Business Owners: How Many Hats Are in Your Closet?
Business owners wear a lot of hats. Ideas, management, execution, funding, and all other tasks business owners take on are essential functions within all company areas. Think of these as different hats a founder must wear. Do you have a meeting with marketing? Wear the creative hat that allows you to keep an open mind while rationalizing decisions. Or wear the most elegant and sophisticated hat for investor meetings.
Each hat represents the business owner's ability to understand when and what expertise to bring into the company. A closet full of hats allows the company to grow its enterprise and operate on all cylinders. By making critical hiring decisions, they can bring in employees to offload operational aspects of the business and continue to scale efficiently.
How to Buy The Best Hats
Naturally, with so much on an operator's plate, it's discernible that much of a business owner's wealth management and planning is left on the back burner. A way to change that and prioritize your personal financial goals is to hire a wealth management partner. When done correctly, a business owner's wealth management partner helps them to accelerate their finances and brings expertise and guidance to the business side of the ledger. How to think about who to hire can start by asking, "who deserves the position?" and deciding as you would choose key executives in the business.
So, what should a business owner look for in hiring the right wealth advisor? How would one know they are doing it "correctly"? These are great questions, and for starters, you'd want to look for an advisor that specializes in working with business owners. Further, a critical indicator can be how good they are at putting themselves in your shoes. In other words, you might want to look for an advisor with a couple of hats in their closet. Many advisors are business owners with great insights into navigating the role's responsibilities.
Beyond that, how do we widdle down the pack? There are six essential wealth planning areas for business owners to prioritize:
1. Business Valuation - The Analytical Hat
Approximately 98% of business owners need to learn the value of their business, which is typically their most significant asset. Owning a business is not just for the current cash flow that allows the owner to earn a living. A company is also an asset that has inherent value to the owner. For wealth planning purposes, it's crucial to understand this value and be able to make long-term strategic planning decisions around it.
Depending on the value of the business, everything from insurance, tax, retirement, and estate planning considerations should be evaluated, to name a few. Finding an advisor that has the capability of discovering the value of your business is crucial. This could take the form of working with an advisor with a trusted business valuation specialist or with an advisor with in-house business valuation capabilities.
2. Cash Flow Management - The Construction Hat
Each business's cash flow is very different, with business and personal implications. Some enterprises have relatively stable cash flow with little working capital requirements, while others have lumpy cash flow with high working capital needs.
Working with an advisor that can understand the nuances of the business's cash flow needs can allow for better fluidity in the business's financial operation. Further, this can help set up a proper owner's compensation structure and a more consistent and reliable view of their cash-flow picture. Ultimately, this allows for a smoother business operation and a more stable view of the owners' personal long-term planning and wealth trajectory.
3. Legal & Tax Strategy - The Woollen Wig
Depending on the business, various legal structures may make sense. Whether it be a sole proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, S or C Corp, working with an advisor that understands the business and can guide you around which one makes the most sense is vital. Often, this requires assembling a team and working closely with accountants, attorneys, and CPAs to ensure the business is legally structured correctly and that the tax treatment is favorable.
4. Retirement Savings Plans - The Sun Bream Hat
As a business owner setting up the right company retirement savings plan is essential not only to make sure you are saving for your retirement but also to be competitive in the labor market and attract top employee talent. Not only that, retirement plans can be a powerful tool for business owners to defer taxable income and profits into the future where their marginal income tax rates are lower, helping them to be more tax efficient over the long term.
It’s the owner's responsibility to set up plans such as 401(k), profit share, deferred compensation, or defined benefit pension plans which all have different pros, cons, and requirements.
5. Insurance & Risk Management Strategy - The Cowboy Hat
Businesses and business owners have unique insurance needs to ensure they are covered from all angles. Business owners often have mixed-use assets, such as vehicles and property, requiring specific insurance coverage. Further, businesses may be exposed to various conditions of business liability, ranging from general liability, directors and officers, professional liability, employment liability, workers comp, disability, and data security policies.
Additionally, from a business continuity standpoint, businesses may need key-man insurance and buy-sell agreements to ensure the company is not interrupted by the unforeseen departure or passing of a co-owner. Working with an advisor that understands the ownership structure, business assets, and risk exposures can help a business owner craft and execute a tailored insurance and risk management strategy.
6. Succession Planning - The Chapeau d'Amour
Ultimately, all business owners will phase out of the day-to-day running of the business, and it's best to have plans in place for this eventuality. A business owner should have a plan for what should happen to the company should they pass prematurely and a method for when they transition to the next chapter of their lives. Working with an advisor can help a business owner determine the best path forward for them, whether the owner's family or children will take over the business, sell to another company, or structure the business to be run by an executive team. Whatever path is most appropriate for the owner will determine how to best plan for the eventual transition of business ownership. An impartial wealth management partner can be crucial to the transition's success.
What Hats Does Your Advisor Wear?
The above areas are wide-ranging and complex and highlight the importance for every business owner of having quality advice and guidance around many facets of their business. By intentionally planning around business valuation, cash flow management, legal and tax, retirement savings, insurance and risk management, and succession, a business owner will be laying the foundation for improved business and personal wealth outcomes that will significantly move the needle!