Exit/Transition Planning

I once had the thrill of interviewing Jerry West on management. He was “The Logo” for the NBA, although back then they didn’t advertise him as such. Only the Laker followers knew for sure. In 1989 the “Showtime” Lakers were coming off back-to-back championships.  Pat Riley was a year away from his first of three Coach of the Year awards. 

When it comes to careers, business owners are a minority of the population. In conversations this week, I mentioned the statistics several times, and each owner I was discussing it with was surprised that they had so few peers. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over 33,000,000 businesses in the US. Let’s discount those with zero employees. Many are shell companies or real estate holding entities. Also, those with fewer than 5 employees, true “Mom and Pop” businesses, are hard to distinguish from a job. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Association, lists businesses with 5 to 99 employees at about 3,300,000, and 123,000 have 100 to 500 employees (the SBA’s largest “small business” classification.) Overall, that means about 1% of the country are private employers. Owners are a small minority, a very small minority, of the population. Even if we only count working adults (161,000,000) business owners represent only a little more than 2% of that population. So What? Where am I going with this, and how does it relate to our recent discussions of purpose in business exit planning? It’s an important issue to consider when discussing an owner’s identity after transition. Whether or not individual owners know the statistics of their “rare species” status in society, they instinctively understand that they are different. They are identified with their owner status in every aspect of their business and personal life. At a social event, when asked “What do you do?” they will often respond “I own a business.” It’s an immediate differentiator from describing a job. “I am a carpenter.” or “I work in systems engineering,” describes a function. “I am a business owner” describes a life role. When asked for further information, the owner frequently replies in the Imperial first person plural. “We build multi-family housing,” is never mistaken for a personal role in the company. No one takes that answer to mean that the speaker swings a hammer all day. Owners are a Minority We process much of our information subconsciously. If a man enters a business gathering, for example, and the others in the room are 75% female, he will know instinctively, without consciously counting, that this business meeting or organization is different from others he attends. Similarly, business owners accept their minority status without thinking about it. They expect that the vast majority of the people they meet socially, who attend their church, or who have kids that play sports with theirs, work for someone else. There are places where owners congregate, but otherwise, they don’t expect to meet many other owners in the normal course of daily activity. This can be an issue after they exit the business. You see, telling people “I’m retired” has no distinction. Roughly 98% of the other people who say that never built an organization. They didn’t take the same risks. Others didn’t deal with the same broad variety of issues and challenges. Most didn’t have to personally live with the impact of every daily decision they made, or watch others suffer the consequences of their bad calls. That is why so many former owners suffer from a lack of identity after they leave. Subconsciously, they expect to stand out from the other 98%. “I’m retired” carries no such distinction.       This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on

The sale of a business marks a major life event. It’s emotional, stressful, and exciting all at the same time. And unfortunately, it’s often a lot of work. Most business owners will only experience the process of selling a business once in their life. This is both good and bad news. On the bright side, you only need to get through it once. But many business owners aren’t ready for the process and risk leaving money on the table as a result. With many sellers relying on the sale to fund their retirement and lifelong financial goals, getting it right from the start is critical. Here are tips from sell-side business advisors on what to do (and not do) when selling a business. What to do (and not do) when selling a business Start thinking about selling your business early — really early One of the top mistakes sellers make when selling their business is not starting the process early enough. There are many reasons starting last minute can really hurt your bottom line. It’s not uncommon for business owners to assume they’ll never retire at some point during their life. But as often happens, life changes. Perhaps health concerns for you or a spouse make continuing to run your business difficult. Or maybe you eventually lose the excitement when getting up every day and want a change of pace. Sudden sales or immediate retirements Unfortunately, when business owners want to sell with a tight timeline (or fire sale), they may have fewer options to exit. It’s not uncommon for some buyers to want the owner and/or members of the management team to stay on for a period to help with the transition. If there’s an earn-out, it’ll usually require the seller to stick with the company for different milestones (time, financial, or otherwise) to earn the full purchase price. Earn-outs aren’t ideal for sellers, but if you’re unwilling or unable to consider deals with any continuation component, it could impact the sale price, timeline to find a buyer, or both. Make your business more sellable later by getting advice now Business brokers often recommend getting a valuation done years before expecting to sell the company. Sarah Grossman, Principal of BayState Business Brokers in Needham, MA, says this helps sellers “shape their timeline and any financial planning that needs to be completed prior to a sale.” Understanding the fair market value of the company is critical to setting expectations for the seller, but understanding the drivers of the valuation can help increase the sale price over time. Grossman says, “a [business] broker can advise them on things they can do in their business over the next few years to make it more saleable when it does go on the market.” How to maximize your cash at closing Aaron Naisbitt, Managing Director at Dunn Rush & Co, an investment bank focused on sell-side M&A in Boston, MA, emphasizes the importance of going to market and knowing what your business is worth. He says, “the biggest mistake many businesses owners make is not running a competitive process when the business is capable of attracting interest from a broad number of buyers. This mistake most often occurs when the owner has already made the second biggest mistake – not taking the time to educate themselves and prepare adequately for the process.” Not every business will be able to run a competitive process. But those that can, and don’t, “Will leave money and terms on the table if they do not do so” he adds. Getting professional help is key here as trying to negotiate a sale directly with a buyer might be short-sighted. Grossman says it’s not uncommon for sellers to be approached directly by competitors. She cautions sellers considering working with buyers directly as “They could be leaving significant money on the table without a clear understanding of the valuation of their company. Sellers also need to work with a broker and their advisors to understand a typical deal structure so that they can maximize their cash at closing.” The importance of understanding the terms of the deal cannot be overstated. This is where money is made or lost. Naisbitt cautions that sometimes terms can sound really good, but aren’t always common sense. He adds that without an advisor, sellers “Don’t know where to argue.” During negotiations, you have to consider “What is it that’s important to you and what are you willing to give up” he says. Exit planning is not time to DIY — assemble your team of advisors When selling a company, gathering your team of advisors early on is key to getting a successful outcome. Again, odds are you haven’t sold a business before and probably won’t again. We don’t know what we don’t know…and you only have one shot to get this right. Your team of business and personal advisors will be instrumental in getting the deal over the finish line. Your business advisory team may consist of: a business broker or M&A advisor, accounting and tax advisors, and transaction/M&A attorney. On the personal side, your sudden wealth advisor who focuses on helping individuals experiencing a transformative liquidity event. Be sure to involve your wealth advisor in discussions around deal terms too. For example, when considering deal structure, it’s important to ensure alignment with your objectives or financial needs. What are your income needs after the sale or do you have plans for a big purchase? Your advisor can help determine how much cash you need at closing and whether to consider the pros and cons of arrangements like an installment sale. And at closing, a financial advisor can help you determine Section 1202, realizing the gain over time with an installment sale, asset versus stock purchase, or state tax implications such as the charitable goals, legacy objectives for heirs, or estate tax planning strategies. Brokers explain what sellers are most unprepared for during the process Selling a business is a lot of work. In addition to running the company in the usual course of business, sellers also need to comply with a host of due diligence requests from the buyer’s team and the lender financing the transaction. The magnitude of this process is by far the most 

    Truth in pricing is a common issue when discussing the sale of a business. The selling price of their company is a point of pride for any owner. When they are willing to share the price they were paid, they usually include everything that was listed in the purchase agreement. While there is nothing inherently dishonest about that, it’s often not exactly the truth either. In our

In our first blog in this series, “Selling My Business, What Should I Expect,” we talked about what to expect in the sale process to a third party. If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest reading it to set the stage for this discussion on business valuation and how it fits into exit strategy. If you did read it, give it a quick reread: “A complimentary hour with David David Shavzin, Exit Strategist / M&A Advisor Value Creation, Exit Strategy, Business Sales Founder and President, Exit Planning Exchange Atlanta 770-329-5224 // david@GetOnTheValueTrack.com // 

When you sit down for an intergenerational conversation about the future of the family business, it’s essential to have multiple goals before you. For instance, maintaining healthy family relationships is as vital as ensuring the business’s ongoing success during a period of transition. Family conflicts often arise from differing opinions, visions, values, or unresolved issues. Emotions can escalate, clouding judgment and diverting focus from the goal of a successful transition. A structured approach not only aids in crafting a resilient succession plan but also fosters unity, ensuring that the business thrives, and relationships are preserved for future generations. In particular, having structured, intergenerational conversations can help your family address ten common issues, ensuring smoother transitions and superior outcomes. 10 Common Issues that Succession Planning Can Resolve Vision for the Future Each generation has its vision for the future of the business. Often, the founding generation wishes for their successors to continue doing things just as they have done, while the children or grandchildren long to do things their way. An intergenerational conversation can help to clarify expectations and aspirations, helping all stakeholders find common ground. Roles and Responsibilities Clarity on who will take on which roles and responsibilities after the transition is crucial. This includes defining new roles for outgoing members if they plan to stay involved, as is often the case with parents who wish to ease away from the business without being cut out of the loop entirely. A structured conversation helps everyone know their role and avoid overstepping. Leadership Style New management often involves a new leadership style, especially when successors have very different personalities or communication styles from their parents. Again, a structured, intergenerational conversation is imperative to ensure new leadership styles can seamlessly integrate into the family business. Financial Expectations Expectations regarding profit distribution, reinvestment, and personal financial planning are often contentious. Having a transparent financial discussion can help to eliminate misunderstandings. Conflict Resolution Conflict is bound to happen even in the most tightly knit families and the most jovial business environments. A conversation about succession planning can provide an opportunity to discuss potential resolution methods, perhaps even introducing a process for third-party mediation. Training and Development Address the need for training and preparation for those taking on new roles, including the possibility of external education or internal mentoring. It is much better to clarify the expectations (and the available resources) before a new generation takes over. Cultural and Value Differences Generational shifts bring changes in company culture and values. These shifts must be managed carefully to maintain the company’s identity, even during a period of transition or evolution. Retirement and Exit Strategies Discussing retirement plans and exit strategies is essential for outgoing family members. This includes financial security and the emotional aspects of leaving the business. It’s good to help the older generation feel validated and supported while also allowing their successors a chance for empathy and understanding. Legal and Estate Planning Ensure all legal issues, including wills, trusts, and ownership documents, are addressed. Legal clarity can prevent any friction or conflict in the future. For this part of the conversation, it may be prudent to invite an attorney to be present. Recognition and Legacy Discuss how the contributions of outgoing family members will be recognized. It’s crucial to respect their legacy and to reinforce their lasting value to the company. Have a Clear Conversation About Family Business Succession Planning Succession planning is vital to preserving your family business legacy and maintaining smooth relationships between the generations. If you have any questions about initiating these structured conversations, we’d love to help. Reach out to WhiteWater Consulting at your convenience!

The Value Gap is one of the most used phrases in exit planning. Simply stated, it’s the difference between what a business owner would realize if he or she sold the company today, and what they need to embark on a financially secure “next act” after business ownership. Both amounts can be determined with some accuracy by professionals. A qualified appraiser will analyze a company, its prospects, differentiation, markets, and comparative businesses and develop a value for the business. A good financial planner will look at savings, expected income, anticipated lifestyle expenses, life expectancy, and inflation and develop a scenario for the amount needed to fund those expectations. Simple, right? Financial plan requirements minus net proceeds from the business transfer equals the value gap. Testing the Value Gap If it is so simple, why do so few business owners do it? Instead, they value their businesses by hearsay, misestimate their lifestyle needs by a substantial margin, and think “I’ll probably be fine.” In fact, fewer than one owner in five has even documented any plan for their transition. Let’s take my favorite business owner, Bob of Bob’s Widgets Inc. Bob pays himself $120,000 a year and lives nicely on that amount. So he estimates that $10,000 a month should cover his lifestyle in retirement. To generate that, he needs $3,000,000 in savings with a 4% return. That means he has to sell his business for about $4,000,000, assuming 24% capital gains tax.  His company sold $7,000,000 in widgets last year, with a $500,000 pre-tax bottom line, so he is sure it’s worth at least $4,000,000. (We’ll discuss this valuation in my next column.) But wait a minute. Is Bob really making $120,000 a year? He drives a Ford Super-Duty company truck that cost $85,000. The payment is about $1,500 a month. Insurance, maintenance and fuel are paid for by the company. Bob’s Widgets Inc. also pays for Bob’s $750 a month health insurance, his $1,200 monthly life insurance, and his $7,200 annual personal tax preparation bill. “Sellers Discretionary Expenses” Bob’s company expenses are not only common, but he doesn’t really take all that much in comparison to some owners. Any advisor can tell stories of company-paid second homes, family trips and other expenses far less business-related than Bob’s. Without going beyond what would be considered “normal” owner perks, we can add about $58,000 a year in post-tax spending to Bob’s lifestyle. At his 4% return assumption, that adds another $1,450,000 in post-tax proceeds from the business to his need for a liquid asset base. Even if Bob’s assumption of a lower capital gains rate is correct (which is not the case in 90% of small business sales) he actually needs a sale price of at least $6,000,000 just to maintain his current lifestyle. Even Bob knows that his company can’t sell for $6,000,000. Without getting an appraisal or a formal financial plan, Bob has just had his first lesson in planning for the Value Gap.   This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on

In order for your family business to outlive its founder, careful succession planning is a must. That means finding the most frictionless way to pass both leadership and ownership from one generation to the next. While some family business dynamics lend themselves to smooth and simple succession, others hit bumps in the road. One of the best ways to steer clear of these obstacles is to have some awareness of what they are. In this post, we’ll round up just a few of the factors that complicate family business succession planning. If any of these concerns loom large for your family business, reach out to the WhiteWater Consulting team; we’d love to offer whatever guidance we can! Common Obstacles to Family Business Succession Planning Lack of Communication Between Generations One of the biggest reasons for inadequate succession planning is the lack of communication between generations. Often, this hinges from the emotional nature of family business succession planning. The founding entrepreneur may be uncomfortable discussing their own mortality, or hesitant about “pushing” the family business on an heir who may or may not desire it. These and similar concerns mean that, too often, succession planning isn’t really discussed. Lack of Clarity About Successors In some family businesses, there may be just a single son or daughter who’s interested in taking the mantle. But what happens if there are multiple heirs, all with their own different skill sets and talents? When there isn’t a clear or obvious successor, that can make succession planning dicey… and often, the temptation is to put off important conversations until it’s almost too late. Operational Challenges While many of the most common obstacles to family business succession planning involve communication, other issues are more operational in nature. Consider a few practical hurdles that keep family businesses from implementing effective succession plans: Often, business owners don’t know where to start with training and developing the next generation of leadership. Tax issues, along with broader estate planning considerations, can seem complex and insurmountable, especially if there isn’t a skilled attorney involved. There may also arise challenges, both within the family and among non-family employees, to any sense of change within the company. It’s also difficult to create effective legal and governance structures; a business consulting company might be helpful for establishing a family council or something similar. These are just a few of the operational hurdles that can keep succession plans from advancing. Get Guidance for Your Succession Planning Perhaps the single biggest reason why family businesses don’t invest in a serious, strategic succession plan? They don’t know about the resources available to help them. You don’t have to pursue succession planning all by yourself. At WhiteWater Consulting, we’d love to talk with you about effective solutions to preserve what’s special about your family business, all while ensuring the company lasts for generations to come. Reach out to our team whenever you’re ready to chat.

Business owners, advisors, and buyers frequently have widely different impressions of value when it comes to a business. The Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Survey canvasses intermediaries who sell privately held Main Street and mid-market companies. One question is about the obstacles that prevented the sale of a business. The number one response is “Owners’ unreasonable expectations of value.” That may be self-serving or an excuse. Nonetheless, valuation is a sensitive subject. Many owners have worked in the business for 30 or 40 years. They assume it will fund their next 20 years of retirement. Their target price is set only by their desired lifestyle after the business. Different Values for the Same Business Unfortunately, many owners have an opinion about the value of their business that is grounded in the multiples of public companies. Others are based on conversations with colleagues, salespeople, and articles in their trade publications. Even those who have professional appraisals of their business may not understand that the purpose for getting your valuation may skew the results. Valuations that are done for estate planning or internal transfers of equity often have little resemblance to a company’s fair market value. Various people including H.L. Hunt and Ted Turner have said “Money is just a way of keeping score.” For many owners, the emotional tie between the perceived value of their company and their self-image of success is closely connected. Some advisors skirt this issue by recommending that their clients get a professional opinion of the fair market value of the business. While this is certainly a safe approach, it can take substantial time. It also requires considerable assembly of the underlying data for the appraiser. This can slow down any consulting project considerably and may derail it entirely. Impressions of Value A coaching approach helps the owner understand the practical boundaries surrounding the value of the company without either dictating to him or taking the project in a tangential direction. We do that by helping the client model “lendable value.” We start by explaining that most businesses are valued by their cash flow. There are certainly many areas where value can be enhanced. These include intellectual property, exclusive rights to a product, protected sales territory or long-term contracts. Owner Centricity™ or customer concentration can also reduce the fair market pricing of your business. In the final analysis, however, cash flow to pay an acquisition loan is of principal concern to a lender. SBA minimums for financing include a cash-to-debt service ratio (1.25 to 1) and required owner compensation – usually $75,000 a year for acquisitions under $500,000 and twice that for larger deals. While not all lenders follow SBA guidelines, they are a useful national baseline for looking at your value. The company may well be worth what you think it is, but finding a lender to finance it is a different problem. Understanding a lender’s impression of value before starting sale negotiations can save you considerable time and negotiation down the road.

Purpose after the sale is one of the biggest challenges for an exiting owner. Purpose – “Having as one’s intention or objective.” Many exit planning advisors discuss the three legs of the exit planning stool – business readiness, financial readiness and personal readiness. In our previous two articles, we focused on two of the “big three” components of a successful life after the sale, activity and identity. The third is purpose. So many advisors point to the 75% of former owners who “profoundly regret” their transition, and say it’s because they didn’t make enough money. To quote Mr. Bernstein in the great film Citizen Kane, “Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money…if all you want is to make a lot of money.” I’ve interviewed hundreds of business founders. When asked why they started their companies, by far the most common answers are about providing for their families and having control of their future. Only a very small percentage say “I wanted to make a lot of money.” Decades of Purpose So what kept them working long hours and pushing the envelope after they had reached primary, secondary and even tertiary financial goals? Non-owners often chalk it up to greed, but Maslov’s hierarchy of needs drifts away from material rewards after the first two levels. Belonging, Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization may all have a financial component, but money isn’t the driver. For most owners, the driving motivation is this thing they’ve built. The company has a life of its own, but it’s a life they bestowed. They talk about the business’s growing pains and maturity. Owners are acutely aware of the multiplier effect the success of the company has on employees and their families. In a few cases, that multiplier extends to entire towns. That’s the purpose. To nurture and expand. In so many cases every process in the business was the founder’s creation. He or she picked out the furniture and designed the first logo. This aggregation of people breathes and succeeds on what the owner built. That’s why so many owners still put in 50 or more hours a week, long after there is any real need for their constant presence. This thing they created is their purpose. Purpose After the Sale It’s no surprise that so many owners find that 36 holes of golf each week, or 54, or 72, still isn’t enough to feel fulfilled. You can get incrementally better, but it doesn’t really affect anyone but you. Building a beautiful table or catching a trophy fish brings pride and some sense of accomplishment. Still, it never matches the feeling of creating something that impacts dozens, scores or hundreds of other human beings. That’s why we focus on purpose as the third leg of the personal vision. In the vast majority of cases, it involves impacting other people. Any owner spent a career learning how to teach and lead. Keeping those skills fresh and growing is a substantial part of the road to satisfaction. Purpose may involve church or a community service organization. It could be serving on a Board of Directors or consulting for other business owners. It might be writing or speaking. Purpose after the sale doesn’t require a 50-hour week, but it does require some level of commitment, and the ability to affect the lives of others.   This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on

Introduction Running a small business is like navigating through different seasons – there are sunny days full of triumph, and then there are stormy days that test our resilience. One key factor that can make a world of difference in weathering any storm is having the right team members by your side. Just like bad weather always seems worse when viewed through a window, hiring the right individuals can help us see beyond the obstacles and propel our businesses toward success. 1. Weathering the Storm When it comes to building a successful team, it’s essential to understand that every business faces challenges. The key to success is to hire team members who not only have the necessary skills and qualifications but also possess the right mindset to weather any storm. Look for candidates who have demonstrated resilience and adaptability in their past experiences, as they are more likely to navigate through tough times with you and with grace and determination. 2. The Power of Teamwork Remember, when you hire a new team member, you’re not simply adding an employee – you’re gaining a partner who can help you face challenges head-on. When the storm clouds gather and the sky looks ominous, a strong and cohesive team can work together to find innovative solutions, brainstorm ideas, and provide the support needed to overcome obstacles. The right team will transform challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement. 3. Going Beyond the Surface The journey of hiring the right team members extends beyond reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. To choose individuals who can truly thrive in your organization, it’s important to look beyond the surface-level qualifications. Consider their values, work ethic, and their ability to fit into your company culture. Seek out candidates who demonstrate a genuine passion, drive, and willingness to go the extra mile – these are the qualities that will shine through, even when you have to face the fiercest storms. 4. Embracing Uniqueness Don’t be afraid to embrace the uniqueness of each team member. Just like different weather patterns bring a variety of experiences, having a diverse team can lead to fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. Encouraging collaboration where everyone’s ideas are valued will create a team that is equipped to tackle any challenge that comes their way. 5. Building Trust and Resilience Trust forms the foundation of an effective and cohesive team, allowing everyone to rely on each other when the going gets tough. Foster an environment where open communication, transparency, and mutual support are valued, and watch as your team weathers even the strongest storms with unwavering determination. Conclusion Just as bad weather always looks worse through the window, the challenges we face in our businesses can seem insurmountable when we don’t have the right team members to support us. Together you can change your perspective, navigate through any storm with confidence, and emerge stronger on the other side, ready to embrace the sunny days of success that lie ahead. Remember, FIREPOWER Teams is here to help you find, nurture, and grow the right team to fuel success and sustainable growth in your small business. Reach out to Maria Forbes and discover the power of people-powered change in your organization. Let your business thrive and watch as the storm clouds dissipate, leaving a bright future full of possibilities.

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I once had the thrill of interviewing Jerry West on management. He was “The Logo” for the NBA, although back then they didn’t advertise him as such. Only the Laker followers knew for sure. In 1989 the “Showtime” Lakers were coming off back-to-back championships.  Pat Riley was a year away from his first of three Coach of the Year awards. 

Can you Offer Too Many SKUs to Your Customers? The short answer is YES! A SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, defines each different product version that you sell and keep inventory of.  There may be different SKUs of the same overall item based on size, color, capacity (think computer or cellphone memory), features, and many other parameters.  For build to forecast businesses, that number of variations can quickly explode and become difficult to manage. Your customers are busy and want ordering simplified. Of course, they may need (or want) more than one variation of a product. That is reasonable and a common aspect of business – one size does not fit all! But there is a point where too offering too many SKUs is not value added either for your customer or your business.  In his April 30, 2013 article “Successful Retailers Learn That Fewer Choices Trigger More Sales” in Forbes, Carmine Gallo discusses his experience and a study about “choice overload” by other authors. He writes about a retailer that “has discovered that giving a customer more than three choices at one time actually overwhelms customers and makes them frustrated…when the customer is faced with too many choices at once, it leaves the customer confused and less likely to buy from any of the choices!” Choice overload is well-documented in consumer studies but can apply in B2B as well. While customer satisfaction is important, another key concern is the often-hidden costs associated with a business offering and managing a large number of SKUs for a given product type. These costs include holding inventory, S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) team time, small production runs, and scrapping inventory. Holding inventory takes up space, which may come with a cost or utilize racks that could be used for other products. Scheduled inventory counts take up employee time and may result in blackout periods when the warehouse is not shipping product.  The more SKUs there are, including extra SKUS, the greater the potential impact. The Sales team’s forecasting and the Operations team’s purchasing reviews that are part of the S&OP process can occupy more of their valuable time if they need to consider these times. If small orders or forecasts require a new production run, this could be costly and create excess inventory. Whether from this new production or past builds, eventually it will make sense to write off and scrap old inventory, another cost impact to the company. How do you know which SKUs to focus on if you wish to look at reducing your total number of SKUs? Start by examining SKUs that have: Low historic sales over a period of time Small variations between SKUs that customers do not value Older technology or model when newer option SKUs are available This requires a true partnership between Sales and Operations. It starts with educating both teams on the costs involved – neither group may be aware of the money and time impact to the company. Periodic (such as quarterly) reviews of SKUs that meet the above descriptions should become a fixed part of the calendar. A review of the data and other available for sale options should result in the identification of SKUs which may not be needed. At that point, it is helpful to have a customer friendly EOL (End of Life) Notice process by which you inform customers of last time buy requirements for this SKU and alternates available. It is usually best to provide some time for the last time buy in the interest of customer satisfaction, although that may not always be necessary. At a company that designed and sold electronics, a robust SKU rationalization process was implemented to help address these issues. A representative from the Operations team analyzed SKUs that met a version of the above criteria and suggested candidates for the EOL process. Next, a member of the Sales team reviewed them and, where appropriate, issued product change or EOL notices to customers, providing them time for last time buy orders when needed. These steps helped reduce the work involved in maintaining these SKUs while not leading to any customer complaints. A final note – sometimes it makes sense to continue offering low selling SKUs – to support customers buying other items (hopefully in larger quantities). It may be worthwhile to encourage them to keep coming back to you for all of their product needs and this may be a way to accomplish that. But it helps to understand that this is truly the case and not assume that this customer would not be equally happy with another, more popular, SKU.   Steven Lustig is founder and CEO of Lustig Global Consulting and an experienced Supply Chain Executive.  He is a recognized thought leader in supply chain and risk mitigation, and serves on the Boards of Directors for Loh Medical and Atlanta Technology Angels.

When it comes to careers, business owners are a minority of the population. In conversations this week, I mentioned the statistics several times, and each owner I was discussing it with was surprised that they had so few peers. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over 33,000,000 businesses in the US. Let’s discount those with zero employees. Many are shell companies or real estate holding entities. Also, those with fewer than 5 employees, true “Mom and Pop” businesses, are hard to distinguish from a job. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Association, lists businesses with 5 to 99 employees at about 3,300,000, and 123,000 have 100 to 500 employees (the SBA’s largest “small business” classification.) Overall, that means about 1% of the country are private employers. Owners are a small minority, a very small minority, of the population. Even if we only count working adults (161,000,000) business owners represent only a little more than 2% of that population. So What? Where am I going with this, and how does it relate to our recent discussions of purpose in business exit planning? It’s an important issue to consider when discussing an owner’s identity after transition. Whether or not individual owners know the statistics of their “rare species” status in society, they instinctively understand that they are different. They are identified with their owner status in every aspect of their business and personal life. At a social event, when asked “What do you do?” they will often respond “I own a business.” It’s an immediate differentiator from describing a job. “I am a carpenter.” or “I work in systems engineering,” describes a function. “I am a business owner” describes a life role. When asked for further information, the owner frequently replies in the Imperial first person plural. “We build multi-family housing,” is never mistaken for a personal role in the company. No one takes that answer to mean that the speaker swings a hammer all day. Owners are a Minority We process much of our information subconsciously. If a man enters a business gathering, for example, and the others in the room are 75% female, he will know instinctively, without consciously counting, that this business meeting or organization is different from others he attends. Similarly, business owners accept their minority status without thinking about it. They expect that the vast majority of the people they meet socially, who attend their church, or who have kids that play sports with theirs, work for someone else. There are places where owners congregate, but otherwise, they don’t expect to meet many other owners in the normal course of daily activity. This can be an issue after they exit the business. You see, telling people “I’m retired” has no distinction. Roughly 98% of the other people who say that never built an organization. They didn’t take the same risks. Others didn’t deal with the same broad variety of issues and challenges. Most didn’t have to personally live with the impact of every daily decision they made, or watch others suffer the consequences of their bad calls. That is why so many former owners suffer from a lack of identity after they leave. Subconsciously, they expect to stand out from the other 98%. “I’m retired” carries no such distinction.       This article was originally published by John F. Dini, CBEC, CExP, CEPA on

In a recent research study by The Value Builder System™, they analyzed data from 20,000 business owners who completed a Value Builder assessment of their business and discovered that owners who have businesses dependent on them, known as Hub & Spoke owners are facing a 35% discount on the value of their businesses and part of the problem may be the degree of customization they offer. For the purposes of the study, a Hub & Spoke owner is someone who answered the question “Which of the following best describes your personal relationship with your company’s customers?” with the response, “I know each of my customers by first name and they expect that I personally get involved when they buy from my company.”  One reason customers want the owner to personally attend to their project is the degree of customization Hub & Spoke owners offer.  In fact, the study shows that Hub & Spoke owners are more than twice as likely to say they offer a complete custom solution for each customer.  Since the owner is usually the person with the most subject matter expertise inside their company, it’s not surprising customers want the owner’s full attention on their job. The secret to making a business less reliant on its owner is to stop offering a custom solution for every customer.   How Ned MacPherson Built More Value By Doing Less   Ned MacPherson is a digital marketing guru, so it’s not surprising that when he first started offering his time, it was in demand.   In the early days as a consultant, he offered all sorts of growth hacking services. But when demand outstripped his supply of time, Ned had a decision to make. He could either turn away prospective clients or build a team of consultants underneath him.  As a growth guy, the idea of treading water didn’t appeal to Ned, so he opted to build a team. However, to ensure his team could execute without him, Ned decided to focus on one service offering: post-click analysis. Rather than help optimize a website for the entire customer journey, Ned’s company would become one of the world’s leading firms on optimizing a customer’s journey after they opted in to a website.   Most digital marketing consultants offer a wide range of services, but Ned knew it would be impossible to remove himself if they offered help in too many areas. By specializing in post-click analysis, Ned and his team were able to streamline their offering. Demand for Ned’s time started to diminish as his employees became some of the world’s leading experts in a narrow slice of the analytics market.   Within seven years of starting Endrock Growth & Analytics, Ned had 70 employees, more than $2 million a year in EBITDA, and multiple acquisition offers.   

The sale of a business marks a major life event. It’s emotional, stressful, and exciting all at the same time. And unfortunately, it’s often a lot of work. Most business owners will only experience the process of selling a business once in their life. This is both good and bad news. On the bright side, you only need to get through it once. But many business owners aren’t ready for the process and risk leaving money on the table as a result. With many sellers relying on the sale to fund their retirement and lifelong financial goals, getting it right from the start is critical. Here are tips from sell-side business advisors on what to do (and not do) when selling a business. What to do (and not do) when selling a business Start thinking about selling your business early — really early One of the top mistakes sellers make when selling their business is not starting the process early enough. There are many reasons starting last minute can really hurt your bottom line. It’s not uncommon for business owners to assume they’ll never retire at some point during their life. But as often happens, life changes. Perhaps health concerns for you or a spouse make continuing to run your business difficult. Or maybe you eventually lose the excitement when getting up every day and want a change of pace. Sudden sales or immediate retirements Unfortunately, when business owners want to sell with a tight timeline (or fire sale), they may have fewer options to exit. It’s not uncommon for some buyers to want the owner and/or members of the management team to stay on for a period to help with the transition. If there’s an earn-out, it’ll usually require the seller to stick with the company for different milestones (time, financial, or otherwise) to earn the full purchase price. Earn-outs aren’t ideal for sellers, but if you’re unwilling or unable to consider deals with any continuation component, it could impact the sale price, timeline to find a buyer, or both. Make your business more sellable later by getting advice now Business brokers often recommend getting a valuation done years before expecting to sell the company. Sarah Grossman, Principal of BayState Business Brokers in Needham, MA, says this helps sellers “shape their timeline and any financial planning that needs to be completed prior to a sale.” Understanding the fair market value of the company is critical to setting expectations for the seller, but understanding the drivers of the valuation can help increase the sale price over time. Grossman says, “a [business] broker can advise them on things they can do in their business over the next few years to make it more saleable when it does go on the market.” How to maximize your cash at closing Aaron Naisbitt, Managing Director at Dunn Rush & Co, an investment bank focused on sell-side M&A in Boston, MA, emphasizes the importance of going to market and knowing what your business is worth. He says, “the biggest mistake many businesses owners make is not running a competitive process when the business is capable of attracting interest from a broad number of buyers. This mistake most often occurs when the owner has already made the second biggest mistake – not taking the time to educate themselves and prepare adequately for the process.” Not every business will be able to run a competitive process. But those that can, and don’t, “Will leave money and terms on the table if they do not do so” he adds. Getting professional help is key here as trying to negotiate a sale directly with a buyer might be short-sighted. Grossman says it’s not uncommon for sellers to be approached directly by competitors. She cautions sellers considering working with buyers directly as “They could be leaving significant money on the table without a clear understanding of the valuation of their company. Sellers also need to work with a broker and their advisors to understand a typical deal structure so that they can maximize their cash at closing.” The importance of understanding the terms of the deal cannot be overstated. This is where money is made or lost. Naisbitt cautions that sometimes terms can sound really good, but aren’t always common sense. He adds that without an advisor, sellers “Don’t know where to argue.” During negotiations, you have to consider “What is it that’s important to you and what are you willing to give up” he says. Exit planning is not time to DIY — assemble your team of advisors When selling a company, gathering your team of advisors early on is key to getting a successful outcome. Again, odds are you haven’t sold a business before and probably won’t again. We don’t know what we don’t know…and you only have one shot to get this right. Your team of business and personal advisors will be instrumental in getting the deal over the finish line. Your business advisory team may consist of: a business broker or M&A advisor, accounting and tax advisors, and transaction/M&A attorney. On the personal side, your sudden wealth advisor who focuses on helping individuals experiencing a transformative liquidity event. Be sure to involve your wealth advisor in discussions around deal terms too. For example, when considering deal structure, it’s important to ensure alignment with your objectives or financial needs. What are your income needs after the sale or do you have plans for a big purchase? Your advisor can help determine how much cash you need at closing and whether to consider the pros and cons of arrangements like an installment sale. And at closing, a financial advisor can help you determine Section 1202, realizing the gain over time with an installment sale, asset versus stock purchase, or state tax implications such as the charitable goals, legacy objectives for heirs, or estate tax planning strategies. Brokers explain what sellers are most unprepared for during the process Selling a business is a lot of work. In addition to running the company in the usual course of business, sellers also need to comply with a host of due diligence requests from the buyer’s team and the lender financing the transaction. The magnitude of this process is by far the most 

In March 2022, Florida enacted the politically charged Individual Freedom Act, informally known as the STOP WOKE (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act. Less than two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit blocked the enforcement of the Act on the grounds it violates employers’ right to free speech. This decision directly impacts employers in the Eleventh Circuit and will have a ripple effect on employers nationally.   How did the Individual Freedom Act (Stop WOKE Act) affect employers? The Act attempted to prevent employers from mandating training or meetings for employees which “promote” a “certain set of beliefs” the state “found offensive” and discriminatory. There are eight prohibited beliefs each relating to race, color, sex, and national origin. According to the Act, employers must not teach the following: Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin. Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect due to race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, based on his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin. An individual, based on his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, and were committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin. Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin. Employers still had the ability to mandate employees attend sessions that either refute these concepts or present them in an “objective manner without endorsement.” This dictates how an employer deals with its employees and is particularly limiting in how employers address discrimination training. Employers who failed to adhere to the law were liable for “serious financial penalties—back pay, compensatory damages, and up to $100,000 in punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees—on top of injunctive relief.”   The Ruling – Honeyfund.com Inc. v. Governor [2024] In March 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit served an injunction preventing enforcement of the Act. Despite the state insisting the Act banned conduct rather than speech, the court ruled the Act unlawfully violated the First Amendment’s right of free speech by barring speech based on its content and penalizing certain viewpoints. While certain categories of speech such as “obscenity, fighting words, incitement, and the like” are traditionally unprotected, the court pointed out that “new categories of unprotected speech may not be added to the list by a legislature that concludes certain speech is too harmful to be tolerated.” Florida is keen to appeal against the decision.   What does this mean for employers? Regardless of one’s opinions on the matter, this can be viewed positively from an employer’s standpoint. Employers in the private sector can control speech in the workplace, and this ruling confirms their autonomy will continue. Whether or not the rest of the country will follow suit remains to be seen. This case, in tandem with the US Supreme Court’s ruling to ban race based affirmative action, signals today’s intense political climate is likely to continue to impact how employer diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are approached. Employers should continue to review their DEI initiatives, ensuring they are in line with the latest precedents. Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560      

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