Business owners usually understand the fundamental need for tax and accounting services throughout the life cycles of their companies. But they may not be aware that many tax and accounting providers offer more robust and strategic additional services, such as technology support, capital advising, transaction services, and investment banking that could provide an advantage.
Businesses have different needs throughout the seed/startup, growth, established/mature, and transition stages. A suite of business services efficiently offered by one provider that knows the company well can ease the transition process from one phase to the next.
Seed/Startup: Acquiring Talent and Capital
With minimal cash flow early on, companies in the seed/startup stage must sometimes be creative about how to finance growth. One client, for example, knew that to get his business off the ground he needed
experienced help with business operations (a COO-type person), but he couldn’t afford to immediately compensate someone to perform this role. EKS&H assisted him in creating an incentive plan based on the value growth opportunity of the business, and our valuation team helped him understand the current and future value of the company. In addition, EKS&H helped this owner select the right entity structure (considering current and future tax implications) that was best for the business’s growth potential over the next five years. These services were critical because, although the owner was exceptionally good at
the business he was in, he lacked some of the back-office skills needed to effectively launch the company.
At this stage, in addition to tax structuring and developing compensation plans, a robust business advisory firm can help business owners understand various levels of financing and which ones might be appropriate to use. They can also assist setting up accounting processes and systems such as QuickBooks.
Growth: Building Market Share
As companies grow and seek to expand their markets, their needs become more complex. For example,
one client needed to expand operations into Europe to establish distribution in several nearby countries. Not only did EKS&H first identify locations where taxes were minimal, but the team also provided strategic insight by cautioning that some of those geographic options would also mean high logistics and talent costs. These same technical and operational issues must be comprehensively considered whether growth is occurring internationally or simply in additional U.S. state jurisdictions.
Another client was also in an expansion stage, and the owner knew she wanted the company to grow through acquisition. Success with expansion plans would likely result in annual revenue approaching $100 million in five years. To implement this strategy successfully, the owner needed to be able to analyze the additional business lines and potential acquisitions of the business along with the overall impact to the current business. We developed a fully integrated model to help project future balance sheets, income statements, and cash flows for the company, which allowed us to assess rates of returns on potential acquisitions and assist in negotiations for the acquisitions.
Closely related to the expansion through acquisition strategy for growth is the frequent need for capital
formation. In other words, helping businesses find, structure, and close growth equity or debt financing to provide the resources necessary to achieve those goals.
National or international geographic site selection, state and local and international tax expertise, and wealth management are just some areas that a multifaceted business services firm can assist with in this stage. Others could include helping to determine appropriate go-to-
market plans, conducting audits for additional rounds of financing, and finding ways to reduce taxes to increase cash flow.
Additionally, with outsourced technology options, full-service business advisory firms can help establish a solid IT infrastructure for growth. The larger the company, the more important these services become; larger businesses have more data and more need for security and software applications designed to handle larger data sets. Growing companies also have a need for the real-time reporting of key performance indicators that can be achieved through business analytics and business intelligence. These matters only become increasingly critical, so the growth stage is the perfect phase in which to address them.
Established/Mature: Planning for Growth
Once a company becomes established, the owner’s goal should be planning for the future and possible exit. For example, one client we worked with knew he wanted to pass on its company to a group of dedicated executive-level employees. The idea was for the select employees to be the majority shareholders and run the company for a time, then transition out, and pass the business on to the original owner’s next generation. EKS&H helped them map out a 10-year plan so this process could be put in place seamlessly when the original owner was ready to retire.
Another client wanted to retire in five years but wanted to expand his company first. EKS&H worked with him to create a five-year plan to purchase 20 additional stores and recruit talent to help him manage them. At the end of the five-year period, this owner fulfilled the plan by selling to a strategic buyer.
These two examples are good reminders that owners of mature companies need to think about their eventual exit from the business and how to achieve those goals. In addition, in the established business stage, owners should continue to pay attention to appropriate compensation, tax structuring, strategy, compliance, and technology infrastructure. A full-service business advisory firm can help with all these services as well as guidance and representation for mergers and acquisitions.
Transition: Considering the Future
Smart business owners don’t have to panic when it comes time to retiring or otherwise moving on because they’ve already put plans in place for this stage. Such plans may look different for every
company. One client used a “two bites of the apple” approach to sell her company. (The two bites refer to the owner selling part of the business a few years before retirement and the remainder when he or she is ready to leave entirely.) A robust and connected advisory firm should be able to assist not only with traditional transaction services, such as due diligence and valuation, but it should also have a strong relationship with an investment bank for corporate finance services.
A full-service accounting firm should help manage the personal tax consequences of the sale for the owner and the business sales process. After the sale, if needed, the firm can help the owner set up a family office to manage family assets and make sure they’re distributed correctly. In addition, the firm can help business owners who may want to start the process over again by starting or acquiring a new company. The key to business advising is providing the right services at the right stage of the business and in alignment with the owner’s personal goals.
As more baby boomers approach retirement age, many more businesses will need to find their own exit strategies. In fact, as many as 75% of businesses are expected to change hands in the next 15 to 20 years.
Throughout the different stages of a business, owners need to pay attention to a wide range of constantly changing issues. For many these areas can seem unrelated and overwhelming, but thankfully some accounting firms provide a wide variety of other business services, including international advisory, state and local tax expertise, transaction services, investment banking and technology, and accounting solutions. Given that accounting service providers should already know their clients well, they are likely in the best position to help with such matters. Is your accounting firm providing you with a comprehensive strategic advantage?
EKS&H provides business consulting services that can help you navigate the requirements of each stage of your business according to your needs and goals. To find out more about how EKS&H can help, please contact Paul Edwards at 303-740-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investment banking services and securities offered through DCF, LLC, Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.
EKS&H Capital Advisors, LLC and DCF, LLC are unaffiliated.