Exit planning is a lot like preparing to climb Mount Everest; few people have the ability to do it on their own.
Jack of all trades and master of none: no one is an expert in all aspects of the exit planning process. But there are several key advisors who are able to guide you through succession planning and ensure you walk away having made the best decisions for both you and your business.
Here are the top 4 key business advisors we recommend as you start exit planning:
One of the most important roles of the attorney is in risk management. Typically new companies sign many agreements with vendors, suppliers, strategic partners, distributors, government agencies, employees, etc. Attorneys can help business owners in deciding the proper entity type for both tax advantages and personal liability protection.
When companies have more than one owner, they can draft agreements early on in case there is a change in ownership due to death or retirement. Most owners do not have sufficient legal knowledge to understand legalese and to know if they are being unfairly taken advantage of within the agreement. Attorneys are also well connected and can recommend other professionals or agencies for the company to use.
Regarding company succession, one of the most important (and often missing documents) is the buy-sell agreement. For companies with multiple owners, issues can arise if one of the owners becomes unable or unwilling to continue working, or would like to leave the venture and move on or retire. While a buy-sell agreement is best prepared in the beginning, it’s never too late if no agreement exists.
Attorneys also play a critical role to business owners during exit planning. They can facilitate the merger, sale, transfer of interest, purchase or change in operations/ownership. For example, there are numerous key components of a transaction that legal advice is critical for including representations & warranties, closing conditions, covenants after closing, and restrictive covenants after the closing. Understanding the intent of each of these and the overall agreement is critical and not something that most business owners are equipped to do on their own.
Investment Banker or M&A Advisors:
How can investment bankers help business owners with the sale of their company?
Investment bankers can help the business owner objectively understand and determine the valuation of their business. They can coach the owner on how to position the company to potential buyers in order to maximize value. They also will identify and market your company to broad spectrum of qualified financial and strategic buyers that the owner may not know or know how to approach.
Investment bankers can help increase the value of the transaction by preparing and running the auction process whereby multiple buyers bid against one another. Competition is the only way to ensure the owner has obtained the highest and best value for the company. Also, they are able to negotiate on behalf of the owner and if the need arises can be more assertive in bargaining while not damaging the owner’s relationship with the acquirer.
Investment bankers are also able to manage the entire sale process (which is very time consuming), allowing the owner to continue running the company during the sale process.
Wealth managers guide owners through the steps necessary to prepare for the financial ramifications of selling their businesses. This includes assisting them in understanding the tax liabilities associated with the sale and preparing them for the personal impact of selling a business.
The proceeds from the sale of the business represents your life’s work. It is important to develop a wealth management plan that matches your priorities, maintains your current lifestyle, and ensures your financial independence. One of the major obstacles to effective planning is the gap between the perception of wealth and reality of wealth. This is where the Wealth Manager can help by working with you to establish objectives for your wealth management plan. It should consider your interests, needs and concerns; acknowledge the involvement you want in philanthropy; incorporate your heirs’ interests; and consider your estate plan in a timely, effective and tax-efficient way.
Finance Professionals and Accountants
A lot of owners think that when they are ready to sell, they put their business on the market and are good to go. That’s just not the case. Just like how homeowners spruce up their house to make it more appealing and attractive to potential buyers prior to putting it on the market, the same idea applies to business owners preparing to sell.
Financial professionals and accountants are a key resource during the planning and staging process, helping the owner get their business ready to sell. They can advise the owner in setting key metrics, developing analytics, and ensuring that the financials tell the whole story about the business.
Many times, owners don’t understand the amount of work that goes into responding to buyer’s questions. During due diligence, buyers will often ask for a significant amount of information. Having additional finance professionals and accountants available to respond to the requests will enable the business to continue to run effectively through the entire process.
It’s never too early to start the succession planning process. For more information on how our team of finance and accounting experts can help ensure that your business is, or will be, ready to sell, contact us today.