Monthly Archives: February 2017

Simple Tips To Calculate Your Net Worth

Do you know how much you’re worth? Most people don’t but as a business owner, your personal net worth may be important. Although your business is probably legally separate from your personal assets, a bank that considers giving you a business loan will likely ask for personal collateral if your business has little real value. Calculating your net worth gives you an accurate picture of how much of your personal worth you’re pledging to your business.

On a more personal level, having a clear picture of how much you’re worth helps with financial planning. Do you have enough saved for retirement; where is your debt and are there assets that could help you pay it down it down faster? What percentage of your net worth is in liquid investments and is it allocated appropriately? Your net worth is more than a single number—it’s an entire report full of important data.

Terms

Before diving into the calculations, you need to know a few terms:

Asset- Any property with real value. Real estate, a car, and jewelry or art are a few examples.

Illiquid Asset- Something that can’t be converted to cash quickly without a substantial loss. Remember the housing crisis that left people underwater on their homes? Homes became an illiquid asset for many.

Liability- Something you owe—a debt.

Liquid Asset- Something easily sold for profit. Stocks might be the best example.

Personal Property- Something you own that is movable—boats, cars, collectibles, and furniture are examples of personal property.

Real Property- Property permanently attached like a home, a barn, or detached garage.

Gather the Information

Probably the toughest part of calculating your net worth is gathering the information. Some of the information might be an estimate. Unless your real property was appraised recently, you won’t know it’s current value without paying an appraiser. In the case of your home, look up recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood and use those as a guide for estimating your home’s worth. These are called “comps” or comparables in the real estate business.

If you have jewelry, some jewelry stores have appraisers on staff or they can recommend somebody.

For assets like your car or some collectibles, look at online guides that list their value. If you haven’t dug into the value of a 401(k) from a past employer or the cash value of a life insurance policy, set up online accounts with the firms holding these investments or call and request a current statement.

If you’re going to invest time into calculating your net worth, do the legwork to compile the most accurate data. The more you estimate, the more inaccurate your final calculation will be.

The Calculation

Calculating your net worth is simple once you have the information. It’s simply your assets (what you own) minus your liabilities (what you owe). Add everything you own including:

Money in savings or checking accounts
Actual cash
CDs or treasury bills
Annuities, bonds, mutual funds, pensions and other retirement plans, stocks
The cash value of any life insurance policies
The value of real and personal property
Anything else that you own that has sellable value.
Next, add your liabilities

Loans—car, mortgage, home equity, second mortgage, boat
Credit card debt
Medical bills
Student loans
Personal loans
Taxes due
Any other debt or outstanding bills
Subtract your total liabilities from your total assets. Now you know your net worth.

What’s Next?

Once you do the work the first time, the calculation is easier the next time around. If you haven’t already, use a free service like Mint.com to keep many of the numbers up to date in one place. Instead of having to compile the value of each of your investment accounts, credit cards, and everything else, you simply open Mint and copy the numbers into your spreadsheet.

In fact, Mint tracks the estimated value of many of your personal and real assets and gives you your net worth based on the information it has. It won’t be perfect but it will be pretty close.

Best Tips for Selling Your Business and Retiring

The majority of business owners are planning on the proceeds from the sale of their business to fund their retirement. However, the 2013 State of Owner Readiness Survey revealed that over 80% of business owners have no formal transition plan.

Historically, only 25% of businesses up for sale actually sell. Those odds are likely to become worse as millions of baby boomers attempt to sell their businesses over the next decade in the Exit Bubble®.

Combine the lack of readiness with the historically low success rates for selling a business, and you could be looking at the perfect storm for business owners. Below are five tips to increase your odds for a successful business sale:

1. Start planning NOW! It is never too early or too late to start planning the sale of your business. You’ll need to become informed on the emotional aspects to anticipate, and educated on the numerous tactical complexities of the business sale process. This will help put you on a level playing field with buyers and increase the odds of a successful sale.

2. Create a clear vision of what comes next. One of the biggest reasons businesses don’t sell is that business owners don’t have a vision of what they will do next. They can’t imagine not being the owner of “XYZ Company,” and the fear of the unknown causes them to walk from a deal at the last minute (cold feet).

For you, what comes next might involve working in a different occupation, dedicating more time to charity work or becoming a coach. Taking the time for this introspection early in the sale process greatly increases your odds of successfully getting to the closing table.

3. Be armed with the facts. It is natural that, as a business owner, you value your business higher than most buyers. You have spent years of blood, sweat and tears building your company and know it inside and out. Unfortunately, buyers don’t have that same level of understanding or legacy. Before buyers begin to ask questions, perform your own pre-sale due diligence on your business. View your business through the eyes of a potential buyer to identify impending issues and arm yourself with detailed facts about the business. Sellers who can answer detailed questions with facts and data (as opposed to opinion and anecdote) instill confidence in buyers and make the due diligence process easier.

4. Minimize surprises. Surprises are fun for birthdays but not when selling a business. When dealing with a potential buyer, it is human nature to want to avoid discussing a negative issue such as a troubled customer relationship. Especially for proud business owners who feel confident the relationship issues can be resolved. Buyers may not have that same confidence without the years of history with that customer. Instead, identify potential negative issues during your pre-sale diligence, and disclose them immediately while you still have negotiating power. Once you sign the letter of intent, a negative surprise in due diligence could result in a reduced purchase price or a failed deal.

5. Don’t take it personally. Due diligence is the most personal thing you will do in business, and it’s critical you don’t take it personally. Buyers routinely perform due diligence to confirm what you have told them and to find potential reasons to reduce the purchase price. This is standard business practice. Buyers question everything about the business and want facts to support the answers you have provided. You might feel like you are being attacked and a buyer is criticizing your business. By having a vision for your life after you sell, and by being prepared to answer the difficult questions, you can keep your emotions in check and get to the closing table.

Some Small Business Money Mistakes

Of all the roles a small business owner takes on, often the most challenging is managing the business’s finances. The reasons are many, but most small business owners don’t have a background in business finance, and at least at the start, are more focused on bringing in business and serving the customers than they are on record keeping and financial planning for their business. As a result, many work long and hard at their businesses with only mediocre success to show for their efforts. Others fail completely.

You can improve your chances for success – and your profitability — by being aware of and steering clear of these common small business money mistakes.

Insufficient Cash

Insufficient cash is one of the leading causes of business failure. Startups often overestimate how quickly they’ll start making money, and underestimate all the expenses they’ll incur. But startups aren’t the only businesses prone to failure due to insufficient cash. Once you have a steady flow of business you can run into cash problems in a couple of ways. One is a failure to realize the difference between cash flow and sales. You can have plenty of sales on record, but unless you get paid in advance for those sales, you’ll have expenses to pay before you collect from your customers. If one or more of your big customers pays late, or doesn’t pay at all, you may not have the cash to pay your bills on time.

Growing businesses can have a similar problem. You ramp up to be able to serve bigger customers or a wider areas, and before you start earning income from the growth, you need cash to pay your growing staff, growing payroll taxes, and other growing overhead expenses.

Still another problem for an existing business: existing cash flow may make the business owner miss or ignore falling profits and growing debt. To avoid cash flow problems take pains to accurately estimate all your costs and allow for the time it can take you to get paid. Get invoices out on time, stay on top of collectibles, and reassess your cash position at least quarterly, if not more often.

Waiting Too Long to Seek Credit

The worst time to look for a business loan or line of credit is when you most need it. If your business is paying its bills late and is on the brink of failing, finding funding will be difficult or impossible. The time to seek funding is when your business looks solid enough to convince a lender you will be able to repay what you borrow.

The type of credit to seek will depend on the type of business you run, the purpose of the funds, and the size of the loan. Depending what you need, funding sources include traditional banks, online lenders, credit card cash advances or purchases, and specialty lenders. (For major projects, check with your local economic development agencies for suggestions on funding.) Interest rates and terms vary widely, so give yourself time to find the best funding source for your needs. And don’t get discouraged if local banks turn you down. Check with the major online lenders to see if they’ll work with you and how their rates and terms may compare with other options.

Mixing Business and Personal Funds

Whether you are starting a new business, or you’re running an established business, mixing personal and business funds is a recipe for disaster. Assuming you are the sole owner and you buy business supplies with your personal credit card or use a business check to pay for a personal purchase, you’re going to have difficulty keeping track of how much money the business actually is making or losing throughout the year.

You’ll also have a big headache at tax time trying to separate out the business and personal purchases to determine what’s deductible on your business tax form, and what your profit or loss is for the year. The headache will get a lot worse if you get audited and the IRS believes you have purchased goods or services for personal use and deducted them as business expenses. If you have business partners or investors and mix business and personal expenditures, you’ll have even more problems on your hands.

Finally, if you don’t clearly separate business and personal expenses (using separate banking accounts and credit cards for each), you’ll find it difficult or impossible to get a business loan if you ever need one.

Even if your business is only a part-time operation with few profits, you should have a separate checking account and separate credit card for the business. You may need to take out the credit card in your own name when you’re starting out, and that’s ok, as long as it’s used exclusively for business purchases.

If there are times when you have to use personal funds for your business – or vice versa – the correct way to handle the situation is to make a formal transaction and document it. If you have business partners, get them to sign off on the transaction, too.

Not Staying on Top of Recordkeeping

Let’s face it. Recordkeeping is a big pain in the neck. As a business owner your focus is usually on winning business and making sure the customers get it in a timely fashion. Along the way there are so many things to do that it’s easy to let recordkeeping fall by the wayside. Receipts for inventory or other purchases get shoved in a folder, envelope, drawer, or the proverbial shoebox, until such time as you “get around” to recording them. Invoices for items you’ve purchased on credit maybe wind up in your inbox – with dozens of other pieces of paper. Mileage records for business travel may wind up on the back of a receipt or napkin, or stuck in a note on your smart phone. Check stubs from people who still pay you that way wind up in the same folder or drawer, and credit card payments show up in your bank account based on the credit card used to make the purchase, with no convenient way of matching any one day’s credit card receipts to specific purchases made.

As a result, whenever you get around to actually putting the expenses and income records in an accounting program or spreadsheet, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to remember what each thing was for. You may also have misplaced some of the records. Worse, if you haven’t been keeping all your accounting up-to-date, you may find out months down the road that you’re losing money because the cost of your supplies went up and the number of hours your employees worked went up, but you never raised your prices.

The only way to avoid these kinds of recordkeeping disasters is to do you recordkeeping weekly or more frequently. Either you have to take the time yourself to enter all the data into an accounting program or spreadsheet or you need to delegate the job to someone else. If you have someone else manage all your financial records, you need to review their work weekly, looking to be sure income and expenditures are properly documented and be sure that nothing looks strange. Employee theft is a big problem for small businesses, and often the thief turns out to be a trusted, long-time employee.

Under-pricing

Determining the right price to charge for products or services is seldom an easy decision. Charge too much, and you could lose sales to a competitor. Charge too little, and you won’t make much profit – or worse, you’ll lose money.

Small businesses – particularly those just starting out – often charge too little. Sometimes they rationalize that the low price is a way of “getting their foot in the door.” Sometimes the price is low because a new business owner isn’t taking into account the cost of his or her own labor, or hasn’t accurately determined all of the costs that have to be considered in setting prices.

A fencing company, for instance, has to figure in not only their costs for the fencing, but also the costs of labor, advertising, office expense, vehicle maintenance and repair, and other overhead costs when deciding what to charge customers. An independent consultant may have fewer overhead or labor costs to consider, but has to pay close attention to what her target annual income is, how many clients she’ll actually land and be able to serve during the year, and how many hours of work time will be billable vs unbillable and what her advertising, networking and other promotional expenses will be.

Established small businesses sometimes underprice their goods and services because they’re afraid to raise their rates. They worry if they increase their prices their customers will go elsewhere.

Tips To Reduce Business Debt

Your business is no different than your home—too much debt can cripple you. Although it might be ideal to run a debt-free business, that’s virtually impossible. The best you can do is to manage and reduce it as much as possible. Here are some ideas.

1. Know Your Numbers. Don’t just be familiar with your numbers—know them. Knowing them means that you know the cost of each of your raw materials, labor, rent or lease costs, and everything else. Do you know what each item costs down to the penny? Do you know the interest rate on each of your debts? If you don’t, you’re probably paying too much for something.

2. Be Smart About Your Ordering. Sometimes you stock a poor-margin item that gets people into your store, but as a general rule, if it’s not getting you to the margins that others in the industry report, it may not be worth your time. Sales that result in ultra-low margins are costing you money. Identify unprofitable sales and eliminate them or look for a lower price from suppliers.

3. Increase your Margins. Speaking of margins, each industry has its own benchmark for what are considered strong margins. Do you know yours? Check with your industry trade group, but once you know it, make adjustments. You can raise your prices, lower your costs, or both. The goal should be to raise margins without raising your overhead expenses. What are others charging for the same item? Can you purchase more at a significantly lower cost without losing the savings to debt service?

4. Watch Your Inventory. Like your refrigerator at home, some items tend to linger. Don’t put off ordering more of your popular inventory but look for the product that isn’t selling and liquidate it.

Inventory is probably where most of your money is tied up. You’re probably paying interest on that stale inventory that everybody forgot about. Don’t let it sit in your store unnoticed. Even if you move it at cost or for a small loss, liquidating is better than keeping the money tied up. Sell it online—eBay or Craigslist, for example.

5. Check Your Interest Rates. Business owners are still enjoying an economic climate of low interest rates. If you have older debt, it’s time to renegotiate the terms.

6. Talk About the Terms. If you’re having trouble making payments, talk to the supplier about extending the terms. You aren’t going to save any money but lower payments may give you the financial room you need until the product sells.

7. Sell and Lease Back. Do you have relatively new fleet vehicles or other larger items? Sometimes it makes sense to sell the items and lease them back. Payments might be lower. To gauge the payoff that comes from this strategy, you will likely need help from a professional crunching the numbers.

8. Ask Your Employees. You were an employee at some point. You know that the people on the front lines will see things that the managers may not. Your employees know where money is being wasted. Ask them. They may be skittish about telling you for fear of retaliation. Explain to them why you’re asking and maybe offer a bonus to anybody who helps the company save money.

9. Be Tougher on Your Customers. Don’t become that business owner that every customer hates but do insist that customers meet their payment terms. You probably won’t go to battle if payment is a few days late but when a couple of weeks go by, it’s time to start calling the customer to ask for payment. If late paying customers are a big problem, you may want to add a late fee clause to agreements you have customers sign before you begin work for them. Check with your local professional advisors to find out if there are any laws that regulate what late fees you can charge. Good business relationships happen when both parties feel respected and valued.

10. Reduce Staff. Nobody likes to reduce staff, but if your business fails, the reduction in staff will be much larger. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions that negatively impact the few to protect the many. Are there employees you could do without? Could you consolidate positions by paying one person more rather than paying benefits for two employees?

11. Speak to a Credit Counselor. Most credit counselors are consumer-based but some work with small businesses. If you’re having trouble negotiating better terms, a credit counselor might be able to help.

12. Hire a Debt Management Company. Debt Management companies come into your business and sniff out where you’re losing money unnecessarily. They may be expensive but worth it in the long-run.

13. Bring on an Investor. If things are really bad, an investor can offer an injection of cash often in exchange for a piece of your company. In general, avoiding this option is best since it involves signing away a portion of your future profits but if times are really tough, it’s worth considering. However, finding investors is difficult. Don’t wait too long to start looking.