Frequently Ask Questions
Less than one-third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Of those that do, about half do not survive the transition from second to third generation ownership. At any given time, 40 percent of U.S. businesses are facing the transfer of ownership issue. Founders are trying to decide what to do with their businesses; however, the options are few.
The following is a list of options to consider:
- Close the doors.
- Sell to an outsider or employee.
- Retain ownership but hire outside management.
- Retain family ownership and management control.
There are four basic reasons why family firms fail to transfer the business successfully:
- Lack of viability of the business.
- Lack of planning.
- Little desire on the owner's part to transfer the firm.
- Reluctance of offspring to join the firm.
The primary cause for failure is the lack of planning. With the right succession plans in place, the business, in most cases, will remain healthy.
Transferring the family business requires the family to make a determined effort to do the following:
- Create a business strategic plan.
- Create a family strategic plan.
- Prepare an Estate Plan.
- Prepare a Succession Plan, including arranging for successor training and setting a retirement date.
These are the four plans that make up the transition process. By implementing them, you will virtually ensure the successful transfer of your business within the family hierarchy.
Before starting out, list your reasons for wanting to go into business. Some of the most common reasons for starting a business include wanting to be self-employed, wanting financial and creative independence, and wanting to maximize your skills and knowledge.
When determining what business is "right for you," consider what you like to do with your time, what technical skills you have, recommendations from others, and whether any of your hobbies or interests are marketable. You must also decide what kind of time commitment you're willing to make to running a business.When determining what business is "right for you," consider what you like to do with your time, what technical skills you have, recommendations from others, and whether any of your hobbies or interests are marketable. You must also decide what kind of time commitment you're willing to make to running a business.
Then you should do research to identify the niche your business will fill. Your research should address such questions as what services or products you plan to sell, whether your idea fits a genuine need, what competition exists, and how you can gain a competitive advantage. Most importantly, can you create a demand for your business?
The following outline of a typical business plan can serve as a guide that you can adapt to your specific business:
- Financial Management
- Concluding Statement
To succeed, your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss: an honest assessment of your own personality, an understanding of what's involved, and a lot of hard work.
You have to be willing to plan ahead and then make improvements and adjustments along the road. Overall, it is important that you establish a professional environment in your home; you should even set up a separate office in your home, if possible.
A home-based business is subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses. Be sure to consult an attorney and your state department of labor to find out which laws and regulations will affect your business. For instance, be aware of your city's zoning regulations. Also, certain products may not be produced in the home.
Most states outlaw home production of fireworks, drugs, poisons, explosives, sanitary or medical products, and toys. Some states also prohibit home-based businesses from making food, drink, or clothing.
In terms of registration and accounting requirements, you may need a work certificate or a license from the state, a sales tax number, a separate business telephone, and a separate business bank account.
Finally, if your business has employees, you are responsible for withholding income and social security taxes, and for complying with minimum wage and employee health and safety laws.
Failure to properly plan cash flow is one of the leading causes of small business failures. Experience has shown that many small business owners lack an understanding of basic accounting principles. Knowing the basics will help you better manage your cash flow.
A business's monetary supply can exist either as cash on hand or in a business checking account available to meet expenses. A sufficient cash flow covers your business by meeting obligations (i.e., paying bills), serving as a cushion in case of emergencies, and providing investment capital.
The Operating Cycle
The operating cycle is the system through which cash flows, from the purchase of inventory through the collection of accounts receivable. It measures the flow of assets into cash. For example, your operating cycle may begin with both cash and inventory on hand. Typically, additional inventory is purchased on account to guarantee that you will not deplete your stock as sales are made. Your sales will consist of cash sales and accounts receivable - credit sales. Accounts receivable are usually paid 30 days after the original purchase date. This applies to both the inventory you purchase and the products you sell. When you make payment for inventory, both cash and accounts payable are reduced. Thirty days after the sale of your inventory, receivables are usually collected, which increases your cash. Now your cash has completed its flow through the operating cycle and is ready to begin again
Cash-flow analysis should show whether your daily operations generate enough cash to meet your obligations, and how major outflows of cash to pay your obligations relate to major inflows of cash from sales. As a result, you can tell if inflows and outflows from your operation combine to result in a positive cash flow or in a net drain. Any significant changes over time will also appear.
A monthly cash-flow projection helps to identify and eliminate deficiencies or surpluses in cash and to compare actual figures to past months. When cash-flow deficiencies are found, business financial plans must be altered to provide more cash. When excess cash is revealed, it might indicate excessive borrowing or idle money that could be invested. The objective is to develop a plan that will provide a well-balanced cash flow.
To achieve a positive cash flow, you must have a sound plan. Your business can increase cash reserves in a number of ways:
- Collecting receivables: Actively manage accounts receivable and quickly collect overdue accounts. Revenues are lost when a firm's collection policies are not aggressive.
- Tightening credit requirements: As credit and terms become more stringent, more customers must pay cash for their purchases, thereby increasing the cash on hand and reducing the bad-debt expense. While tightening credit is helpful in the short run, it may not be advantageous in the long run. Looser credit allows more customers the opportunity to purchase your products or services.
- Manipulating price of products: Many small businesses fail to make a profit because they erroneously price their products or services. Before setting your prices, you must understand your product's market, distribution costs, and competition. Monitor all factors that affect pricing on a regular basis and adjust as necessary.
- Taking out short-term loans: Loans from various financial institutions are often necessary for covering short-term cash-flow problems. Revolving credit lines and equity loans are common types of credit used in this situation.
- Increasing your sales: Increased sales would appear to increase cash flow. However, if large portions of your sales are made on credit, when sales increase, your accounts receivable increase, not your cash. Meanwhile, inventory is depleted and must be replaced. Because receivables usually will not be collected until 30 days after sales, a substantial increase in sales can quickly deplete your firm's cash reserves.
You should always keep enough cash on hand to cover expenses and as an added cushion for security. Excess cash should be invested in an accessible, interest-bearing, low-risk account, such as a savings account, short-term certificate of deposit or Treasury bill.
For certain legally complex or time-consuming disputes or problems, there is no doubt that a lawyer is necessary. For example, if you want a will prepared, or a more complex business deal handled, you will need to hire a lawyer. And, if a court case is involved (other than a simple, routine matter), you'll almost always need a lawyer.
When deciding whether to hire an attorney, consider the following:
- Does the matter involve a complex legal issue or is it likely to go to court? Is a large amount of money, property, or time involved? These factors indicate that you need to hire a lawyer.
- Is there a form or self-help book available that you can use instead of hiring a lawyer? You may be able to solve certain problems with only minimal assistance.
- Are there any non-lawyer legal resources available to assist you?
Unlike more complex transactions, some transactions can be handled without a lawyer. For instance, a living will can often be prepared with the help of organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Non-profits that deal with retired and elderly persons may also be able to provide you with the necessary paperwork to create a living will in your state, as well as additional information and/or assistance in completing the form properly.
Many disputes can be resolved by writing letters or negotiating with the other party on your own, or by using arbitration or mediation. Legal self-help manuals and seminars can provide you with the tools to handle a portion of, or the entire, dispute.
- Tip: Consider hiring an attorney to review papers or provide advice, rather than fully representing you.
Negotiating on your own. Negotiating on your own behalf is often the best way to solve minor disputes. Visit your local library or search online for resources that explain the best way to negotiate a dispute.
- Tip: Before starting the negotiation process, it's usually a good idea to familiarize yourself with legal issues that might come up by calling a legal hot-line or consulting other sources of information.
Mediation or arbitration. Dispute resolution centers have been established in every state. Most specialize in helping to resolve problems in the areas of consumer complaints, landlord/tenant disputes, and disagreements between neighbors or family members.
During the mediation process, a neutral person assists the two sides in discussing their differences and helps them possibly reach an agreement. In an arbitration setting, the neutral third party conducts a more formal process and makes a decision (usually written) after listening to both sides.
If both parties agree to it, using a dispute resolution center or a private mediation center is a lower-cost alternative to bringing a lawsuit to court or hiring an attorney to represent you during a negotiation process.
Small claims court. Small claims court may be appropriate if you have a monetary claim for damages within the limits set by your state (usually $1,000 to $5,000). These courts are more informal and involve less paperwork than regular courts. If you file in small claims court, be prepared to act as your own attorney, gathering necessary evidence, researching the law, and presenting your story in court.