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A Family Wired For Perpetual Dependence by Tom Deans, Ph.D.
When the sale of a family business is all about a founder becoming wealthy and their children losing their jobs, you can see why so few ever put themselves in play and sell.
The CEO – the Chief Emotional Officer (Mom, and increasingly Dad) – just can’t stand to see the family pull itself apart. Killing the business with love has always felt like a better plan.
With a wave of aging business owners trying to figure out how they’ll fund their retirement, you can understand the temptation to simply throttle back on their day-to-day involvement and draw a salary while Junior runs the business until the final curtain falls.
Of course, as I’ve discussed in previous articles, with owners living longer, it’s improbable that Junior is going to hang around the business into his or her 70s, when Mom and Dad finally reach their 90s and hand over the reins of control – not operating control, I mean real control, control of the voting stock transferred when the last parent dies.
How About an Exit Where Everyone Makes Money?
But what if an advisor could frame the exit of the controlling shareholder as the day when all family members become wealthy? Far too often, death is the triggering event for the transfer of stock. Few children are offered an opportunity to risk their capital to buy the stock of their parents’ business at an early age. I recommend that when a child is 14, the parents and advisors begin the process of implanting the idea that the family business will be bought, not gifted, and that employment is different from ownership.
For a variety of reasons, the majority of parents signal that there’s no real or pressing need to recycle dollars in the family: “Hang around long enough, Junior, and all this will be yours – for free.”
Of course we know that nothing is ever really free and that while the ownership question is left hanging, there are as many underpaid children working in family businesses, as there are overpaid children. My experience on the speaking circuit is that few overpaid children ever risk their capital to buy out their parents. Why derail the gravy train? Parents who use their business to purchase and control family harmony do more harm than good and always pay the greatest price of all – a family wired for perpetual dependence.
Family Business Math
The dysfunction around the issue of compensation percolates and festers because the stakes have always been high. When Junior complains about low wages, some parents simply say, “If you don’t like what you’re paid, leave.” Emotionally and financially, it’s never been easy for a child to quit a parent’s business.
Child Quitting Over Compensation + Aging Business Owner = Less Inheritance For Junior.
You can see how family business math becomes really interesting when only one child working in the business quits and one or more siblings stay and toe the family line. Trimming the family tree, hacking off a limb, call it what you want, the family business too often becomes the fault line in relationships and turns financially advantaged families into emotionally bankrupt ones.
The equation for this scenario looks like this:
The Value of the Family Business When Child Leaves Over Compensation = More Money for Remaining Children
The Link Between Compensation and Wealth Protection Is Profound
What if the mathematics of a great exit has always been rudimentary? What if advisors could convince clients that all family members, both inside and outside the business, can build a great exit plan collaboratively? What if the key to this plan is asking children to risk capital and perpetuate the business for the right reason – because they think they can grow it and make money? Now there’s a novel idea.
For this to be successful, family members working in a business need to be paid for the value they add. There are significant risks to an owner’s successful exit when compensation for family members is too low or too high. Getting compensation right is one of the pre-conditions for leading a business to be sold to someone, either inside or outside the family – but sold nevertheless.
Dynastic Families Understand This Equation
Business Owner Paid Appropriately + Children in Business Paid Appropriately + All Other Relatives Outside the Business Not Paid at All by the Business = Business Sold, Wealth Protected, Happy Family
It’s simple addition – so simple it’s often overlooked. Treat your family business like a drive-thru ATM and pay family members not involved in the business for work not done, and your exit will be a tad complicated and painful. Keep treating your children as indentured laborers and you’ll get to the same place. If you’re a business owner, all of this can seem difficult. It is, but it’s not impossible and it’s definitely worth getting compensation right.
If you are an advisor, are you really prepared to leave your spreadsheets in your briefcase and talk to clients about important issues like compensating family members appropriately? Can you see the link between compensation and protecting your client’s wealth is an emotional issue? Can you see that the hard emotional issues are where advisors earn client trust?
How Did Tycoon Meshulam Riklis Make His Fortune?
Money is to look at, not to use. – Meshulam Riklis
One of the questions that I get asked on a regular basis is about the possibility of following the tycoon growth strategy without employing debt. The answer is that it is possible to do so. Over the years I have participated on the buy-side in a number of deals with debt averse buyers. One Russian transportation company comes to mind. The management team had basically been given the company for free by the Russian government shortly after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The managers then threw themselves fully into growing the company internationally, including in the USA. However, their steadfast rule remained “no debt.” Every acquisition had to be financed with internally generated cash.
The downside to avoiding debt is that it will take longer to get started and, thereafter, growth will be slower. However, some people just prefer to avoid the use of debt. In thePlaybook we focus on those who utilize well-managed debt to grow because it’s easier to start that way and the growth rate is far higher. If you are starting out without a large war chest, it’s imperative to be creative about financing. If you wait for the heavens to drop your grubstake into your lap, you will be waiting forever. The lesson is start small and fast, then build momentum.
Tycoons are masters at the creative financing needed to get rolling. Once you learn the basics of deal-making from them and have achieved a critical mass almost any deal becomes do-able. The challenge is to get started today with what you have. Tycoons have a great deal to teach us about getting off our duffs and starting one step at a time. Let’s take a look at what I mean by this.
One of the financial tools used by tycoons is leverage. This simply means that they will use as much debt as possible to put the financing together for a deal. In many cases, for every dollar of equity they invest there are four to nine times as many dollars of debt. We could spend a great deal of time going over how this is done but today I want to leap-frog the topic to someone who took leverage to an extreme.
I refer to Meshulam Riklis who described his financing strategy as “the effective nonuse of cash.” He summed up his financing philosophy as “Money is to look at, not to use.” Recall the old joke about bankers: they will only lend you money when you can show that you don’t need it and slam the door in your face when you do need it. The joke captures the catch-22 faced by borrowers. Riklis came up with a beautiful solution to the problem which he described in the following words:
Mergers may serve several purposes, but they usually have one single aim at the start. That aim is to create a better and more rounded operation that can lead to more profitable results.
After the first acquisition of Rapid Electrotype, the determining factor in the success of all subsequent deals, has been effective use, or nonuse, of cash.
The point of cash can best be illustrated by asking the question: If you knew I was in a position to pay for the article I wished to buy would you give me credit? Of course, the answer is bound to be “yes” and vice-versa, if one did not have the cash to pay for the merchandise he wished to buy, he would certainly be required to pay cash.
So Riklis began hoarding his cash and flashing it in front of lenders whenever he was raising financing for a new acquisition. The sight of the cash served to assuage their anxiety about lending to Riklis and helped him to keep his equity stake to a minimum.
Paul Piff: Does money make you mean? – Lugen Family Office
It’s amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there’s good news too. (Filmed at TEDxMarin.)
Paul Piff studies how social hierarchy, inequality and emotion shape relations between individuals and groups.
Why You Should Listen To Him?
Paul Piff is a post-doctoral researcher in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley. In particular, he studies how wealth (having it or not having it) can affect interpersonal relationships.
His surprising studies include running rigged games of Monopoly, tracking how those who drive expensive cars behave versus those driving less expensive vehicles and even determining that rich people are literally more likely to take candy from children than the less well-off. The results often don’t paint a pretty picture about the motivating forces of wealth. He writes, “specifically, I have been finding that increased wealth and status in society lead to increased self-focus and, in turn, decreased compassion, altruism, and ethical behavior.”
“When was the last time, as Piff puts it, that you prioritized your own interests above the interests of other people? Was it yesterday, when you barked at the waitress for not delivering your cappuccino with sufficient promptness? Perhaps it was last week, when, late to work, you zoomed past a mom struggling with a stroller on the subway stairs and justified your heedlessness with a ruthless but inarguable arithmetic: Today, the 9 a.m. meeting has got to come first; that lady’s stroller can’t be my problem. Piff is one of a new generation of scientists—psychologists, economists, marketing professors, and neurobiologists—who are exploiting this moment of unprecedented income inequality to explore behaviors like those. “ Lisa Miller, New York Magazine
As we approach the end of the calendar year, there is someone we recommend you have a friendly conversation with: your accountant.
The end of the calendar year carries its own due dates that create boundaries and opportunities for you. A coffee with your accountant would be a smart move. Here are a couple of things you might want to say [choose your own words, of course] to spark some useful and potentially profitable conversation:
1. There’s a rumour out there that non-eligible dividend tax rates are rising in 2014. Should I pay out a larger dividend in 2013?
2. I heard that there are changes in how we have to report my foreign assets – is there anything new I need to put together to help you prepare for tax season?
3. I have a feeling that interest rates are going up – should I top up my loan to my spouse?
4. I sold my business in 2013 and have been thinking about giving back a bit, or getting more serious about philanthropy. Do I need to make a donation before year-end to offset this one-time tax hit? Is there anything I can do to still give me some time to strategize, or do my gifts need to be finalized by the 31st?
Also, there are less urgent, but not necessarily less important, tasks like:
• Review the beneficiary elections on your insurance contracts
• Any contributions you might want to make to TFSA, RRSP or RESP accounts
• Update wills and shareholders agreements
Finally, to take this up to our more customary big picture, before you make decisions on financial issues, it’s an excellent moment to think about four things: your values, the vision for your family and wealth, the mission you’re working to accomplish, and the specific goals you are working to achieve.
This is a good time of year for you to have a conversation with your key advisors, and especially your accountant. Your decisions are worth the extra few minutes.
My Vet sends me reminder letters … Why can’t my lawyer when it comes to my Will?
Leading up to the release of my new book Willing Wisdom, I paid extra attention to the mail I received. Delivered to my home over the course of three months, were reminder letters from a host of personal service suppliers, including my accountant to file my taxes, my window cleaner, my lawn service, my insurance provider and my veterinarian.
What I didn’t receive, in fact what I’ve never received over the course of my 51 years on the planet, is a letter from my lawyer reminding me to up-date my will. Curious to know if I’m special (and not in a gifted way) I recently asked my audience – about 200 business owners from across North America assembled at a convention in La Jola California – how many of them had received an annual letter from their lawyer reminding them to up-date their will? Only seven hands shot up.
The results confirmed my suspicion that, like me, 193 people in that room had windows and pets receiving better regularly scheduled maintenance than their estate plans. So what’s the deal?
More alarming is that when questioned on the subject, half of that room acknowledged they didn’t have a will at all. When pressed further, 50% of those who did have a will confessed that it had been more than 5 years since it was last up-dated. When questioned even further almost the entire room confessed to having clean windows, healthy pets and weed free lawns.
Approximately 125 million North Americans over the age of 18 have no will and will eventually die intestate. The resulting financial and relational devastation to families is incalculable.
When I asked my veterinarian how she could be so organized and proactive in scheduling my pet’s annual check-up she tilted her head side ways (kind of like the way my dog Goblin does when I say “treats”) she blurted out – “auto-scheduler”. She might as well have added …“duhhh.”
Asking her for detail on this cutting edge 25-year-old technology she noted it was free — as in it doesn’t cost anything.
Below is the letter I received from my veterinarian word for word.
To: Tom Deans
Annual physical examinations and a personal health consultation is integral to maintaining Goblin’s health. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. We’ve missed you and look forward to seeing you soon!
Dufferin Veterinary Hospital
If you’re not receiving a letter from your lawyer reminding you to up-date your will, would you consider forwarding this article to your lawyer and help them get acquainted with the power of “auto-scheduling” and helping clients keep their estate plans up-to-date? Here’s a sample letter for them to consider sending annually to clients like you.
A will is one of the most important legal documents for you and your family to consider. If one or more of the following apply to you, please call our office and schedule an appointment.
In the past year have you experienced?
- the birth of a child, grandchild or other close family member?
– has someone close died?
– have you acquired or sold a business?
– has your financial situation materially changed?
There are many other changes in your life that may affect your will that we would be pleased to discuss, including Powers of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directives and the selection of Executor(s).
I look forward to meeting with you.
Your Lawyer Who Totally Gets that You are Busy and Reluctant to Think, Talk and Up-Date Your Will.
And while you’re at it, please remind your lawyer that no less than four US Presidents died without a will — two were lawyers.
To Book Tom Deans, a Lugen Family Office Speaker and
The LFO 2013 Speaker of the Year Award Winner,
to speak to Your Clients, Donors, or Employees at one
of your events, please click here.
In Canada the top .01% of income earners have an average income of $6 million, and collectively earn 1.5% of our total income. Sounds like a lot until you look at the US, where the top .01% earn an average of $24 million each – which adds up to a 4.5% share of the total.
(from Canadian Business, Dec 9, 2013, Editor’s Letter by Duncan Hood)
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for handling risks. The nature of a specific risk and the circumstances (extent of exposure, available resources, and so forth) often dictate which technique, or combination of techniques, is most appropriate. Basically, there are five methods for dealing with risk. It is easy to remember these by thinking of the acronym STARR.
Sharing—Sometimes, when a risk cannot be avoided and retention would involve too much exposure to loss, we may choose risk sharing as a means of handling the risk. By sharing risk with someone else, an individual also shares potential losses. That is, the individual’s own loss may not be as great if it occurs, but the individual may have to pay a portion of the losses experienced by others.
Transfer—Risk transfer means transferring the risk of loss to another party, usually an insurance company, that is more willing or able to bear the risk. Some non-insurance transfers of risk occur, such as when one agrees to assume the risk of another under the terms of a written contract.
Avoidance—As the name implies, this technique deals with risk by avoiding the risk in the first place. This usually means not undertaking an activity that could involve the chance of loss. For example, by never flying, one could eliminate the risk of being in an airplane crash.
Reduction—Sometimes, when risks cannot be avoided, they can be reduced. Risk reduction can work in one of two ways: it can reduce the chance that a particular loss will occur, or it can reduce the amount of a potential loss if it occurs. For example, installing a smoke alarm in a home would not lesson the possibility of fire, but it would reduce the risk of the loss from the fire.
Retention—Retention simply means doing nothing about the risk. In other words, people assume or retain the risk and, in effect, become self-insurers. For example, the insured would pay a smaller portion of the loss than the insurer, such as paying a deductible.
Billionaires Dumping Stock + Running From Wall St.
Billionaires are jumping ship from Wall St., with Warren Buffet and George Soros among the notable 1% dumping their stocks in an effort to avoid a feared market crash. We look at analysis of the moves by the power hitters and how too big to fail banks look set to take another hit in this Buzzsaw news clip with Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace.