming and involves attention to details along with many hard questions which need to be answered for a comprehensive and effective succession plan.  It is also the key element in maximizing the return on the investment of your business. This is the big financial payout, the sale of your business.[ii]

SOME MAJOR QUESTIONS AND ISSUES TO ASK YOURSELF!

What if a shareholder wants to sell their interests?

  • Is there a right of refusal for the other owners?
  • What are the financing arrangements?
  • What are the recourses if you fund the buyout especially if the funding is over a long period of time?
  • What is the arrangement if the business fails, how will you get your money if you financed the sale?

 Who steps in your shoes if you want out? 

Not everyone has the luxury of leaving a business when and how they want to.  Things like death, disability, and situations are uncontrollable.

  • What are your contingency plans when a trigger occurs (death, health, non-voluntary situations)?
  • Do other members of the firm have access and authorization to use funds to keep the business going if there is such an event?
  • Does your family take on personal obligations for financial notes and loans you have signed personally to fund your business operation?
  • Do you have estate documents and health care directives, should you have a disability or become incapacitated?

Taxes- and the planning for them Continue reading “Critical Questions That You Need To Answer If You Own A Business!”

Lifestyle and Enterprise Business

In John Brown’s June 2019  blog , the article discusses the difference between Lifestyle and Enterprise Business, he discusses that fact that many businesses are formed to accommodate the lifestyle of the owners without giving too much thought as to the long-term effect of the business value when it is sold.

While the business is up and running, it is doing exactly what the owner wants it to do, and that is to provide a steady and profitable income to carry the lifestyle of the owner and their family.  Again, this is  great for the business owner, their families and businesses in general.  However, the article discusses the problem when the owners are forced to sell, or just want to sell and exit the business.

Business owners may think they can run their businesses as a lifestyle business and still plan for an exit of their business for the highest potential value.  This is a myth, since the strategy of exit planning involves different philosophies and strategies used to grow the business best potential value.

Most business owners don’t really know what their businesses are worth.  Because of this, they never understand why they don’t receive the perceived value upon post exit.    Also, many business owners take for granted, the perks from the business as normal and ordinary.  These perks evaporate once they exit.  A double hit to the owner of a lifestyle business model.

The article emphasizes the fact that you can’t have it both ways if you wish to exit your company at the best possible price. Business owners who are running a lifestyle business, must turn that business into a business enterprise if they expect to exit their business at the highest possible price.

A business enterprise has transferable value.  It needs to be worth something to the purchaser, for example an equity group, as lifestyle value means nothing to a private equity group compared to the business owner of a lifestyle business as they both have different philosophies of business purpose.

Turning a business into a business enterprise is basically creating a business that is worth something to people or entities beyond the owner.  Brown suggests the transforming of a lifestyle business to an enterprise business is a challenge mostly because of the owner’s emotional attachment to the business, and limited owner resources. 

It has given him and his family a nice lifestyle, freedom and pride.   “Why should he change anything?” The owner created this baby, loved it, invested in it and build it.  Consequently, it is not only a physical transition but a psychological transition. 

When you look through the eyes of an outside investor, they are looking for other aspects about the business, mostly  flaws  of the business, inefficient  areas of the business, management, potential return on investment, cash flow, potential growth and  a host of elements needed to make a future profit from the purchase and sales of the business, not lifestyle to the owner. 

Continue reading “Lifestyle and Enterprise Business”

The Final Act! The Day Will Come! Part 2

In part-one of this article, I mentioned how purchasers will prefer to buy a business where everything looks good and there are no apparent problems. Smart and neat operations will attract serious buyers; however, this is only one part that is needed to achieve your selling objectives.

There should be no hidden problems or secrets which can jeopardize the purchase. Any undesirable factor not disclosed to the purchaser can lead to a non-sale, or at the very least, something they can use as a negotiating tool. The fact that a deal has fallen apart, is not only frustrating, but will cost you money, time, and distraction from your business.

An owner who unknowingly discloses secrets or situations in their business can end up becoming a deal breaker. Issues which are known need to be dealt with to have the best chance of a good sale. Since there may be issues which are unknown the best answer to this is to search for the problems in advance and take care of them. Think of this the same way you would treat the sale of your home. You would normally fix up, repaint, and clean up before you put the home on the market. You should do the same thing with your business.

Not only would you want your physical location to be clean and tidy, but this also flows over to the other parts of your business, such as accounting, financing, marketing material, department procedure manuals, and an array of other business items. Prepared written policies and procedures are a great selling point for a prospective buyer. Remember, when someone is interested in your business, it’s their team that inspects every aspect of your business in doing their due diligence. This is a micro inspection of all aspects of your business, so it will pay to make sure there isn’t a bunch of dirty secrets hanging around.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND PHYSICAL APPEAL
The first time a prospective buyer visits your company they make value judgements. They will observe everything from your reception area to your signage in and on the building. If the impression they get is positive, they will want to investigate your company more. You don’t want to lose their interest based on visual appeal of your business. No matter how good your business seems to do on paper, the prospective buyer may lose interest based on your first impressions.

This observation doesn’t end with just the building. Your premises, marketing literature, dress attire of you employees, uniforms, office settings, rubbish areas and a host of other areas should be updated and tidy. Continue reading “The Final Act! The Day Will Come! Part 2”

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?”

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!  “

Drop Dead Business & And Personal Planning Questions!

These are questions I believe everyone should be asking themselves when you start their planning. Not all the questions may relate to your situation, however, many of them will. It is important that you take time in evaluating your outcome in your planning as it relates to theses questions!

1. Have your wills and associated trust documents been updated in the past three years, if not, why not?

2. Do you have the following: declaration for desire of natural death, power of attorney, and health care power of attorney? If not, why not?

3. Does your testamentary documents make sure your family’s business and estate is private after your death?

4. Are your assets titled properly between you and your spouse in order to take maximum advantage of the estate tax laws?

5.  Do your testamentary documents specifically address the disposition of your family business/family assets?

6. Do your testamentary documents agree with other business arrangements such as buy and sell agreements?

7. Do you pass ownership of the family company/estate assets to your spouse in your testamentary documents as a tax avoidance measure? If so, is will that;

Make practical sense, and is that consistent with your wishes of your spouse? If the business ownership does go to your spouse, is there a potential for your children to inflate his/her estate thereby increasing their estate tax burden during his/her surviving lifetime?

8. What are your testamentary provisions for treating your employee and non-employee children fairly and equitably?

9. In your “drop dead” planning, do you have insurance proceeds includable in your taxable estate?  If so, why? 

10. For your real estate; do you use family limited partnerships or limited liability companies? If not, why not?

11. If there is more than one shareholder in your family enterprise, do you have a binding, modern buy sell agreement? If not, why not?

12. Does your agreement cover typical items such as disability, “bad boy” behavior, windfall sale, non–compete provisions, etc.?

13. Do you have a written plan for when your family members get home from your funeral to lessen the burden on them? If not, why not? In the future will your business go to family members some of whom are employed in the company and some of whom are not? If so, what provisions will you make to balance the interests of employees’ shareholders versus non-employee shareholders?

14. Your CPA, attorney, and other advisors have probably been after you for some time to address the issues of your exit, future management of the company, your estate planning, etc. What are the barriers that prevent you from tackling these tough family business and estate issues?

15. Children inherit too much in the way of assets too soon? What do you see as the downside of “affluenza”?

16. Will your children inherit the business/estate assets in equal proportions, or would one child be designated the prize, and take and receive a larger portion.  What are the pros and cons of each course of action?

17. What do you have too much of in your business?

18. What do you have too little of in your business?

19. What do you have too much of in your family?

20. What you have too little of in your family?

21. If you had a magic wand, what will be the one thing you would change about your family or business?