While all businesses have certain challenges they need to overcome, family-owned businesses often have an added layer of complexity. Frequently, this complexity increases as businesses get passed down from generation to generation.
As time moves on and the company grows, family members or other limited owners may not want to be directly involved in day-to-day operations.
In many cases, the children or grandchildren of the founder have other interests or priorities. Sometimes, they don’t even live in the same state in which the business operates. This situation can lead to conflict and miscommunication between family members and the board members or other executives who are running the business. A lack of structure, communication, and trust can cause a once-thriving company to suffer.
Our board advisory services and family business consultation services help management and limited owners communicate effectively and make decisions efficiently. We work with all parties to create effective communication strategies and structured processes — backed by sound valuation principles — that support shareholders and advance business goals.
How Board Advisory Services Work
When providing board advisory services to our clients, we take individual situations and needs into account. However, there is a general process that we follow with most businesses.
Hold Stakeholder Meetings
We start by meeting the relevant stakeholders individually to understand their specific concerns and the sources of any existing conflicts. Often, these conflicts arise because limited owners feel that management isn’t giving them all the information they need — or worse, that they’re hiding something intentionally. On the other hand, management often feels that they don’t have the support they need to ensure the business continues to be successful.
We evaluate necessary documentation to determine where gaps in communication have occurred. As experienced business valuation professionals, we also review the health of the company with an eye to shareholder value. We often find that no one has shown limited partners how to read specific reports, leaving those on both sides of the conversation frustrated and confused. Similarly, we find that many individuals in management don’t have the tools they need to communicate effectively with shareholders.
Once we have a thorough understanding of the current situation, we work with both sides to determine the information that needs to be shared and the most effective way to share that information. We work with Management to develop regular shareholder reporting. We review potential correspondence and compare to previously agreed budgets. After our review, we share our opinion, analysis, and comparisons with owners. Now owners receive moderated communication that better responds to smart but less interested shareholders.
No matter what path shareholders choose, we establish systems that make it easy for all parties to carry out their responsibilities. Often, limited owners don’t even want to spend time deciding smaller business decisions (especially when they have no legal vote on such matters). A frequent cadence for our clients is quarterly meetings, with other decisions and reporting coming via email on a monthly basis.
We frequently help Management develop budgets, shareholder reports, proposals, and other documents or processes that help the business run smoothly.
Determine Communication Priorities
As part of this process, we establish clear communication procedures for urgent and non-urgent issues. “Green” communications are regular reports and updates. “Yellow” communications are out of the ordinary, but don’t require owner input. It’s a way to keep all shareholders in the loop regarding potential problems and the solutions that management is currently pursuing. Our protocol is that owners have no requirement to respond when they agree to the proposed course of action, freeing them up from the pressure of crafting a response to every situation. “Red” communications are reserved for true emergencies that require a phone call and owner decision-making. This saves time for all parties and ensures that urgent communications are quickly identified and accurately prioritized by everyone involved. Red matters tend to be communicated immediately with follow on discussion at quarterly meetings.
Manage Ongoing Processes
Once systems are established, we continue to monitor the business from a high-level view, providing context that can help management and owners make decisions that will increase the value of their companies and the long-term health of their business. Auditor reporting, Management compensation, budgeting, acquisitions, divestitures, and share purchases and sales are frequently part of our ongoing board advisory services.
Why Choose a Valuation Firm for Advisory Services
While there are many professionals who advise boards or shareholders, our business valuation experience makes us uniquely suited to private and family businesses. Our focus
on maximizing shareholder value and wealth helps owners craft strategies that have a clear, measurable ROI. By having an objective standard — the value of the business — it’s more likely that discussions will be productive and transparent.
Owners also benefit from the fact that we aren’t pitching our own products. If everyone recommending a product or service has a vested interest in one side or the other, it can be difficult to find the truth. As a truly neutral outside observer, we can evaluate capability, capacity, and ROI. For example, we helped one business owner determine whether a software solution his employees were asking for would have a positive ROI. In his case, it did, and he was able to turn an investment of $200,000 into several million dollars in profit.
We have a long tradition of assisting clients in maximizing family wealth over generations. Our advice is not only focused on improving long term shareholder value but also includes making sure that estate planning aspects are not only addressed but carefully integrated in long term business planning.
Our board advisory services are personalized based on individual client needs and concerns, so the structure of our solutions and the specific outcomes achieved will vary from business to business. Here is a sample of some of the results we have helped our clients achieve.
Adams Capital assisted a family in resolving co-trustee matters involving one family member who repeatedly leveraged his ability to block inter-family transactions, causing important business transactions and decisions to be delayed. After a series of discussions, the Trustee agreed to resign in exchange for liquidation of his interest. Our firm determined the transaction price and led negotiations to achieve a favorable result.
We identified significant and unknown operational losses within a family owned business. After a thorough evaluation process, we assisted the family in closing a losing business segment, restructuring their financial reporting, hiring an outside chief operating officer, and giving a key family member more time to spend with clients. As a result, family cash flow increased over 10x.
Our company studied a low margin family business in light of smart operators, tough negotiators, low cost office environment, and market labor and market product costs. After review, we determined that the only metric that could realistically change was revenue. The client was concerned about raising prices because of a perceived loss of customers. Careful study of the market and their customer base eventually proved that a price increase was prudent. The price increase was implemented and led an extra $10 million per year in profit for the family. No customers were lost.
Adams Capital worked with two long-time business partners on a partner buyout. We created a process that openly and fairly balanced the company’s need for capital reinvestment and the buyout cash requirements for the partner. The buying partner and selling partner agreed without resorting to mediation or litigation, and both sides were pleased with the results.
Choosing the Best Board Advisory Solution
With our strategic focus and outside perspective, our board advisory services help management and owners work together more effectively for the health and strength of the business and the family.
Often, improving communication channels and an outside perspective is all it takes to improve business and family relationships. In other cases, we can help owners negotiate an amicable buy-out. Even in the rare situation where both parties remain distrustful, our advisory services allow owners to better understand Management’s perspective and receive an honest evaluation of their requests, which helps owners figure out the best course of action moving forward.
Adams Capital always offers a no-cost initial telephone consultation to provide a sounding board to business owners struggling with these decisions.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us directly at 770-432-0308 to schedule a consultation or to learn more.
David Adams is the President of Adams Capital, LLC. He is an expert in the valuation of businesses, business interests, and tangible and intangible property for mergers and acquisitions, corporate recapitalization, privatization, gift and estate tax planning, bankruptcy proceedings, dissenting shareholders, Employee Stock Ownership Plans, and financial and tax reporting. He frequently counsels business owners and families on methodologies to enhance shareholder value.