Most small business owners in the Virgin Islands are too busy building and maintaining their businesses to devote much time or energy to planning for their disposition. The difficulty with this approach is that the decision to sell the business is often made under circumstances, such as physical or fiscal illness, “battle fatigue,” or other circumstances that require a prompt disposition. Year after year, as the tourist season draws to a close, many local businesses consider their options. As a rule of thumb, the more promptly your business has to be sold, the less likely it is that you, the owner, will receive a price commensurate with the asset you are selling – and for many of us – our business represents the sum of our life’s effort.
At BoltNagi, PC, we know that the disposition of business interests, particularly of family or other closely held business interests, is a multi-faceted endeavor, presenting far too many issues to discuss here. But here are some basic considerations:
- If the business is to pass between generations of the same family (i.e., from parent to child), transfer should be arranged to minimize two very different, but equally important, aspects of the transfer – the minimization of taxes and the smooth transition of management between one generation and the other. Experience indicates that the transfer of management, if not handled properly and with foresight, is the bigger problem of the two, and is certainly the one more threatening to the health and vitality of the business.
- If the business is to be transferred to an unrelated third party in an arm’s length transaction, considerable forethought and effort must be given to the timing of the sale – what may be thought of as the “arc” of the transaction. How long before the time of actual sale should the owner prepare for the transfer? Is the business seasonal or of a type which may be particularly ripe for sale at a particular time?
What is certain about the process of selling your business is that when it comes to attending to the planning of the sale, more is better than less. More information is better than less. As always, more options are better than fewer.
The greatest single problem is knowing when to sell. This tends to be a problem for which objective criteria are not helpful. However, consistent with the idea that planning is good, it is important for a small business owner to take constant stock of where their business is, what its objectives are, and whether the present management has the emotional energy to maintain it or to raise it to a higher level. Only objective self-examination – often with help from close friends – can provide a working answer.
Attorneys and other professional advisors have an important role to play in the process. They can give helpful advice about the structure of the transcation and even about the valuation. Occasionally, they can even introduce the buyer to the seller. At BoltNagi, we know. We’ve handled these transactions from all sides. Please contact us (http://www.vilaw.com) for additional information amd to discuss your business needs. BoltNagi – "Providing Effective Solutions for Today’s Business".