Like most businesses, yours probably has a variety of physical assets, such as production equipment, office furnishings and a plethora of technological devices. But the largest physical asset in your portfolio may be your real estate holdings — that is, the building and the land it sits on.
Under such circumstances, many business owners choose to separate ownership of the real estate from the company itself. A typical purpose of this strategy is to shield these assets from claims by creditors if the business ever files for bankruptcy (assuming the property isn’t pledged as loan collateral). In addition, the property is better protected against claims that may arise if a customer is injured on the property and sues the business.
But there’s another reason to consider separating your business interests from your real estate holdings: to benefit your succession plan.
A common and generally effective way to separate the ownership of real estate from a company is to form a distinct entity, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a limited liability partnership (LLP), to hold legal title to the property. Your business will then rent the property from the entity in a tenant-landlord relationship.
Using this strategy can help you transition ownership of your company to one or more chosen successors, or to reward employees for strong performance. By holding real estate in a separate entity, you can sell shares in the company to the successors or employees without transferring ownership of the real estate.
In addition, retaining title to the property will allow you to collect rent from the new owners. Doing so can be a valuable source of cash flow during retirement.
You could also realize estate planning benefits. When real estate is held in a separate legal entity, you can gift business interests to your heirs without giving up interest in the property.
The details involved in separating the title to your real estate from your business can be complex. Our firm can help you determine whether this strategy would suit your company and succession plan, including a close examination of the potential tax benefits or risks.
Like most business owners, you’ve probably been urged by industry experts and professional advisors to identify the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for your company. So, just for the sake of discussion, let’s say you’ve done that. A natural question that often follows is: Now what? You know you’re supposed to keep an eye on these metrics every day but … how?
The right technology has you covered. There’s a specific type of software — commonly referred to as a “business dashboard” — that allows business owners to create customized views of all their chosen KPIs. And these applications don’t just lay out numbers like a spreadsheet. They provide an easy visual experience that allows you to keep your eyes on the prize: a cost-controlled, profitable company.
Business dashboards have been around for a decade or two in various forms. But today’s solutions have the advantage of being cloud-based, meaning the data driving them is typically stored on a secure server off-site. And you can access the dashboard from anywhere at any time on an authenticated device. (You can also still run a dashboard from your company’s own servers, if you prefer.)
If you’ve never used a dashboard before, you might wonder what one looks like. The name says it all. Ideally, a dashboard is a single screen of data — like the panel of gauges in your car — that displays various KPIs in the form of pie charts, bar graphs and other graphic elements.
A few must-haves
When shopping for a product, there are a few “must-haves” to insist on. The software should:
Be wary of vendors that over-promise “otherworldly” knowledge of your industry or try to upsell you on bells and whistles. The simpler the dashboard, the better. There will always be more complex financial issues regarding your business that can’t be put into simple terms on a dashboard.
Also, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is causing many to question the long-term viability of business dashboards. AI gathers and shapes data so quickly, and in such massive amounts, that some experts argue that a business owner’s chosen KPIs can rapidly become outmoded.
Nonetheless, dashboard software is still widely used in many industries. Just be prepared to regularly reassess and, if necessary, update your KPIs.
If you decide to invest in a business dashboard (or upgrade your current one), you’ll need to go about it carefully. We can help you set a budget and compare prices and functionalities to get an optimal return on investment.
Many business owners reach a point where managing the financial side of the enterprise becomes overwhelming. Usually, this is a good thing — the company has grown to a point where simple bookkeeping and basic financial reporting just don’t cut it anymore.
If you can relate to the feeling, it may be time to add a CFO or controller. But you’ve got to first consider whether your payroll can take on this generally high-paying position and exactly what you’d get in return.
The broad role
A CFO or controller looks beyond day-to-day financial management to do more holistic, big-picture planning of financial and operational goals. He or she will take a seat at the executive table and serve as your go-to person for all matters related to your company’s finances and operations.
A CFO or controller goes far beyond merely compiling financial data. He or she provides an interpretation of the data to explain how financial decisions will impact all areas of your business. And this individual can plan capital acquisition strategies, so your company has access to financing, as needed, to meet working capital and operating expenses.
In addition, a CFO or controller will serve as the primary liaison between your company and its bank to ensure your financial statements meet requirements to help negotiate any loans. Analyzing possible merger, acquisition and other expansion opportunities also falls within a CFO’s or controller’s purview.
A CFO or controller typically has a set of core responsibilities that link to the financial oversight of your operation. This includes making sure there are adequate internal controls to help safeguard the business from internal fraud and embezzlement.
The hire also should be able to implement improved cash management practices that will boost your cash flow and improve budgeting and cash forecasting. He or she should be able to perform ratio analysis and compare the financial performance of your business to benchmarks established by similar-size companies in the same geographic area. And a controller or CFO should analyze the tax and cash flow implications of different capital acquisition strategies — for example, leasing vs. buying equipment and real estate.
Make no mistake, hiring a full-time CFO or controller represents a major commitment in both time to the hiring process and dollars to your payroll. These financial executives typically command substantial high salaries and attractive benefits packages.
So, first make sure you have the financial resources to commit to this level of compensation. You may want to outsource the position. No matter which route you choose, our firm can help you assess the financial impact of the idea.