Succession Planning: Selling the Business
July 31, 2019 | BY Shulem Rosenbaum
A business plan is not etched in stone and must be reviewed and updated continuously. Likewise, as with any planning, not everything will go according to plan. A business plan may have outlined the heirs that will inherit the business or the leaders in line for succession, but sometimes a company is sold as part of the larger estate plan. The business may be sold because the second generation doesn’t have the passion of the founder or the founder requires the funds as a nest egg upon retirement. As is the case when any business is sold, the retiring founder should properly prepare the company for sale.
The timing of a sale is critical. If the founder sells the company too early, then he or she can lose his/her occupation. Some people cannot imagine themselves being unemployed or no longer the owner of their company. However, if the business owner waits too long to sell the company, then his/her ambition may wane. The founder’s age or health may impact the company’s operations and profits, which will affect the value of the company at the time of sale.
The terms of the sale can also be negotiated to benefit the founder. The business can be sold in an all-cash deal, as part of a seller-financed transaction, and can include an earnout. An all-cash agreement may guarantee the business owner the purchase price of the company – but the due diligence process may be more burdensome. Moreover, the cash infusion should be invested and managed by a capable asset manager so that the funds remain for the duration of the retirement. A seller-financed transaction bears some risk to the seller but allows for a stream of cash flow with a fixed interest rate negotiated at the time of the sale. Finally, an earnout may be the most lucrative if the milestones are met and can provide the seller with an occupation after the sale.
Before deciding to sell the business, the business owner has to determine whether the company is salable. Although a business may be profitable, the company is not valuable if its revenues are generated strictly due to the owner’s creations or personal charm. The business is also not worth much if its processes and technology are obsolete. Business owners may also be unrealistic about the business’s worth. Although the founder may be emotionally attached to the company, sweat equity does not translate into value. The owner’s valuation must be supported by the company’s intrinsic value or cash flows.
Finally, the business owner must be ready to share all the details of the company’s operations and financials with potential buyers, accountants, and banks. A due diligence process may expose transactions that make you uncomfortable. Either tidy it up or get ready to explain its nature.
Run your strategic-planning meetings like they really matter
July 29, 2019 | BY admin
Many businesses struggle to turn abstract strategic-planning ideas into concrete, actionable plans. One reason why is simple: ineffective meetings. The ideas are there, lurking in the minds of management and key employees, but the process for hashing them out just doesn’t work. Here are a few ways to run your strategic-planning meetings like they really matter — which, of course, they do.
Meetings often fail because attendees feel more like spectators than participants. They are less likely to zone out if they have some say in the direction and content of the gathering. So, before the session, touch base with those involved and establish a clear agenda of the strategic-planning initiatives you’ll be discussing.
Another common problem with meetings occurs when someone leads the meeting, but no one owns it. As the meeting leader, be sure to speak with conviction and express positivity (if not passion) for the subject matter. (If others are delivering presentations during the proceedings, encourage them to do the same.)
To the extent possible, keep meetings short. Cover what needs to be covered, but ensure you’re concentrating only on what’s important. Go in armed with easy-to-follow notes so you’ll stay on track and won’t forget anything. The latter point is particularly important, because overlooked subjects often lead to hasty follow-up meetings that can frustrate employees.
In addition, if the contingent of attendees is large enough, consider having employees break out into smaller groups to focus on specific points. Then call the meeting back to order to discuss each group’s ideas. By mixing it up in such creative ways, you’ll keep employees more engaged.
Tell a story
There’s so much to distract employees in a meeting. If it’s held in the morning, the busy day ahead may preoccupy their thoughts. If it’s an afternoon meeting, they might grow anxious about their commutes home. If the meeting is a Web conference, there are a variety of distractions that may affect them. And there’s no getting around the ease with which participants can sneak peeks at their smartphones (or smart watches) to check emails, texts and the Internet.
How do you break through? People appreciate storytellers. So, think about how you can use this technique to find a more relaxed and engaging way to speak to everyone in the room. Devise a narrative that will grab attendees’ attention and keep them in suspense for a little bit. Then deliver a conclusion that will inspire them to work toward identifying fully realized, feasible strategic goals.
Make ’em great
Grumbling about meetings can be as much a part of working life as burnt coffee in the bottom of the breakroom pot. But don’t let this occasional negativity sway you from doing the critical strategic planning that every business needs to do. Your meetings can be great ones. We can’t help you run them, but we can assist you in assessing the financial feasibility and ramifications of your strategic plans.
Let’s find a better way to manage your receivables
July 24, 2019 | BY admin
Failure to collect accounts receivable (AR) in a timely manner can lead to myriad financial problems for your company, including poor cash flow and the inability to pay its own bills. Here are five effective ideas to facilitate more timely collections:
1. Create an AR aging report. This report lets you see at a glance the current payment status of all your customers and how much money they owe. Aging reports typically track the payment status of customers by time periods, such as 0–30 days, 31–60 days, 61–90 days and 91+ days past due.
Armed with this information, you’ll have a better idea of where to focus your efforts. For example, you can concentrate on collecting the largest receivables that are the furthest past due. Or you can zero in on collecting receivables that are between 31 and 60 days outstanding before they become any further behind.
2. Assign collection responsibility to a sole accounting employee. Giving one employee the responsibility for AR collections ensures that the “collection buck” stops with someone. Otherwise, the task of collections could fall by the wayside as accounting employees pick up on other tasks that might seem more urgent.
3. Re-examine your invoices. Your customers prefer bills that are clear, accurate and easy to understand. Sending out invoices that are sloppy, vague or inaccurate will slow down the payment process as customers try to contact you for clarification. Essentially you’re inviting your customers to not pay your invoices promptly.
4. Offer customers multiple ways to pay. The more payment options customers have, the easier it is for them to pay your invoices promptly. These include payment by check, Automated Clearing House, credit or debit card, PayPal or even text message.
5. Be proactive in your billing and collection efforts. Many of your customers may have specific procedures that must be followed by vendors for invoice formatting and submission. Learn these procedures and follow them carefully to avoid payment delays. Also, consider contacting customers a couple of days before payment is due (especially for large payments) to make sure everything is on track.
Lax working capital practices can be a costly mistake. Contact us to help implement these and other strategies to improve collections and boost your revenue and cash flow. We can also help you with strategies for dealing with situations where it’s become clear that a past-due customer won’t (or can’t) pay an invoice.
A buy-sell agreement can provide the liquidity to cover estate taxes
July 22, 2019 | BY admin
If you own an interest in a closely held business, it’s critical to have a well-designed, properly funded buy-sell agreement. Without one, an owner’s death can have a negative effect on the surviving owners.
If one of your co-owners dies, for example, you may be forced to go into business with his or her family or other heirs. And if you die, your family’s financial security may depend on your co-owners’ ability to continue operating the business successfully.
Buy-sell agreement and estate taxes
There’s also the question of estate taxes. With the federal gift and estate tax exemption currently at $11.4 million, estate taxes affect fewer people than they once did. But estate taxes can bring about a forced sale of the business if your estate is large enough and your family lacks liquid assets to satisfy the tax liability.
A buy-sell agreement requires (or permits) the company or the remaining owners to buy the interest of an owner who dies, becomes disabled, retires or otherwise leaves the business. It also establishes a valuation mechanism for setting the price and payment terms. In the case of death, the buyout typically is funded by life insurance, which provides a source of liquid funds to purchase the deceased owner’s shares and cover any estate taxes or other expenses.
Buy-sell agreements typically are structured as one of the following agreements:
- Redemption, which permits or requires the business as a whole to repurchase an owner’s interest,
- Cross-purchase, which permits or requires the remaining owners of the company to buy the interest, typically on a pro rata basis, or
- Hybrid, which combines the two preceding structures. A hybrid agreement, for example, might require a departing owner to first make a sale offer to the company and, if it declines, sell to the remaining individual owners.
Depending on the structure of your business and other factors, the type of agreement you choose may have significant income tax implications. They’ll differ based on whether your company is a flow-through entity or a C corporation. We can help you design a buy-sell agreement that’s right for your business.
Business Succession Planning: Goals and Objectives
July 18, 2019 | BY Shulem Rosenbaum
A company’s mission statement determines the objectives of a company, which impacts its value. To illustrate, when Amazon announced that it was buying Whole Foods, the grocery store stock, including Walmart, Kroger’s and Supervalu, plummeted. However, Costco – who experienced a brief dip in value – and privately-held Trader Joe’s were unfazed. Although Costco and Trader Joe’s compete in the same space, they did not employ the same business objectives as Amazon, Walmart, Kroger’s, or Supervalu.
While Amazon, Walmart, Kroger’s and Supervalu focus on cost leadership, Costco and Trader Joe’s emphasize quality and product differentiation. The market believed that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market endangered some companies more than others. However, since then – despite Amazon’s centralization of Whole Food Market’s purchasing, Whole Foods is eating into Trader Joe’s customers because it is, at this point, maintaining its mission and objective of quality over price.
A mission statement merely summarizes the company’s strategic plan, which defines the firm’s goals and objectives.
As part of the company’s strategic plan, the founder or management can establish its company scope, company plan, and operating plan. The company scope defines the lines of business and geographic areas of the business and determines whether the entity specializes in a narrow range of skill or activity or provide a broad number of good or services. A company plan sets forth specific, achievable goals or the company (e.g., cost leadership or product differentiation) and identifies qualitative and quantitative objectives that operating managers are expected to meet. An operating plan includes the product/service development plan, operations plan, organization plan, and marketing plan and provides management with detailed implementation guidance based on the company’s strategy.
An example of a company’s goals includes the management approach to employees. Some companies employ an authoritative style of leadership, while others opt to empower employees and implement a decentralized structure. The United States Steel Corporation was one of the largest corporations in the United States with more than 340,000 employees when Nucor Corporation began manufacturing steel. However, while U.S. Steel maintained the labor policies of its founder, Andrew Carnegie, the management of Nucor Corporation shared the authority and profits with its employees. This strategy resulted in Nucor Corporation becoming the largest steel manufacturer in the United States and the most profitable in its industry.