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An Ounce of Prevention

ounce-of-prevention-1As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  As we continually emphasize to our clients, the best time to establish written agreements and procedures is before disputes arise. Given the fact that many business owners embark on new business ventures with family members, close friends, and other familiar business associates, it is not surprising that they frequently operate with the attitude of getting the business off the ground while “figuring everything else out later.”

Of course, we understand this perspective, and can appreciate that time and resources may be limited. Yet, succumbing to this trap often leads to significant unintended, negative consequences.  The results frequently include loss of valuable time and money, and the uncertainty of unwanted litigation. The cost of cleaning up mistakes is exponentially higher than hiring a good transactional lawyer from the beginning. Sadly, we have seen the closest of friends and family members end up in court, something that could easily have been avoided through thoughtful, proactive planning.

The following are some common pitfalls that could cause issues or disputes later on: operating without written agreements among business owners; failing to document key business transactions; inadequate corporate governance; disorganized management structure; tardiness in state or federal filings resulting in fines and penalties; and commingling of business and personal funds. To be sure, these are just a sampling: there are an endless array of traps for the unwary, uninformed business owner.

Having appropriate agreements and business structure in place is crucial for many situations:  the onset of catastrophic events; preparation for a business acquisition or merger; or the smooth transition of a business triggered by a founder’s disability, death or retirement.

As experienced business lawyers, we strategize with our clients on how to best resolve issues and disputes when they arise. However, we much prefer working closely with our clients to proactively plan and prevent these types of issues from ever arising. And frankly, it’s easier, less costly, and more effective. Our clients are grateful in either scenario – coming to us before or after a dispute – but the before has much less headache.  

We look forward to speaking with any business owners who feel that they could benefit from this type of proactive approach.   

Business Succession Planning Article

Oakland Business Review: Business Succession Planning

We are proud to announce that the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently featured us in the September issue of the Oakland Business Review special section entitled, Law Offices of Oakland.

The article highlights how business owners often overlook succession planning when they first start out their businesses.  The reality is you can’t plan your path without first determining your ultimate destination. Are you building a company to pass down to your children or employees? Are you creating a business to be sold to a stranger? Without understanding your intention, you can’t develop or implement strategies and actions necessary to reach your goals. Nearly 80% of business owners say they want their businesses to survive them. And yet less than 25% have any type of written succession plan or “exit strategy”.  The all too frequent result is that businesses devolve into conflict and chaos when a founder dies, becomes disabled, or when business partners fail to share the same vision. Decades of blood, sweat and sacrifice go quickly down the drain, all for want of a simple plan.

A well crafted succession plan is as important as determining the type of entity best suited for the company; utilizing contracts and agreements that accurately reflect and protect business decisions; and understanding the legal requirements and procedures necessary to retain the financial and legal protections a business entity provides.

By preparing for the ‘What Ifs’ before they happen, business succession planning improves the likelihood of your company weathering the storms and quakes of an uncertain world. […] Click here to read more.

What Machu Picchu Teaches About Business Success

Just as in construction, when building a business, one’s success depends on the time and energy spent establishing a solid foundation.

Those who know me are familiar with my love of international travel.  In particular, I am fascinated in understanding why certain structures have survived the tests of time whereas others are but a pile of rocks and rubble.

Recently a friend and I visited Machu Picchu, most famous of the Incan temples.  We were both amazed by how well preserved the buildings are, despite the fact the ancient city sits on a mountain top that has nearly 100 inches of annual rainfall in one of the most seismically active regions on earth.

Without question, Machu Picchu is an “engineering marvel.” The ancient builders invested as much effort into creating a stable infrastructure for Machu Picchu—underpinned by layers of topsoil, sandy gravel, and granite waste rock—as on the visible buildings. More than 700 terraces retained and channeled moisture and preserved soil, reducing erosion while providing space for agriculture.

I use this particularly vivid analogy to illustrate an important lesson: the more thought, time and planning one spends in constructing the foundation for a business, the more successful that business will be in weathering the storms and quakes of an uncertain and often volatile economic climate.

Over the 30+ years I have counseled business owners, the more passionate I have become in advocating these concepts.  Without exception, the businesses I have seen fail are those whose owners were so eager to “get out of the blocks” that they overlooked the key building blocks necessary to ensure their long-term viability and success.

When starting a business, it is essential to ask:

(1) Have we identified and evaluated all the potential risks involved in our particular type of business?

(2) Have we determined what type of business entity is best suited for our particular enterprise, and which will provide us the most legal protection and financial benefit?

(3)  Do we understand clearly the legal requirements and procedures we must follow in order to retain the financial benefits and legal protections the business entity can provide?

(4) Do we have a plan to protect the company and its owners in the event of a catastrophic event?

Certainly, there are a many other issues that must be considered.  If you’d like a list other questions you should be asking, email me at brian@brianaripley.com.

Why Should You Have a Business Succession Plan?

Did you know that:

  • 95% of American businesses are family-owned?
  • Family-owned American businesses generate roughly 40% of the gross national product?
  • More than one-third of the 500 largest U.S. companies are family-owned?

A respected national survey established that:

  • 79% of small business owners say that they want to retain their business within the family;
  • 70% of second generation family members share the hope of retaining the business within the family;
  • And yet only 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation.

More than 50% of business owners have more than half of their wealth tied up in their business.  With these statistics in mind, perhaps the most shocking is that nearly three-quarters of all family-owned businesses, or approximately 73%, have no succession plan whatsoever!  The all too frequent result is that businesses devolve into conflict and chaos when a business founder dies or becomes disabled.  Decades of blood, sweat and sacrifice go quickly down the drain, all for want of a simple plan.

Among my greatest passions as an attorney is to ensure that my business-owing clients don’t become a statistic.  Together, we craft a customized plan that preserves the value of the business by establishing a clear transition process while also providing the monetary resources necessary to implement the plan without jeopardizing the ongoing financial stability of the company.

If you’re interested in starting the conversation about what you can do to safeguard your business and your family’s long-term security, join me at one of my upcoming workshops on July 31 and August 6 in Danville and Oakland.  An experienced financial counselor and I will provide an overview of the “why’s” and “wherefore’s” of business succession planning.  We’ll then invite you to schedule an initial complimentary consultation to discuss whether and how you can move forward.

For more information on how to register for one of the upcoming workshops: http://brianaripley.com/business-succession-workshop