Compensation of Business Owners! The Good And The Bad!

Owners of small private companies normally receive income as a salary, rather than dividends, and capital gain on the sale of their stock. They also receive other compensatory benefits. In many cases, the business owners can receive rental income from property and assets leased to the company and owned personally (either outright or in trust) by the business owner.  

Because of the tax structure of the company, business owners often find it more tax effective to pay the compensation, rent, royalties from their company to the owner, at the high end of the scale, rather than the low side (common in C Corps).  

A Detriment to The Owner When There Is an Exit 

Receiving this higher scaled income and rental, may have some advantages for tax purposes, and the creation of wealth.  

Having the tax advantages for the business owner, may be a detriment to the selling price during exit planning. This is because the rents and compensation paid to the owner on the higher side lowers the net income of the business.  

When rental and salary compensation are paid on the elevated level, they affect the net income/or net operating cash flow, which creates a downward impact on the selling price! 

At the Time of Exit Transition 

The owner must justify the payout of rental income, compensation, royalties, and other compensatory income. They need to justify the overpayment of this compensation. In a way, the owner must back track the justification of paying the enhanced payouts in the stated areas of compensation. This may put the owner in a position of receiving nondeductible “constructive dividends” paid by the company, resulting in a retroactive tax liability.  

Minority shareholders of the company could complain that the enhanced payments to the owner’s transgression of overpayments is a breach of a fiduciary duty owned to them. Since the over self-generous payouts to themself, there is an effect on the stock value. Consequently, minority stockholders are going to be affected by depressed value. This concerns stock bonus to minority stockholders and key persons.  

One of the solutions to this issue is to start to shift part of the enhanced payouts to more of a mid-level range of the fair market value. This will allow you to enhance the net income/net operating income for the company.  

Along with enhancing the net income and net operating income for the company the shifting of revenue to middle-management, will build a stronger management team.  

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.  

Insight 18 Key Groups Have a Voice In Your Company!

Your Key Group Holds The Key To Your Success! But! You Need To Listen To Them!

This was an interesting case we worked on. There were a few educational moments that I would like to share with you. 

Scenario:  Three brothers owned a successful manufacturing company. The company had several government contracts over the years and built an exceptionally good reputation with the government agency. These contracts were very profitable and kept the company busy. The company took pride in its work, delivery of the projects, and having the staff to accommodate the project, which lead to ongoing contracts. Over time, it became clear that doing work for the government and a few other companies was all the manufacturing company needed to be profitable and grow. 

So, what is the problem? On the outside, nothing, but inside there were some disturbing situations brewing. 

This scenario set up the problem we had to deal with. The key person in the firm developed a strong relationship with the agency head who awarded the contracts. He did an excellent job enhancing the relationship over the years. Through his efforts, the owners were able to be very profitable and to take sizable salaries each year. 

Because the key person ran the business like he was the owner, the three owners were able to take a lot of time off. They usually spend about two days in the business a week and took long vacations. 

The problem started when the owners decided to give the key person a large bonus the past year for doing a fantastic job. However, the key person assumed this would be the norm each year. A good salary and a fabulous bonus, which the key person was looking for each year. So, when a new year rolled around, there was anticipation by the key person to receive the bonus. When he approached the owners about the bonus, there was a clear disconnect between their vision and the employees. 

The owners felt that the bonus was based on performance of a particular year and did not think the key person would be looking for this substantial bonus each year. In a way, the owners felt they were being held hostage by the key person. “Once a luxury, it became the necessity”

However, when we broke it down for them, they realized the key person had the relationship with the government agency, not the owners (they did not even know the contact). The government contract represented about 40-50% of their sales. The keyman also had a great relationship with the private companies. We suggested to the owners that key person was more than a key person, he was their middle management! 

PROBLEM: The key person wants to receive a bonus as if it was part of his salary each year. Owners did   not want to pay it! Also, the company had 40% or more of its revenue in one basket (the government agency). 

Our part:  We communicated to the owners that based on the relationship the key person has with the vendors and customers, there would be a potential disaster if the key person were to leave. A few things which would happen: 

  1. He would take the business to a new employer.
  2. He could take employees with him. 
  3. He could stay but put less of an effort in building the business. 

After looking at all the facts, the owners realized they had a great deal and what they were receiving from the efforts of the key person was certainly more than what the keyperson wanted. 

 Educational moment:  We suggested the following.

  1. Owners communicate to the key person that he is a part of the growth of the company, and not only give him a bonus, but include an incentive of a % of business growth, or some metric that was measurable.
  2. Create a “graded-vested benefit,” which would be hard for the key person to walk away from. 
  3. Execute a non-compete clause and a non-disclosure agreement concurrently with the implementation of a selected benefit for the key person. “This is what we would like to give you, but for this we want you to agree to this.
  4. We discussed the disproportionate revenue from the government and discussed ways to increase their customer base. We suggested that no more than 10-15% of revenue should be coming from one source. 

These were only a few of the steps we suggested. 

It is common for owners to reevaluate their middle management; however, compensation is only part of the equation. Creating a middle management culture takes time, loyalty, along with compensation and benefits. Your key person(s), may be one of the most valuable assets of your company. Certainly, it is one of the value drivers which increase the value of your company. 

Critical Step Needed To Create An Exit Strategy! Part 1 

Some business owners think that selling their business is a matter of getting an appraisal and putting the business on the market hoping for a good offer.

Many business owners that I have worked with initially assumed they knew the value of their business and what they could sell it for.

Through our education process they realized there is much more to selling their business, then just the establishing a value and then going to market.     One of those factors or variables is whether the business owner needs the business value for their future retirement, most do!

Helping the owner figure out what they need for retirement is critical in establishing what they need to sell their business for, and what action is needed to increase the future value of the business (Value Drivers).  In this article I will cover two of the seven steps that  are the most critical when planning a future exit from the business.

Whether the sale is one year or ten years from now, these are the steps needed to sell  a business.

  1. Must identify the Exit Objectives (why, when, and in some cases who) 
  2. Identify Personal and business financial resources; (this is part of the future financial security of the business owner and their family).  
  3. Maximize and Protect Business Value
  4. Ownership Transfer to Third Parties
  5. Ownership Transfers to Insiders
  6. Business Continuity
  7. Personal Wealth and Estate planning

In this post I will cover steps 1-3, and cover steps 4-7 in the June issue.  

In comprehensive Exit planning, (when you break the process down it looks like this):

Your Exit Objectives

  • Building and preserving business value
  • Selling your company to a third party
  • Transferring your ownership to insiders

Your Business and Personal Financial Resources

  • Business Continuity
  • Personal wealth and estate planning

Owner’s goals and aspirations are

  • Financial Need
  • Overall Goals
  • Value based goals
  • Defining the owner’s goals and aspirations shows the client’s wants and needs and identifies what is  important to the business owner. By spending time collecting this information from the business owner we establish a strong relationship, while differentiating you, and allowing you to be the quarterback of the plan.

Accurate information from the owner is critical to planning.      Calculating what the GAP of resources the owner needs to have in order to supply their future retirement income is critical.  It is here where the measurement of their resources helps to decide what they need to sell their business for, to help fund the gap.    Continue reading “Critical Step Needed To Create An Exit Strategy! Part 1 “

Single Appraiser vs. Multiple Appraiser Choices

This month I wrote about multiple and single Appraiser choice.  My friend Ed Pratesi was nice enough to give me some of his thoughts, which I definitely respect due to his experience and training.   Ed, thank you for this contribution.

Ed Pratesi wrote:

I read with interest your comments on Single Appraiser vs. Multiple Appraiser choices that owners have for a BSA. I agree in part with your assessment that the single appraiser choice is preferred but I do have a number of caveats and suggest that before the number of appraisers needed is secondary to choices made before this decision. Let me explain my thoughts:

Firstly, the choice of number of appraisers almost always works, whether one, two or the three step approach – except when it doesn’t!

Prior to the determination of the number of appraisers needed is preceded by what I refer to as the education process that a business appraiser must take the owners through in order to develop an agreement and a process that will likely be triggered when an unanticipated or unfortunate event has occurred.

In never ceases to amaze me that owners will spend money on creating a business plan, invest in physical assets and talent and not spend enough time on one of the most important events that will occur in their lives – either their exit or a partners exit. My complaint is not pointed at the owners but at the appraiser called in to initially called in to assist in the valuation.

My point simply is the an appraiser needs to explain the valuation process, the valuation methods used to value a business, the applicability or not of the methods to the company, a discussion of the definition of value – (for example fair market value or fair value, more on this in a later discussion), a complete discussion of adjustments that appraiser consider in the valuation process, and what discounts could apply and the reasons for application of discounts.

This part of the valuation process is more consultative and sets the framework for the conduct of an initial appraisal and of the work product. Finally, once the appraisal is complete a meeting to discuss the results and the process is essential and should be prefeaced with scenario planning should a provision of the BSA be triggered.

The goal is to get buy-in on the process not just the number!

I hope I have addressed part of the discussion of the number of appraisers – more to follow if desired…

Ed Pratesi

Edward E. Pratesi, ASA, CM&AA, ABV, CVA

Managing Director | UHY Advisors N.E., LLC
6 Executive Drive, Farmington, CT  06032
D: 860 519 5648 | C: 860 558 0453 | F: 860 519 1982

epratesi@uhy-us.com |  www.uhyvaluation.com

www.linkedin.com/in/ed-pratesi-140b762

 

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?