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?

Getting Ready To Sell Your Business Even Before You Thought About Selling It!

Business owners who have the ability to hire, train and retain excellent employees do themselves a great favor when it comes time to sell their business. Recruited employees who sign on to the company culture, are potential purchases of the company.  They get involved in all aspects of the business when given the chance.  The ability to nurture these employees not only creates a great long-term employee, but possibly future owners of the company.   The investment in good employees has the by-product of creating a potential market for the business owner’s business. 

Over time, these owners can create   employees who become extremely loyal, and feel part of a group and the business itself.    They observe how the current owners treat the business, the employees, and learn the long-term elements needed for a successful growing business.  They become clones of the current ownership, and start to think like owners, while taking on more responsibilities.

While the owners at some point need to make the commitment to the potential employee(s) purchaser to sell the business to them, it also means the employee or employee group needs to be able to commitment to the purchase of the business.  To the purchasing party, this means committing to taking on risk and financing for the purchase of the business.  In most cases this is something they never have done before.

The commitment to sell the business to key people, or key person is a long-term process.  The owners have to make sure the key person (s), have the ability to think like employees, and the abilities to run the business with expectations of the company being profitable.  The owners will spend time training and assessing the abilities of the key group to prepare them for the business takeover There is a commitment on both sides as to arranging this type of sale.

Financing the Sale: 

A sale of the business to an outside group usually is a cash sale.  Or, a combination of cash and stock of the new owner.  (Usually when a larger company buys a smaller company).

It is here that the advisors need to make sure the selling owner maximizes his sales with tax efficient transactions.  Many business owners sell their firms only to be surprised at the after-tax results of the sale.  Keep in mind that when you sell the business, usually there is a low-cost basis, the consequence paying higher taxes on the gain, means less net profit!

If it is an asset sale, there may be a low-cost basis   of the assets being sold, consequently creating more tax exposure, and more taxes.

Take for example, an asset being sold after it has been depreciated, it may be taxed as ordinary income.  Usually the asset is owned by the corporation.  If the company is a C corporation, the sale is taxed at the corporate level, then taxed at the personal level.  The combination of a low-cost basis, C corporation tax, ordinary tax rates, and double taxation can erode gross profits to a point where the owner wonders why they sold the company for the next. 

If the owner sells their company to a publicly traded company, and takes back some of the  purchaser’s stock, there should be pause as the consequences should the stock value fall because of the transaction, and the uncertainly of the value when the selling owners wish to cash out.

It has happened more than once when selling owners, ended up with much less in their pockets after the taxes and expense of the sale were taken out!

Selling to a key group or a key person is usually a different arrangement.   Usually the employee does not have the financial ability to purchase the company, thus a loan from the small business association or bank is needed.  Sometimes, the employee comes up with money by refinancing their home or borrowing from the family.  In many cases, the selling owner usually takes back a note expecting payment from the cash flow of the business.  It’s common to have a combination of refinancing, a promissory note, and possible deferred compensation payment to the selling owner.  In any event the selling owner usually has some skin in the game as to the financing of the sale.  Because of owner financing, the ultimate payoff might be extended over a longer period of time.  Not necessarily a bad thing, as the owner can spread the tax liability over a period of time.  The owner will also have a security interest in the stock, assets, and receivables of the company, until the loan is paid off.

Continue reading “Getting Ready To Sell Your Business Even Before You Thought About Selling It!”

Why Would Anyone Want To Buy Your Business At The Price That You Set?

The present value of the cash flow is a way of pricing out your company.  A high certainty that the company will produce steady, predictable cash flow.  Cash flow is king! Predictability only creates more value.   

 A buyer is willing to pay your price  if you have a plethora of tangible and intangible assets and systems that function like a Swiss watch.  

 Swiss Watch” of a company needs to produce the consistent cash flow without you.  As an owner you want to sell your business and move on.  In many cases, a purchaser may want the owner to stay on and run the company for  a period of time.  However, if your company is able to produce a cash flow without you, it not only allows you to get your price, but allows you to get out of dodge.   

It is worth your while to put together a talented management team, that can not only keep the cash flow consistent, but has the ability to keep the cash flow machine working even if you are not there.  Your key management team may be the most important element of your business.   

 Whether buyers are strategic buyers, or financial buyers, they will be looking for value drivers.  From the beginning of your business ownership, these are the things you need to start working on.   

Partial list:   

  • Key management group 
  • Loyal client base with diversification (most of your firms revenue should come from more than 10% of the clients)  
  • Efficient production and manufacturing facilities 
  • Leading edge products or services 
  • Supplier network 
  • Intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, trade name) 
  • Steady, predictable solid profits and cash flow 
  • Proven growth record 
  • Effective workforce in place 
  • Transferable franchise or license 
  • Key location or territory 
  • Barriers to entry for a startup 
  • Research and product development team  
  • Company name 
  • Exclusive territory  
  • Above industry average financial ratios 
  • Systematized business processes/documented so continuing success is not dependent on any particular person (including the owner) 

 

These are the areas of your business you need to develop and maximize in order to demonstrate the potential for steady predictable growth in the future.   

 Since the price you will be asking for your business is relevant to your successful retirement (to fill the retirement gap), you will want to spend the time in the areas which will increase the value of your business.  Usually, they will be Industry-Specific Business Benchmarks.   

 Knowing how your competitors are using their resources and the efficiency which they are utilizing them can give you ideas about the strategies being used, and strategies you can compare to your methods.   If you are utilizing your resources better than your competitions, you will be able to negotiate a better price for your business.