Tuesday, March 29, 2016

5 key issues in family business succession planning

A recent article on Forbes.com identifies five key issues that a family business lawyer should consider when discussing succession planning with clients who are transitioning a family business to a new generation.  The issues listed in the article are:

  1. Generational transition. Only a third of all family businesses successfully make the transition to the second generation.
  2. Alignment of family interests. Alignment of interests between current owners and others becomes more pronounced as members retire and turn over the reins to the new generation, while at the same time looking to the company for their retirement income.
  3. Balancing of financial returns. Creating buyout agreements is challenging. When the retiring generation looks to the value of their interest, they sometimes tend to look to a balance sheet number. In fact, the true value of a business should probably be based on an earnings capitalization model, a concept unfamiliar to many smaller family companies.
  4. Interfamily disputes. The interest of one family member may not be aligned with another family member. These situations can become even more difficult where there is, for example, a divorce of a family owner or a death and the surviving spouse is holding stock (and voting rights) but is not involved in the business.
  5. Estate and inheritance issues. These include taxes and probate delays upon the death of a family owner.
Of course, every family business is different and every family is different.  In relatively small family-owned businesses, for example, the current $5 million unified estate and gift tax exemption may take estate taxes completely out of the equation.  

Succession planning for family-owned businesses is an area where professional advice from an experienced family business attorney is critical.  Crafting a workable solution with the family can avoid or at least minimize the discord that often comes after the death of the principal owner and can help assure that the transition of the business to the succeeding generation is as smooth as possible.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Attorney is most important outside adviser to many family businesses.

Family businesses frequently look to outside advisors to fill important needs in running their businesses.  According to a recent article in Forbes, the most important advisor named by 16% of family businesses was their attorney, second only to the business' accountant (named as the most important by 2 out of 5 businesses).

According to the Forbes article:
Successful middle-market family business relies on a number of different professional to deal with a usually broad and diverse array of business and family-related matters. While they many times engage quite a number of different professionals, when they are looking for advice that addresses important issues impacting the family and the business (especially the business) the advisor identified most often relied upon are the firms’ accountants.
In an international survey of 336 C-level executives managing their family firms, slightly more than two out of five of them reported that their accountants were identified as their most important type of advisor. About 16% cited their attorneys. One in 10 identified their bankers or other business owners filling the role. Around 6% said it was their business coach or their family business consultant. Less than 5% of those surveyed cited management consultants, or financial advisors/wealth managers, or other professionals.
The article notes that the relationship is typically a personal one with the individual professional providing the service, not the firm he is with.  When asked, 30% of the businesses interviewed said that when the individual professional changed firms, the businesses follows.

For middle-market family businesses, when looking for a business attorney, it is important to keep in mind that while good technical skills are important, the ability to build a long-term trusting relationship is critical.

“Good advisors are not only highly technically proficient, they build strong relationships with key personnel at the family business. These relationships are based on integrity and trust as well as a deep understanding of their requirements and preferences,” says John Bowen of AESNation. “The relationship is usually with the professional, not his or her firm. So, it’s only to be expected when that professional changes affiliations, they bring their clients along.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New SBA mobile application brings enhanced access to information and resources

Smart phone users interested in starting or growing a small business can now find helpful resources at their fingertips via a new SBA mobile application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Increasingly, smart phones are the vehicle through which Americans access information. This is certainly true of many entrepreneurs and small business owners and this new application ensures they will have access to SBA’s resources and programs – literally at their fingertips,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. “Greater mobility fits with the new user-focused SBA.gov launched recently, and is another example of the steps we are taking to do a better job of connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools to help them start or grow their businesses and create jobs.”

Developed and donated as a gift by Palo Alto Software, Inc., the SBA mobile app will make the search for extensive resources more efficient, whether users are starting a new business or taking an existing business to a new level. The app will first be available for the Apple iPhone®, with future versions for other smart phone platforms.

“Palo Alto Software’s mission is to help small businesses succeed. We’ve developed this mobile application for the SBA because we understand the importance of having the right tools and resources when starting or growing a business,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software. “Ideas can strike entrepreneurs at any moment, and having useful resources available through mobile devices could be the impetus that begins the next big company.”

The mobile app will help users connect with SBA district office staff and SBA-affiliated counselors and mentors who can provide free, personalized small business assistance. The user-friendly format of the app will help answer questions such as: How do I start a business? Where can I go in my area to get free help with writing a business plan? And where do I begin finding funding for my business?

The SBA mobile app also features a built-in startup cost calculator to help estimate the costs associated with getting a business off the ground, plus an SBA partner locator to help users find SBA offices, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE.

Users will also have mobile access to SBA video content and social media alerts to provide them with tips on the go. This will include live updates from the SBA’s YouTube channel and from SBA’s Twitter feeds. The free mobile app can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/content/sba-mobile-app.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Celebrate Small Business Saturday

This Saturday, November 27, is the first ever Small Business Saturday.  The day after “Black Friday,” the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season, is being promoted by American Express and other partners as a day to patronize your locally-owned small business.

To back up its promotion, American Express is offering a $25 credit to the first 250,000 people who pre-register a credit card and spend at least $25 at a small, independently owned business on November 27.

The Small Business Saturday campaign on Facebook offered $100 worth of Facebook advertising to the first 10,000 businesses to sign up, along with free promotional materials. As of Friday, almost 1,000,000 Facebook users have hit the “like” button for Small Business Saturday. 

The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau is one of 21 major sponsors for the event across the country.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SBA Raises Maximum Loan Sizes

The U.S. Small Business Administration has implemented a major element of the Small Business Jobs Act: increasing maximum sizes in several of its loan programs.

“Across the country, there are small businesses owners who are in a position to take that next step to grow and create jobs, and these larger loan sizes provide another tool to help them do just that,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said.  “Whether they’re in the start-up phase and could use a microloan or are looking to take advantage of lower real estate prices and interest rates to buy a new building to expand, SBA loans can now be an even greater resource to help entrepreneurs and small business owners get the capital they need.

“Additionally, temporarily increasing the cap on SBA Express loans from $350,000 to $1 million will allow more small businesses to take advantage of the streamlined approval process for working lines of credit and other capital they need,” Mills said.

Under the Jobs Act provisions, SBA has permanently increased 7(a) and 504 limits to $5 million from $2 million, and for manufacturers and certain energy-related projects seeking 504 loans, to $5.5 million.  The maximum for International Trade and Export Working Capital loans also has been increased to $5 million.

SBA also permanently increased microloan limits to $50,000 (from $35,000), helping larger entrepreneurs with start-up costs and small business owners in underserved communities. It also raised the limit on Export Express loans to $500,000 and made the program permanent.

The limits on SBA Express loans have been temporarily raised to $1 million for one year.  These loans offer a streamlined application process with reduced paperwork and approval often in a matter of days.  Unlike traditional 7(a) loans, SBA Express loans carry a 50 percent guarantee and can be used as revolving lines of credit – to help restock inventories and support larger revenue sales – which are particularly critical for small businesses as they emerge out of the recession.

SBA previously implemented the alternate size standard that was included in the Jobs Act. That provision expands eligibility for SBA-backed loans, increasing the alternate size standard to include small businesses with less than $15 million in net worth and $5 million in average net income.

The bill provided the agency with new funding to support an estimated $14 billion in lending to small businesses with the extension of higher guarantees and reduced fees in the top two loan programs, first implemented as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Jobs Act also includes more resources to help increase lending to small businesses. The State Small Business Credit Initiative will support $15 billion in lending through local programs and the Small Business Lending Fund will provide capital to local, community banks to increase their lending to small businesses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seven Steps to Managing Your Time in Your Family Business

In a typical family business, the owners wear many hats. As the business grows, it gets harder and harder to juggle all the tasks and duties that the manager of the family business must accomplish in a day.

Here are 7 steps to help you manage your own time:
  1. List all tasks and rank them by their importance.
  2. Plan and estimate the time required for every task.
  3. Prepare a list of no more than 20 tasks you need to do in one day, sorted from the most important to the least.
  4. Ensure that all listed tasks are necessary. If any task is not really essential, delete it from the list.
  5. Determine whether anyone else, in your organization or outside it, can do any of listed tasks for you. Assign that task to the appropriate person.
  6. Organize your remaining tasks systematically and logically in the most efficient order, keeping in mind which tasks are the most important to complete by the end of the day.
  7. Once you start, focus on a single task and delete it from your list as soon as it is completed. Avoid switching back and forth between tasks.

If you follow these 7 simple steps, you will find that you are once again in control of your day!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Business Network International Summit comes to Chicago

The 21st Family Business Network International Summit will be held in Chicago on October 1-2, 2010. This year's theme is "Innovation: Keeping the Family Business Vibrant for Generations." Keynote speakers include Chris Galvin, former Chairman and CEO of Motorola; Admiral William Owens, former Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and current Chairman and CEO, AEA Holdings Asia; and John Elkann, Chairman of FIAT and EXOR (Agnelli Family).

"This year's summit investigates the role of innovation through an array of exceptional speakers who will include Moira Forbes, publisher of ForbesWoman, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, Chairman of Champagne Taittinger, Boja Pascual Gomez-Cuetera, Grupo Leche Pascual board member and Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson," adds Andrew Keyt, director of the American Chapter of FBN and Executive Director of the Loyola University Chicago Family Business Center.

The sponsor of the summit, The Family Business Network, is a nonprofit leading international family business organization which gathers family business owners from all over the world.
More than 500 CEOs, owners and family owners of the world's most powerful global families from 40 countries will discuss how they combine their deep-rooted traditions with a higher level of risk taking to continually innovate. Participation is limited to members of family businesses, CEOs of family owned businesses or by special invitation from FBN International or its chapters.