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.  

Single appraiser Buy and Sell Agreement!

An alternative to the multiple appraiser agreement, is the single appraiser agreement (SAA).  There are two single appraisers’ processes. I

  1. Single appraiser, select now and value now
  2. Single appraiser, Select and Value at Trigger Event
  3. Single appraiser, Select Now and Value at trigger event

The preference is #1:

However, #2,3 are stopgap processes which can be used.  As mentioned in both of these types, the value is delayed to sometime in the future. 

Postponement of the appraiser selection and initial valuation create substantial uncertainties and potential for disagreements   or disputes.

The SINGLE APPRAISER, SELECT NOW AND VALUE NOW OPTION

In the BSA, the appraiser is named and is engaged to provide an initial appraisal for purposes of the agreement.

SELECT NOW: At the creation of the BSA, the appraiser is named. All parties have a voice and can exercise their choice as difficult as it may be.

VALUE NOW:  The chosen appraiser provides a baseline appraisal for the purpose of the agreement.  In this method, it is recommended that the value be presented in draft and give each party a time period for consideration before entering it in the final BSA. 

VALUE EACH YEAR (OR TWO) THEREAFTER:  This provides great advantages:[i]

  • Structure and process
  • Known to all parities
  • Selected appraiser is viewed as independent
  • Values are seen before triggering event
  • Since a draft will be provided to the participants, they can review for corrections to the mutual satisfaction
  • The appraiser’s conclusion in known up front and is the price until the next appraisal, or until a trigger event
  • Because the process is exercised at least once, it should go smoothly when employed at trigger events, less time consuming and less expensive than other alternatives

The single valuation process also helps the estate planning process with the annual reappraisals which will facilitate the estate planning objectives of the shareholders. For example, if the planning calls for minority discounts, the supplemental valuations at the not marketable minority level for gift and estate purposes.

[i] This type of valuation process will accommodate most small companies as for many reasons listed above. 

 

Multiple Appraiser Valuation Agreements 

There are two types of appraiser valuation agreement (AVA). Multiple appraisers and single appraises, while the multiple appraisers (MAVA), are the most common.

How they worked

Usually the BSA calls for a 30-60-day window for the seller and buyer to attempt to agree upon a price.  Once the appraisal process is initiated, each party will select an appraiser.

The two will provide opinions of value conforming to the BSA.  If their value is within 10% of each other, then the final value will be the average of the two. 

If the two appraisals are more than 10%, they will agree on a third appraiser.  That appraiser will:

  1. Provide an appraisal is anaverage in the same way the other appraisers (reconciler)
  2. Provide an opinion regardless of theother two conclusions.

When BSA are triggered, the corporation and seller separate and go separate ways as there is different motivations. The seller wants the highest price, the purchaser, the lowest price.   A good reason why each party should reach an agreement on terms before there is a triggering event, where neither party will be as open minded as they were before a triggering event.

Even with appraisers it is possible that each side will be overseen by multiple sets of attorneys looking out for the interest of the various sides to the transaction.

  Thought Processes behind multiple appraisers’ agreements:   

Multiple appraisers are intended to bring reason and resolution to the valuation process. This does not always happen, because the parties have 30-60 window to get the appraisers and the evaluations completed.  This is more than enough time to irritate each other and taint the process, causing in some cases, the appraisals to be compromised.

Since most multiple appraiser agreements (MAA) base the third appraisal to be an average of the former two if within 10%.

Continue reading “Multiple Appraiser Valuation Agreements “

Life Insurance Proceeds In Business Valuations

If life insurance proceeds are considered as the funding vehicle, then the proceeds of the policy received following the death of a shareholder would not be considered a corporate asset for valuation purposes.(1)

It would be recognized that it was purchased for a specific purpose of funding the buy-sell agreement (BSA). IF it were considered a corporate asset, it would offset the company’s liability to fund the purchase of shares, added back as a non- recurring expense.

Treatment 1: (used as a funding vehicle, not a company asset)

Example: A company with a $10m value, has two shareholders, owning 50% of the company. The company holds a $6m life insurance policy on each owner (assuming no alternative minimum tax issues).

RESULTS: At Shareholder #1’s death, the company collects $6m of life insurance benefits. The surviving partner will receive $10m company value, and $1m of net tax-free proceeds, a total of $11m value. The deceased stockholder receives the $5m for the business.

Treatment 2: (A corporate asset)

Treating the life insurance as corporate assets for valuation purposes.

The proceeds are treated as a non-operating asset of the company. This asset along with other net assets, would be available to fund the purchase the of shares the of a deceased shareholder. Keep in mind that the expense of the deceased stockholder might be added back into income as a nonrecurring expense.  (2)

The treatment type can have a significant effect on the net position of a company or selling shareholder. There is also an affect in the ability of the company to purchase the shares of the deceased stockholder, and impact of the position of the remaining shareholders.

Company $10m, before $6m of life insurance. When you add the $6m into the value, the company value is $16m. The deceased shareholder entitled to $8m, the company pays $6m in life insurance proceeds and takes out $2m in promissory note.

RESULTS: The surviving owner, owns a company with 8 million and a note of $2 million.

Which treatment is fair? One owner ends us with $11m while the deceased owner, ends up with $5m. In treatment 2, the surviving owner has to carry a $2m debt to purchase the business. Two dramatic differences. A good reason, why the discussion should take place with your advisors.

More importantly, all parties should understand the ramifications of adding the life insurance proceeds in the valuation or using the life insurance as a specific vehicle to fund the BSA.

——————————

1. Mercer: buy and sell agreements for boomers

2. Non-reoccurring expenses: Non-reoccurring expenses can be somewhat more complex. These are expenses which is  specifically  designated on the company’s financial statements as an extra ordinary or one time expense.  The company does not expect to continue the expense overtime, at least not on a regular basis. Non-reoccurring expenses can be somewhat more complex. 

The Interplay Between the Funding Mechanism And the Valuation? 

What happens when life insurance proceeds are part of the funding vehicle of a buy and sell agreement (BSA).    

 Example 

 When a stockholder owner dies and life insurance payments are made, is the valuation of the stock being redeemed as part of the value of the company?   

The way life insurance benefits are treated in the buy and sell agreement (BSA), could lead to different estate treatment and income tax.    In both areas, the results can be dramatic.     

 Does the agreement tell the appraisers how to treat the life insurance benefits in their valuationDoes the agreement provide for the company to issue a promissory note to a deceased shareholder, and what are the terms? 

 Keep in mind, the agreement is no better than the ability of the parties and/or the company to fund any required purchases at the agreed upon price.    An agreement that is silent on this issue is like not having an agreement.  

 Life insurance  

 Generally, life insurance premiums are not deductible, and the pass through of non-deductibility can create pass-through income for the shareholders of S corporations, and the owners of partnerships and limited liability companies.  Knowing how to treat the life insurance premium for tax purposes would be important information for you.  We suggest you discuss this with your CPA.  

 Although the life insurance premium is not deductible, the death benefits generally are tax- free, notwithstanding the alternate minimum tax treatment for C corps.  

Keep in mind the funding mechanism is not actually necessary to define the engagement for valuation purposes and has nothing to do with appraisal standards or qualifications. It provides the funding for the company to afford the value, and to make sure the selling stockholder receives the value.  In essence, it’s the mechanism to fund the liability of the contract, or at least part of it.   

Wants and Needs of the Buyer and the Seller- The normal push and pull!  

The seller wants the highest price and the buyer wants the lowest price.   Without a doubt the best time to set the price would be prior to a triggering event, when both parties are in parity and neither is the subject of the trigger.  It is the best time when both parties will be the most reasonable in setting the rules of the agreements as they are both fair minded in the negotiations.   

 Funding Methods 

  1. Life InsuranceIn most cases life insurance will be the most inexpensive method for funding the death benefit part of the agreement, when comparing, self funding, and loans (including corporate promissory notes) to fund the liability, notwithstanding the ability to get a funding loan from a loaning institution.    In most of the comparisons I have done over the years, life insurance is the least expensive, most guaranteed, and the easiest method of funding for death benefit purposes. 
  1. Corporate Assets: They would have to be accumulated for this purpose, and would likely be included in the valuation, and also would be subjected to taxes during the accumulation stageWhat if the death of the stockholder occurred early after the agreement?  Would there be funds available to fund the liability of the agreement, as there would be a lack of time to accumulate the necessary net profits for the funding?   
  1. External borrowing: Depending on the company’s financial position, it may be possible to fund the purchase price by borrowing.  However, this should be negotiated in advance and before its needed.  Remember, the time to requests funds from an institution is when you don’t need them.  Also, on the other side of this funding element, is the possibility the loan covenant requesting the outstanding note balanced to be called in when there is a dramatic change in ownership and management.    The lending institution may be questioning the ability of the company’s future financial position and the ability to stay profitable.   
  1. Promissory Notes:  If this is going to be used, the terms of the notes should be in the agreement.  Although cash payments are preferable to the seller.   
  1. Combination of cash and promissory notes: Important to note:  Anytime capital is being used by the corporation, it is important not to unreasonably impair the capital of the business. Many state laws prohibit transactions that could impair capital and raise the question of insolvency.  

Without the mention of what funding mechanism is being used in the agreement to repurchase shares, lessens the value of the agreement.  Also, with stated funding, the economic or present value of the redemption price set by the agreement can significantly be reduced, because of inadequate interest or excessive risk leveled on the selling shareholder.   

  

Weak terms in the agreement of the funding mechanism diminishes the value of the agreement from the sellers prospective. However, terms that are too strong can taint the future transactions. What is clear is that it is essential for the parties to discuss the funding mechanism for the triggers of a BSA, keeping in mind both the sellers value position and the purchaser’s ability to fund the costs. 

A Road Map For A Succession Planning  Essentials For Planning   Creating Your Team Of Advisors 

Who Are They 

Their Role 

Accountant 
  • Develops financial statements 
  • Provides tax advice 
  • Assists in Estate planning 
  • Assists in Business value 
Attorney 
  • Negotiates agreements 
  • Tax Advice 
  • Prepares estate documents 
  • Advises on business structure along with implementation 
Management Team 
  • Manages the ongoing operation  
  • Operational advice and expertise for new owner 
  • Enables business continuity 
Business Appraiser 
  • Estimates fair market value of Business  
  • Provides the credibility of asking price 
  • Advice on how to maximize business value 
Business Broker 
  • Finds buyer and market insight for value 
Financial Advisor 
  • Facilitates and council’s family goals and value 
  • Plans for the future of the estate and distribution 
  • May have the capacity to help fund Buy and Sell Agreements and Deferred Compensation situations 
  • Offers financial advice to all the members 
  • Helps project future financial needs 
Banker-Commercial 
  • Financing options for acquisition 
  • Access to other experts that may be needed 
  • Supports the business transition before and after the acquisition 

Exit Options: 1 

  • Transfer the business to a family member; This represents about 42% 
  • Sell to partners or your employees (directly or through ESOP); This represents about 17% 
  • Sell to a third party; 19% 
  • Partner: 10% 
  • Wind down business -3% 
  •  Don’t know -8% 

Questions To Consider 

  1. Are there one or more family members who want to take over the business?  
  2. Does the family successor have the skills to operate the business and guarantee the return on your investment?  
  3. What are the qualifications and skills someone would need to purchase your business to guarantee the successful transition?  
  4. If you transitioned to your family member, how will your employees, suppliers and customers react?  
  5. What is the most tax-efficient way to pass ownership to family members?   
  6. Will you continue to have a role in the business? 
  7. How will this succession option impact the rest of the family? 

Selling to partners or your employees 

  • Which employees or partners are best suited to purchase your business?  
  • Do they have funds or access to funds?  
  • Will you have to finance part of the sale?  
  • Do they have the management capability to run the business successfully?  
  • Can the business take on debt for this transaction long term?   
  • Where will the purchase price come from?  
  • Do the purchasers have assets as collateral?   

Third party  

  • Who are likely candidates in your industry that would be interested in your business?  
  • Do you want to sell the whole business or only part of it?  
  • Will the potential buyer have the entire financial resources to purchase the business, or would you be prepared to partially fund their acquisition?  
  • What is the most tax-effective way to sell your 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”

Disadvantages Of The Buy And Sell Agreement! [i]

Certainly, having a Buy and Sell Agreement (BSA) has many advantages, many of which I have discussed in our past posts (May 2019, Advantages of Buy and Sell Agreements).  However, I would like to go over the disadvantages of a BSA.

RESTRICTIONS ON ESTATE PLANNING

BSA can restrict ownership transfers and consequently management duties. These restrictions can be applied to you also. The restrictions could limit your personal planning by limiting your options for the ownership interests during your lifetime or at death. It may prohibit you from making gifts of your ownership interest to your family. Depending on your planning, your BSA could limit your plans to leave ownership interest to your family. The BSA may require your ownership interest to be sold at your death.

RESTRICTIONS ON FINANCIAL PLANNING 

A BSA can restrict the persons to whom you could sell your ownership interest to and restrict when you can sell it.  An example would be in a situation that you need to sell your interest because you’re in a financial bind. The BSA may require you to sell to your entity or your co-owners, who may not want to buy.

Special election to the defer federal state tax of deceased owners

This could limit an estate owner from using Code Section 6166 which is a way of paying your estate tax over a period of time, giving you the option of paying over a 15-year period, five years of deferral and a ten-year payout.  A purchase from your estate could cause the loss of the right to defer the estate taxes.

A sale of Corporate interests may result in a loss of the entities corporate structure

This could limit the entities right to use its own loss carry back and carry forward losses on a significant change in ownership, which is possible without a well throughout BSA.

The cost of putting together a BSA

It takes time and money to put together a solid buy and sell agreement, Of course this is a disadvantage and it can be expensive, however, in order to have an optimal BSA, you will need to invest time and money.  You will also need a competent council to prepare the necessary documents.  This incurs costs.  Being educated in this strategy is to your advantage when designing your BSA.

A poorly drafted buy sell agreement can be costly:  By failing to carefully work out the terms of buy-sell agreement or by having mismatches between triggering events and the identity of the purchaser versus the funding source, a real mess could be created.

[i] Buy -Sell Agreements for Baby Boomer Business Owners Z. Christopher Mercer, ASA, CFA, ABAR

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 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”