Having clearly defined financial objectives for your business and a plan for reaching them can give you the time and confidence to focus on your passion. In just a few steps, you’ll have a customized action plan for your most pressing priority and suggestions for the methods to make it a reality, plus other great tips and tools.
(Pick one option below. As your priorities evolve over time, you can revisit this section.)
I want to grow my business.
I want to focus on leadership and not get bogged down in the day-to-day.
I’m looking to exit my business in the not too distant future.
I would like guidance on what to prioritize.
Now select up to three methods that best fit your business.
There’s more than one way to pursue your priorities, especially with a bit of creativity and hard work. Choose the methods that are appealing for you and realistic for your business. Then click Continue, below.
Scroll down to read more about achieving your priority.
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(You can customize this by selecting your priority and methods above.)
You know your business and understand how cash flow struggles are among the most common challenges faced by business owners. One way to help avoid them is to make sure that you’re getting the most out of every dollar you spend on your business. Putting protection in place is one of the most cost-effective things you can spend your money on.
That can mean keeping a reserve of cash available, making sure that your business has the right insurance coverage to transfer risk, securing a line of credit (before you need it), establishing the right operating agreement, or all of the above, depending on your particular business and circumstances.
of small business owners reported that they have been kept up at night over concerns about cash flow.1
Nearly all businesses are cyclical, in one way or another, but you know that cyclical doesn’t necessarily mean predictable. It’s important to be proactive when you’re at a peak and prepare for the unpredictable so you won’t be caught unaware by a valley.
Conducting quarterly checks of your business plan with a financial professional is a great way to help you stay ahead. An impartial evaluation can help you check your actual performance against KPIs and sales forecasts, letting you make adjustments for the years ahead. A professional can help you put safeguards in place, so that no matter how high the peak or low the valley, you can be better prepared.
When your business isn’t publicly held, there’s no easy way to know how much it’s actually worth, but a valuation can be important for everything from insurance coverage to retirement planning. You work hard for your success and part of that (but not all of it) is the monetary value of your business.
To learn the value of your business, you can enlist a financial professional to undertake an impartial valuation. They can examine your business, choose an appropriate valuation model and leave you better prepared to plan for both your future and the future of your business. Don’t wait, having a business valuation is especially important if the unexpected happens.
of business owners don’t know the value of their company.5
Preparing your business to continue after you’ve moved on is a process that begins long before your last day of work. Even if you have a clear successor in mind — a family member or trusted employee who is keen to take over, say — you’ll have to make sure that they understand your business as thoroughly as you do and that your business is ready to be passed on.
One key step is making sure that your business has a well-designed, written plan; committing your ideas to paper can force you to articulate things you’ve been doing instinctually. Another is making sure you’re adequately transferring risk — if you are unable to work for as long as you’d planned — to keep the lights on until your successor is ready. And always make sure that you have an impartial business valuation.
of entrepreneurs do not have a succession plan in place.2
Unexpectedly losing key personnel can throw any business for a loop. It can cause emotional and financial wounds that only time can repair, and in business, time is money.
Fortunately, you can transfer risk to help you bridge the gap until you can lead your business through to the other side. A financial professional can help you assess who among your partners and team should be covered by key person loss protection.
of all partnerships eventually end. Plan for that eventuality with an operating agreement.
You already know some of the best ways to attract and retain staff, like competitive salaries and great leadership, but there are less obvious ways to compensate and incentivize employees, too. Adding additional coverages to a benefits package, such as disability insurance or personal financial planning, can be a powerful motivator for staying with an employer.
Outside of compensation, creating opportunities for advancement and a culture of mentoring can make any workplace more attractive to the smart, ambitious staff you have in place. Other, “intangible” incentives, such as a healthy work-life balance and flexible time off, can prevent employee burnout, open the door to generational workforce differences and keep people around longer. Getting creative with recognition, like offering unique experiences or trips can also create an attractive culture. Be sure to plan for it in your cash flow.
Human capital costs can account for as much as 70 percent of total business expenses.3
Business owners wear a lot of hats and are frequently short on time. Work-life balance can be a challenge when you have to balance giving enough attention to the business you’ve built and nurtured with paying attention to your personal life and relationships.
Striking a balance takes work, but by taking active steps like delegating tasks, creating boundaries with clients and employees, scheduling time to relax and learning to leave work at work, even the busiest business owner can carve out some time for themselves.
The majority of business owners report working more than 50 hours per week.6
Successful business owners prioritize protection so that their entire business can’t be disrupted by a single unexpected event. Using cost effective insurance to transfer risk and liability is one of the most overlooked components of a successful business strategy but remains a crucial one.
A basic business owner policy will cover things like liability protection — which protects your assets if your employees, products or services cause harm to a third party — property insurance or worker’s compensation. More comprehensive or specialized policies can include things like protection against data breaches or professional liability (the failure to provide or properly render professional services). Review your business policy often and keep it up to date.
of small business owners experienced an event that could have led to an insurance claim in 2016.4
Business owners are usually busy and often self-motivated, so making time for peers can be a challenge. Taking the time to connect with other business owners or finding a community of equals can offer much-needed support and perspective for the challenges of running a business.
Joining local organizations for business owners is one easy way to connect. Another is to join a mentorship network: you’ll be matched with business owners at different stages of their career to both turn to for advice and to mentor yourself.
A business is more than just a person or people doing a job, it is also an idea, a goal. Making a written plan for the future of your business is a crucial step for pursuing growth and avoiding common pitfalls.
A plan can clarify where your business is strongest and in which areas it needs improvement. It can help you forecast for the future and keep you honest when assessing your progress. It is the first step in becoming a more confident business owner. Talking to a financial professional can help you clarify your priorities, set goals for your business and make a strategy that will help you for years to come.
Every business owner is unique, but business owners across industries share many of the same goals and challenges. Find out how other business owners have made time to do the work that inspires them while still managing their business.**
Amie is an entrepreneur and business owner twice over. After a successful career as a consultant, she started her own consultancy. Drawn by the flexibility of self-employment and a desire to claim a bigger piece of the pie for herself, she soon grew her business and now hires contractors to help with the day-to-day.
Recently, she and her husband started a family real estate business to build a source of income for retirement. She hopes to pass this business on to her two college-aged children.
Amie works with a financial professional to help make the most of her companies. The seasonality of consulting makes cash flow management a challenge. Working with her financial professional has helped her create a strategy for her asset utilization, leverage smart income tax strategies and prioritize retirement planning, with an eye toward legacy and financial confidence for her companies and her family.
In 1989 Butch and his brother opened their own electrical contracting company. They started with 8 employees. And, it steadily grew over 26 years to employ more than 100 people.
After his brother’s retirement in 1996, Butch took sole control of the partnership. Butch and his wife Rose started working with a financial professional. They recognized the importance of planning for the future they wanted — not just taking it one day at a time. Their priority was becoming financially stable, and setting up investments that would grow over time.
In 2017, Butch and Rose sold the company ahead of their retirement. Their financial professional and corporate accountant helped them manage their company’s taxes and plan when to make the key decisions in the business and life, from getting a business valuation to taking a well-earned retirement.
Kurt is in the business of business ownership. Five years ago, he left his role at an investment firm to found a company that buys into and grows existing businesses. He now has an active role in two: his main firm and a real estate investment company.
Kurt has a talent for helping business owners simplify their thinking and grasp all the moving parts. For his own business, Kurt works with a financial professional to get past the “yeah I’ll get around to it later” stage of planning.
Together they’ve updated Kurt’s tax strategy and overhauled his partnership agreement, succession plan and partner loss protection plan (crucial, as partnership is core to the business model). “These aren’t things you want to wait to do when you need it,” Kurt says. “You want to create the space to get it done in advance of needing it.”
After becoming a financial professional, Joleen and her husband worked together to advance their clients’ financial and life goals. Joleen also took her own advice, prioritizing protecting herself, a choice which would prove invaluable in the face of tragedy.
After experiencing the sudden loss of her husband and a debilitating car accident only weeks later, Joleen was left permanently disabled. Only her extensive planning made it possible for her to navigate the world of medical expenses and funeral costs, on top of managing an exit from her business.
Joleen has now transitioned the firm to her brother, keeping the business that meant so much to her in the family. Despite her absence, the firm continues Joleen’s efforts to ensure that clients have their own plans set up — for their life, for their retirement and for the unexpected.
Download your customized action plan for a quick self-assessment form and an overview of all key methods for achieving your goal. Having a plan can take the guesswork out of everyday business decisions and let you devote more of your hard work (and your time!) to your passions. Discuss these steps with your financial professional to start working towards financial business confidence.DOWNLOAD YOUR ACTION PLAN
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Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation.
*The information included herein is general information that may be helpful, but Guardian makes no representations with respect to the accuracy, currentness, or completeness of that information. Any and all business valuations contained herein were prepared to the best of Guardian’s ability based upon information that you provided to Guardian, but should not be relied upon for tax filing or other accounting purposes. To obtain a valuation of your business for tax filing purposes, please consult your tax advisor or CPA.
**These are the personal views of a select group of clients and may not represent the experience of other clients. These opinions are not indicative of future performance or results. This material contains the current opinions of the client but not necessarily those of Guardian or its subsidiaries and such opinions are subject to change without notice.
1Intuit Quickbooks, The State of Small Business Cash Flow, https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/cashflow/state-of-cash-flow-report/
3The Biggest Cost of Doing Business: A Closer Look at Labor Costs, Paycor, August 7, 2018, https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/a-closer-look-at-labor-costs
5IBIS World, “Business Valuation Firms in the U.S.”, 2014, as quoted by entrepreneur.com.
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