Do you know the important considerations and opportunities at the various life stages of your business? Of course every business owner committed to success starts with an idea, works hard to make it happen, and then believes in the potential for great things. Often overlooked in the excitement of business startup, success also needs a plan to manage your business for growth.
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Innovation. Perseverance. Accomplishment. Every business owner committed to success starts with an idea, works hard to make it happen, and believes in the potential for great things.
As an entrepreneur, you must manage your business for growth, as well as your personal wealth for accumulation and preservation. Building your financial freedom, while growing your business, is a process that begins in a business’s infancy and continues throughout its maturity. Depending on the stage of your business, you will have different needs and priorities. For example, startups often must raise capital or secure financing, while owners of more established businesses may be focused on developing exit strategies and funding retirement.
Let’s take a look at some important considerations and opportunities at the various life stages of your business.
While most young companies are born on a wave of energy and enthusiasm, it is challenging to survive infancy. Financially, this phase is usually the most difficult. Oftentimes, startup entrepreneurs funnel their personal savings into the company and use their assets as collateral for loans. All this may be at stake, and the business may not be generating profits. But this is the risk business owners take on their quest for success. Like most of the challenging phases we experience on the road to maturity, this too shall pass—more easily with a solid business plan.
An important complement to your business plan is a fine-tuned marketing strategy. In order to promote your company and generate business, you must make your product or services known. Then, when the money comes in, cash flow management becomes crucial. Even profitable businesses may flounder if they fail to have cash on hand to meet their financial obligations. If you need more incentive, know that wise cash flow management may help you attract potential lenders and investors. Success in these areas will help you achieve a measure of stability and get on track for the next phase: growth.
With a growing client base, steady income, and profitability at hand, the potentially successful business owner faces various decisions. Should you offer new products and services? What role should investors play in the company? Do you need to hire more staff? What benefits are best for attracting and retaining valuable employees? All of these questions have answers, but the most appropriate solutions for your business will depend on your unique situation.
During the formative years, it’s important to keep an eye on your personal financial future when reinvesting in your business. One area of concern is asset protection. Businesses often start out as sole proprietorships or partnerships, but it may be in your best interest from both a tax and liability perspective to consider structuring your business as an S corporation or a limited liability company (LLC).
In the early stages, employee benefits can be a significant cost burden, but they play an important role in your company’s success and your own financial security. In addition to providing you with the resources you need personally, attractive benefit plans will help you attract and retain qualified employees.
Qualified retirement plans offer tax-advantaged opportunities for both your business and participating employees. There are many options, including Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) and Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLEs), which are relatively cost effective and easy to administer. More flexible plans that allow you to save more annually are 401(k)s (with variations including Safe Harbor and Solo 401(k)s), profit sharing plans, and defined benefit plans. To enhance benefits for key employees, you may want to consider nonqualified plans such as deferred compensation or executive bonus plans, which can help you selectively reward and retain your best and brightest.
As you accumulate wealth, protecting your earnings and lifestyle is paramount. Planning for life’s uncertainties with proper insurance coverage may help minimize your risk of loss. Life insurance offers financial protection for your family after your death, and disability income insurance replaces a portion of your income should you experience a qualifying injury or illness and be unable to work for a period of time. You may also wish to consider long-term care insurance, which can help pay for medical expenses should the need arise. In all three areas, group coverage is available for your employees.
If you have key employees or business partners, weigh the benefits of key person life insurance and key person disability income insurance to protect your business. To cover business expenses such as salary or benefit costs if you or a partner experiences a disability, consider business overhead expense insurance.
As your business matures, it may be time to shift your focus from wealth accumulation to wealth preservation. Two areas of focus are key: business succession and estate planning. With the appropriate strategies, you can minimize estate taxes and maximize the amount passed to your heirs.
A well-developed succession plan can help you smoothly transfer or sell your company. If you wish to keep ownership and control of your business within your family, assess the interest and qualifications of potential parties and develop a transition strategy. If you plan on selling your business, it is important to properly valuate your business and prepare for the sale. A buy-sell agreement can formally prearrange a buyer for your business and stipulate the price that buyer will pay. The deal may be funded with a life insurance policy to ensure that cash will be available to purchase the business when necessary, should you die unexpectedly.
At every developmental stage, professional guidance can help you survive the growing pains and make the most of your opportunities. For more information, be sure to consult your legal, tax, and financial professionals.
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