For many small business owners, maintaining positive cash flow and a stable balance sheet can be an ongoing battle that consumes virtually all of their time. Even retirement often seems like a distant speck on the horizon, let alone plans to hand over the business. However, establishing a sound business succession plan is beneficial for most business owners and can be absolutely necessary for some.
Tutorial: How To Write A Business Plan
For business owners that are at or near retirement, the issue of succession cannot be ignored. This article will take you through the steps you'll need to take to create a successful succession. (To learn about other retirement considerations, see Managing Income During Retirement and Life After Retirement .)
Picking a Successor Isn't Easy
Many factors determine whether a succession plan is necessary, and sometimes the logical and easy choice will be to simply sell the business lock, stock and barrel. However, many owners prefer the thought of their businesses continuing on even after they're gone.
Choosing a successor can be as easy as appointing a family member or assistant to take the owner's place. However, there may be several partners or family members from which the owner will have to choose, each with various strengths and weaknesses to be weighed and evaluated. In this case, lasting resentment by some or all of those not chosen may result, no matter what choice is ultimately made. Partners who do not need or want a successor may simply sell their portion of the business to their partners in a buy-sell agreement.
How much is the business worth?
When business owners decide to cash out (or death makes the decision for them), the first task is establishing a set dollar value for the business, or their share of it. This can be done via appraisal by a certified public accountant (CPA) or by an arbitrary agreement between all partners involved. If the portion of the company consists solely of shares of publicly traded stock, then valuation of the owner's interest will be determined by the stock's current market value.
Life Insurance: The Standard Transfer Vehicle
Once a set dollar value has been determined, life insurance is purchased on all partners in the business. Then, in the event that a partner passes on before ending his relationship with his partners, the death benefit proceeds will be used to buy out the deceased partner's share of the business and distribute it equally among the remaining partners.
There are two basic arrangements used for this. They are known as "cross-purchase agreements" and "entity-purchase agreements". While both ultimately serve the same purpose, they are used in different situations.
Methods of Transferring a Business
These agreements are structured so that each partner buys and owns a policy on each of the other partners in the business. Each partner functions as both owner and beneficiary on the same policy, with each other partner being the insured; therefore, when one partner dies, the face value of each policy on the deceased partner is paid out to the remaining partners, who will then use the policy proceeds to buy the deceased partner's share of the business at a previously agreed-upon price.