August 29, 2019 | BY admin
The benefit of owning publicly-traded stock is that its owner can liquidate it without much effort. While shares of a publicly-traded company are liquid and marketable, the sale of a privately-held business can be lengthy and exhaustive. Also, the stock market largely determines that value of shares in a public company, but the value of a private company is not readily determinable. Accordingly, once a business owner has decided to sell his/her business, the business owner must adequately prepare to sell the business and determine whether the company is saleable.
Define the Seller’s Goals and Objectives
The seller should consider the reason for selling the business and the ideal exit strategy. The goals and objectives can help the seller understand which group of buyers to target, the price and timing of the deal, and how to structure the terms of any eventual sale (i.e., tax consequences and the owner’s future involvement in the company). The acquirer can be a trusted employee or another partner, a financial buyer, or a strategic buyer.
An existing partner, employee, or employee pool will generally maintain the company’s character and will involve a less rigorous due diligence process but will result in a lower purchase price for the business. A financial buyer purchases the company to generate cash flow or economies of scale and often use debt to acquire the company. Financial buyers often use debt financing for 50% to 90% of the purchase price, which may involve banks or SBA underwriters in the due diligence process. Strategic buyers are competitors or companies that want to purchase the company to take advantage of financial or operational synergies, introduce complementary goods or services, or expand their product mix or geographic territory.
Establish a Value for the Company
The value of a company will often not determine the price that it will eventually sell for, but determining a realistic and reasonable valuation range can help set expectations about the business value. A valuation can also allow the seller to realistically assess the marketability of the business and establish the minimum price to sell the company. A business can be valued using a multiple of earnings or cash flow, or a discounted cash flow model, but the value must reflect the company’s overall financial health, industry trends, and projected growth. A company can also be valued based on its intellectual property, such as patents, workforce, and licenses. Although the pool of potential buyers will determine the price, the value will increase based on the quality of the business presentation and the nature of the buyers. For example, a strategic buyer will often pay more for a company than its fair market value.
Enhance the Value of the Business
The business owner should consult with professionals and advisory firms to enhance the value of the business before marketing it for sale. The business’s performance should be perfected, and the company’s strategic plan should be reviewed and improved. In addition, the company should make necessary changes to the management team, streamline processes and cut costs, reduce customer concentration, and focus on the business’s core competencies. However, the changes should not require a massive overhaul that is risky and may take too long to implement.
The business owner should also prepare the financials and optimize the financial strategy in a way that increases the value and prepares the company for due diligence. The can seller can boost sales with increased marketing and promotions, liquidate bloated or obsolete inventory, and aggressively collect any aged receivables.
Studies show that 90% of businesses listed for sale don’t sell. The reason for this is that sellers are often unrealistic about the value of the business, are not willing to plan the transition of the business, or do not have adequate accounting records.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
August 28, 2019 | BY admin
Among the fastest ways for a business to fail is because of mismanagement or malfeasance by ownership. On the other hand, among the slowest ways is an ineffective or dysfunctional sales department.
Companies suffering from this malady may maintain just enough sales to stay afloat for a while, but eventually they go under because they lose one big customer or a tough new competitor arrives on the scene. To ensure your sales department is contributing to business growth, not just survival, you’ve got to ask some tough questions. Here are four to consider:
1. Does our sales department communicate customers’ needs to the rest of the company? Your sales staff works on the front lines of your industry. They’re typically the first ones to hear of changes in customers’ needs and desires. Make sure your sales people are sharing this information in both meetings and written communications (sales reports, emails and the like).
It’s particularly important for them to share insights with the marketing department. But everyone in your business should be laser-focused on what customers really want.
2. Does the sales department handle customer complaints promptly and satisfactorily? This is related to our first point but critical enough to investigate on its own. Unhappy customers can destroy a business — especially these days, when everyone shares everything on social media.
Your sales staff should have a specific protocol for immediately responding to a customer complaint, gathering as much information as possible and offering a fair resolution. Track complaints carefully and in detail, looking for trends that may indicate deeper problems with your products or services.
3. Do our salespeople create difficulties for employees in other departments? If a sales department is getting the job done, many business owners look the other way when sales staff play by their own rules or don’t treat their co-workers with the utmost professionalism. Confronting a problem like this isn’t easy; you may unearth some tricky issues involving personalities and philosophies.
Nonetheless, your salespeople should interact positively and productively with other departments. For example, do they correctly and timely complete all necessary sales documents? If not, they could be causing major headaches for other departments.
4. Are we taking our sales staff for granted? Salespeople tend to spend much of their time “outside” a company — either literally out on the road making sales calls or on the phone communicating with customers. As such, they may work “out of sight and out of mind.”
Keep a close eye on your sales staff, both so you can congratulate them on jobs well done and fix any problems that may arise. Our firm can help you analyze your sales numbers to help identify ways this department can provide greater value to the company.
August 27, 2019 | BY admin
The average company’s balance sheet understates its value by 80%, according to Sarah Tomolonius, co-founder of the Sustainability Investment Leadership Council. Why? Intangible assets aren’t recorded on the balance sheet under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), unless they’re acquired from a third party.
Instead, GAAP generally calls for the costs associated with creating and maintaining these valuable assets to be expensed as they’re incurred — even though they provide future economic benefits.
Eye on intangibles
Many companies rely on intangible assets to generate revenue, and they often contribute significant value to the companies that own them. Examples of identifiable intangibles include:
- Brands and trademarks,
- Customer lists,
- Proprietary software, and
- A trained and knowledgeable workforce.
In a business combination, acquired intangible assets are reported at fair value. When a company is purchased, any excess purchase price that isn’t allocated to identifiable tangible and intangible assets and liabilities is allocated to goodwill.
Acquired goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangibles are tested at least annually for impairment under GAAP. But private companies may elect to amortize them over a period not to exceed 10 years. Impairment testing also may be required when a triggering event happens, such as the loss of a major customer or introduction of new technology that makes the company’s offerings obsolete.
Inquiring minds want to know
Investors are interested in the fair value of acquired goodwill because it enables them to see how a business combination fared in the long run. But what about intangibles that are developed in-house?
At a sustainability conference earlier in May, Tomolonius said that businesses are more sustainable when they’re guided by a complete understanding of their assets, both tangible and intangible. Assigning values to internally generated intangibles can be useful in various decision-making scenarios, including obtaining financing, entering into licensing and joint venture arrangements, negotiating mergers and acquisitions, and settling shareholder disputes.
Calls for change
For more than a decade, there have been calls for accounting reforms related to intangible assets, with claims that internally generated intangibles are the new drivers of economic activity and should be reflected in balance sheets. Proponents of changing the rules argue that keeping these assets off the balance sheet forces investors to rely more on nonfinancial tools to assess a company’s value and sustainability.
It’s unlikely that the accounting rules for reporting internally generated intangibles will change anytime soon, however. In a quarterly report released in August, Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) member Gary Buesser pointed to challenges the issue would pose, including the difficulty of recognizing and measuring the assets, costs to companies, and limited usefulness of the resulting information to investors. Buesser explained that “the information would be highly subjective, require forward looking estimates, and would probably not be comparable across companies.”
Want to learn more about your “untouchable” intangible assets? We can help you identify them and estimate their value, using objective, market-based appraisal techniques. Contact us for more information.
August 21, 2019 | BY admin
Operating a business as an S corporation may provide many advantages, including limited liability for owners and no double taxation (at least at the federal level). Self-employed people may also be able to lower their exposure to Social Security and Medicare taxes if they structure their businesses as S corps for federal tax purposes. But not all businesses are eligible — and with changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, S corps may not be as appealing as they once were.
Compare and contrast
The main reason why businesses elect S corp status is to obtain the limited liability of a corporation and the ability to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credits through to shareholders. In other words, S corps generally avoid double taxation of corporate income — once at the corporate level and again when it’s distributed to shareholders. Instead, tax items pass through to the shareholders’ personal returns, and they pay tax at their individual income tax rates.
But double taxation may be less of a concern today due to the 21% flat income tax rate that now applies to C corporations. Meanwhile, the top individual income tax rate is 37%. S corp owners may be able to take advantage of the qualified business income (QBI) deduction, which can be equal to as much as 20% of QBI.
In order to assess S corp status, you have to run the numbers with your tax advisor, and factor in state taxes to determine which structure will be the most beneficial for you and your business.
S corp qualifications
If you decide to go the S corp route, make sure you qualify and will stay qualified. To be eligible to elect to be an S corp or to convert, your business must:
- Be a domestic corporation,
- Have only one class of stock,
- Have no more than 100 shareholders, and
- Have only “allowable” shareholders, including individuals, certain trusts and estates. Shareholders can’t include partnerships, corporations and nonresident alien shareholders.
In addition, certain businesses are ineligible, such as financial institutions and insurance companies.
Base compensation on what’s reasonable
Another important consideration when electing S status is shareholder compensation. One strategy for paying less in Social Security and Medicare employment taxes is to pay modest salaries to yourself and any other S corp shareholder-employees. Then, pay out the remaining corporate cash flow (after you’ve retained enough in the company’s accounts to sustain normal business operations) as federal-employment-tax-free cash distributions.
However, the IRS is on the lookout for S corps that pay shareholder-employees unreasonably low salaries to avoid paying employment taxes and then make distributions that aren’t subject to those taxes.
Paying yourself a modest salary will work if you can prove that your salary is reasonable based on market levels for similar jobs. Otherwise, you run the risk of the IRS auditing your business and imposing back employment taxes, interest and penalties. We can help you decide on a salary and gather proof that it’s reasonable.
Consider all angles
Contact us if you think being an S corporation might help reduce your tax bill while still providing liability protection. We can help with the mechanics of making an election or making a conversion, under applicable state law, and then handling the post-conversion tax issues.
August 19, 2019 | BY admin
How well do you listen to your not-for-profit’s supporters? If you don’t engage in “social listening,” your efforts may not be good enough. This marketing communications strategy is popular with for-profit companies, but can just as easily help nonprofits attract and retain donors, volunteers and members.
Social media monitoring
Social listening starts with monitoring social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for mentions of your organization and related keywords. But to take full advantage of this strategy, you also must engage with topics that interest your supporters and interact with “influencers,” who can extend your message by sharing it with their audiences.
Influencers don’t have to be celebrities with millions of followers. Connecting with a group of influencers who each have only several hundred followers can expand your reach exponentially. For example, a conservation organization might follow and interact with a popular rock climber or other outdoor enthusiast to reach that person’s followers.
Targeting your messages
To use social listening, develop a list of key terms related to your organization and its mission, programs and campaigns. You’ll want to treat this as a “living document,” updating it as you launch new initiatives. Then “listen” for these terms on social media. Several free online tools are available to perform this monitoring, including Google Alerts, Twazzup and Social Mention.
When your supporters or influencers use the terms, you can send them a targeted message with a call to action, such as a petition, donation solicitation or event announcement. Your call to action could be as simple as asking them to share your content.
You can also use trending hashtags (a keyword or phrase that’s currently popular on social media) to keep your communications relevant and leverage current events on a real-time basis. Always be on the lookout for creative ways to join conversations while promoting your organization or campaign.
Actively seeking opportunity
Most nonprofits have a presence on social media. But if your organization isn’t actively listening to and communicating with people on social media sites, you’re only a partial participant. Fortunately, social listening is an easy and inexpensive way to engage and become engaged.