Protect your business and preserve your legacy. The 10 questions every business owner should consider.

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1 Protect your business and preserve your legacy. The 10 questions every business owner should consider.

2 Our top ten questions and answers While there are many Top Ten Questions lists published in the financial services industry, this list is quite different from any other. Because at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), we firmly believe when it comes to helping you protect the business you ve built from the ground up, there s a whole different set of questions you should be considering first. Of course, we can also help you with more standard questions like How much life insurance do I need? or Should I buy Term or Permanent life insurance? or How much money will I need to retire? But this is something different. It s all about your business, your family, and preserving your legacy.

3 1 What are my goals as a business owner? Before you can even begin thinking about which financial products are right for you and your business, you need to know what you want to accomplish as a business owner. In other words, think about what motivated you to start your business in the first place. Was it a desire to chase a dream? Was it a drive to give back to your community? Or, was it your goal to leave something behind for your family? Whether it was one or more of these factors, or something else entirely, you should take time to consider your goals again whether you do so alone, with family members, mentors, business partners, or trusted financial advisors as it will help you create the best framework for your business planning strategy. 2 My business is my livelihood, who else is dependant upon its success? This question should be at the very heart of your planning process. Questions like, What kinds of financial products do I need? can only be answered by fully evaluating your desire to provide for those you care about most. While your spouse and/or children are the most obvious dependents, there are others you must carefully consider as well, such as your business partners and employees, who may be counting on you and your business to contribute to their livelihoods. Think carefully about who depends on the success of your business. The fact is, not all business closures are due to poor sales or a downturn in the economy. With a well-conceived, updated list of current and potential dependents, you ll be better prepared to take steps toward protecting your business and minimizing the impact that unforeseen events could have on those who depend on you and your business. 3 Do I have benefits in place to attract, reward and retain top talent? Whether it s their creative genius, sales acumen, or leadership qualities, your key employees make valuable contributions to your business each and every day. So you can t afford to lose them, and you definitely can t afford to lose them to a competitor. Because of everything they bring to your business, you may consider them to be among your company s most valuable assets. You may already offer a standard benefits package that includes medical, dental, and perhaps a 401(k) plan. However, your competitors likely offer a similar package. Nowadays, employees are looking for benefits that go above and beyond the standard packages most employers are offering. Your ability and willingness to offer additional benefits go a long way toward positioning your business as the employer of choice for top talent. And just as important, offering benefits beyond standard packages can help foster loyalty and increase motivation among the employees who are most critical to the success of your business. 1

4 4 Do I know what my business is worth right now? The reality is that most business owners don t know what their business is truly worth, because they have never had their business valued. However, to plan and grow your business, that s exactly what you should consider having a certified appraiser do. An accurate valuation of your business can also help you better estimate your retirement nest egg when planning your retirement income strategy. Plus, it can help prevent potential issues with the IRS when the time comes to pay estate taxes. Knowing what your business is worth is critical for business planning. For example, when an owner is ready to sell their business, having an accurate business valuation can help eliminate potential conflict with a prospective buyer. Keep in mind, a proper business valuation is not a rule of thumb. It is thoughtfully researched and crafted by a credentialed appraiser. Then it s documented and presented in writing. Knowing what your business is worth is critical for proper business planning. 5 Do I have a buy-sell agreement in place, and if so, is it properly funded? Without a buy-sell agreement in place, upon the death or disability of a business owner, their business, or pieces of it, may be sold to pay the surviving owners for their share(s) of the business, estate taxes, and/or operating expenses. Yet, only 1 in 4 family business owners have a legally documented buy-sell agreement 1, while the rest have never taken the time to get one completed. Or, they don t know why one is necessary at all. However, when properly executed and funded, buy-sell agreements can be critical in helping to ensure the continuity of your business from the four D s death, disability, divorce and departure. If a buy-sell agreement is in place, it s important to make sure it s funded in accordance with the current value of the business. Otherwise, it won t accomplish what it is intended to do. To help make certain your buy-sell agreement continually meets the needs of your business, it should be reviewed at least once every three years to account for any changes that can and will occur over time. 2

5 6 Have I made my family members and key employees aware of my succession plan? You want your business to stand the test of time, to be a source of income and security now and well into the future for you and your family. However, businesses can transition expectedly, or unexpectedly. That s why a succession plan stating who will take over, and when, is so necessary to the future of your business. So, it s important to have meaningful discussions with family members and key employees early in the plan s development process. This includes speaking with potential successors to ensure they share your passion and vision for the business. It also includes setting expectations around your involvement in the business after the transition takes place. Along with your family, be sure to coordinate your succession plan with key employees by having them participate in structuring the plans when appropriate. Then, make sure they fully understand the impact the plan could have on them. It s crucial to have key employees and family members supportive of future leadership, because you can never be certain under what circumstances the transition might occur. 7 Will I have sources of retirement income beyond proceeds from the sale of my business? Many business owners have a difficult time finding a buyer who is ready, willing, and able to pay the appropriate value for their business at the point in time when the owner wants to sell it. So business owners typically do one of three things: 1) They don t sell and thus put off their retirement; 2) They do sell their business, but at a value below its worth; or 3) They take back paper, which means the seller must wait to see whether the buyer can properly manage the business and pay the remaining purchase price over time. These variables underscore the importance of a diversified retirement income strategy. The sale of your business should be a major component of your strategy. After all, it s probably your largest asset. But it s also important to have other sources of income available should you ever need them. There are no guarantees when the time comes to sell your business. So don t let the final decision regarding your retirement be affected by such uncertainties. 3

6 8 Have I taken the necessary steps to minimize my tax burden? If you are at all like most small business owners, you re familiar with having to deal with tight cash flow and small profit margins from time to time. So you could definitely benefit from a full reduction in your tax payments. There are many factors that will contribute to how you and your business are taxed, including the structure of your business and the tax breaks you may be eligible to receive because of it. The first step toward effectively managing your tax burden is to have an accurate picture of your business financial status. Your financial books should be clear and current at all times. This way, you re always in position to manage your cash flow namely your accounts payable and accounts receivable, as well as your inventory. And, of course, you ll need an up-to-date, written business valuation for estate planning purposes. The last thing you or your heirs want is the IRS valuating your business for you. 9 Do I have a coordinated team of advisors working with me? Business owners often claim their spouses are their most trusted business advisors. 1 However, you need a team of proven advisors in your corner, along with your family, in order to help protect the financial future of your business and your loved ones. These advisors should include your accountant, attorney, financial professional, property and casualty agent, and any others who will help you effectively manage and protect your assets. The challenge is that these advisors often work independently of one another, rarely coordinating efforts on your behalf. That s why it is important to appoint a captain of your advisory team, thus empowering one person to bring the best thinking of all your advisors together and help ensure they are all working in harmony with your best interest in mind. So be sure to educate yourself and work with a qualified tax professional to understand the tax advantages afforded to business owners such as yourself. 4

7 10 How do I pick the right financial professional to work with me and my business? Owning, growing, and protecting a business requires you to make countless tough decisions, financial and otherwise. That s why you should have someone to advise you throughout the process. When choosing a financial professional, it is essential to work with someone who is knowledgeable and who also inspires your trust and confidence. They should have access to a wide range of products to meet a variety of needs, be able to clearly explain how they get paid for the services they provide, and provide references upon request. Lastly, make sure your financial professional has a solid support network behind them. Those affiliated with strong, reputable firms will likely have access to better resources to support your specific needs as a business owner. After all, aside from your family and your business partners, a trusted financial professional is there to help you determine your action plan, implement it, and evaluate it periodically to make sure you are still on track. The best financial professionals are good listeners who seek to fully understand your unique business, personal, and financial objectives before ever proposing possible solutions. 5

8 MassMutual. We ll help you get there. 1 Source: FamilyPreneurship: What every entrepreneur wants to know about being in business with a family member, January-March 2009, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). Insurance products issued by MassMutual, Springfield, MA Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA All rights reserved. MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. SB10214AA 613 CRN

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