For most entrepreneurs, selling a business is a life-changing event. Now, the owner can reap the financial rewards of many years of hard work, and make the transition into retirement, another career or volunteer service.
Because of the financial implications of a business sale, it’s important for the owner to set clear goals and make careful plans before and after the sale itself. That’s particularly true when the proceeds from the sale are needed to provide financial security for owners and their families. Therefore, a business owner should consult with an attorney, a financial advisor and an estate planning professional when making plans for the sale.
If you are considering selling a business, the first steps include identifying potential buyers and determining the market value of your company. If you have multiple partners, perhaps they would be interested in buying your interest — a solution that can benefit all stakeholders. In other cases, you might engage a business broker to bring in one or more offers.
It’s also important to have your attorney and accountant review the assets of the business and be sure they are separate from any personal assets. For example, if you drive a vehicle that is leased in the company’s name, you may want to let that lease expire or purchase the vehicle for yourself.
On the other hand, your attorney should also identify potential liability issues that could surface upon the sale of your business. After all, no one wants to be drawn into a lawsuit if that can be avoided.
Now is also the time to review your personal goals with your financial advisor. One of the key questions is how much money you will need to live a comfortable retirement, assuming financial security is the primary goal of the business sale. Knowing how much you need is an important consideration when setting a price and negotiating the sale of your business.
Along with updating your financial plans, you should also talk with a tax professional about how to structure the sale of the business. For example, are you better off receiving a lump sum or stretching out the sale payments over several years. There may also be a benefit to remaining on the business’ payroll for a certain period as a consultant or advisor.
Talking with an estate planning specialist is another step toward planning your future. You may want to set aside a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sale to a favorite charity, or you may want to endow a trust for a child or grandchild with special needs.
Since it may take time to put these types of structures into place, it’s best to talk with your advisors well in advance of a potential sale.
After the sale
Once the sale has been completed, it’s time to celebrate your success. You might buy a new sailboat or motorcycle or decide to sail around the world with your spouse. But before you start spending the proceeds, be sure you have a solid wealth management plan in place to support your desired lifestyle.
First, be aware that friends, acquaintances and strangers may come knocking at the door asking for money — especially if the sale of your business becomes public knowledge. You may need to practice saying “no” to these requests, avoid speculative investments and protect yourself from scam artists and other criminals.
In that regard, you may want to sit down with your financial advisor and prepare an investment policy statement that outlines what you plan to do with your wealth in the future.
Next, take a fresh look at your personal and lifestyle goals several months after the sale. You may find that they have changed, and your financial plan may need to be adjusted as well. It’s not unusual for a new retiree to get bored with golfing every day and set out on a new path as a volunteer, mentor or industry consultant.
You should also be sure your financial plan provides a secure stream of income as well as protection against unexpected events, such as a sudden downturn on Wall Street or a sharp uptick in the inflation rate. After all, the world doesn’t stop just because you’ve made a huge change in your own life.
Since your investments are subject to a variety of risks, you should continue to maintain a diversified portfolio of assets. However, you may want to adjust the mix of those assets from time to time for your own peace of mind.
Just remember that careful planning in advance of the sale — and afterwards — is the key to maximizing the rewards of all your hard work.
Andrew Menachem, CIMA, CWS is a wealth advisor at the Menachem Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Miami and Aventura and teaches at the University of Miami.