In our last installment (read it here), we discussed the Buy-Sell Agreements necessary if you are selling your business interest to your partner(s). This week, we return to the premise of sale to an outside buyer, and consider how to structure the sale.
There numerous ways to structure a merger, divestment, or acquisition. However, most sales of closely-held businesses are structured as either a stock sale or an asset sale. Both have advantages and drawbacks:
In a stock sale, the buyer purchases the seller’s interest in the company via a purchase of the seller’s stock.
If the business is a C Corporation, there is no tax liability to the company – since the shareholders are selling their stock, which eliminates the possibility of double taxation to C Corporation shareholders. For owners, sales of stock (providing the stock has been held for over one year) are taxed as capital gains, rather than corporate or individual taxable income.
There is one major exception to tax treatment of stock sales – under IRS Code Section 1202, there is an exception for qualified small business stock. For such stock to be qualified, there are a number of requirements, but there can be a significant reduction in capital gains tax.
We will discuss IRS Code Section 1202 next week.
Stock sales are often preferred by sellers due to tax consequences such as those listed above.
Buyers, too, may gain some advantages in a stock sale, such as the assumption of any net operating loss (NOL) and/or tax credit carryforwards.
In an asset sale, the buyer will often not agree to take on every liability of the business. They can pick and choose which assets to purchase, and which liabilities they are willing to assume. Many times, buyers are unwilling to assume any of the seller’s liabilities, and the seller may have to pay off all debt prior to closing the sale.
Buyers also receive a tax advantage in an asset purchase over a stock sale, as they receive a step-up in basis on the assets purchased equal to the price allocated to those assets. This, in turn, provides the buyer with higher depreciation and amortization tax deductions. Many times, buyers pay an amount greater than the fair market value and this part of the sales price is generally allocated to goodwill. Note that the allocation of the purchase price for both buyers and sellers must be agreed to in advance, and this information must be provided to the IRS on Form 8594, so that the purchase price is appropriately allocated among the assets being purchased.
The seller, conversely, may incur significant tax liabilities under an asset sale. If the business is a C Corporation, it will be liable for tax on the gain in value of the assets sold, and the selling owners may, when the proceeds of the sale are distributed out of the C Corporation, incur tax at the individual tax level.
For pass-through entities, such as S Corporations and limited liability companies/partnerships, an asset sale will likely be taxed on at least a portion of the purchase price at the individual level, but at a reduced capital gains rate.
One exception would be that if you sell assets which have been depreciated, you may have to recapture that depreciation at ordinary income tax rates, rather than capital gains rates.
So, competing interests and tax consequences can put buyer and seller at odds from the start. This is one reason the specifics of your Letter of Intent are so crucial. The more variables that can be resolved at the start, the better. (A comprehensive Letter of Intent makes the subsequent Purchase Agreement less complicated for your transaction attorneys to negotiate and draft, as well.)
While the simplistic view is that sellers will want to sell stock, and buyers will prefer to purchase assets, it’s not always that cut-and-dried. Other factors can play a role in how the sale is eventually structured.
One such factor can be contractual consent requirements, meaning that the contract cannot be transferred to a new business owner without the consent of the third party involved. A business may have one, or multiple, such contracts, such as a lease of physical premises, a franchise agreement, a key supplier agreement, etc. If there are too many of these contracts, an asset sale may become much more complicated, and such contracts need to be dealt with in advance – neither buyer nor seller should leave this until the last minute.
Another factor, if there is more than one owner of the business being sold, is whether all the owners agree to sell. If even one stock owner refuses to sell, both the buyer and the selling owner may find that a merger or an asset sale would be a more advantageous move with regard to tax consequences.
Less Common – 338 and 336 Elections:
The IRS has created rules under which a corporate buyer can, with the seller’s compliance, elect to treat a stock sale as an asset sale for Federal tax purposes.
Navigating these waters is a task requiring the acumen and skills of your Transaction Advisory Team. Your team will assist you in determining the salient factors of the contemplated transaction, and what structure will be most advantageous for you. They can help you with negotiating the deal, identifying crucial points for you to stand firm on, and other points on which you can be flexible.
If you are considering a potential sale of your business, I recommend strongly that you consult with us before making any final decisions.
Please click here to let me know how I can help you.
Until next time –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, especially these days. We deal with everything from emails and phone calls to client emergencies to leading our teams. And while working remotely, isolation can exacerbate any problem, even as lack of distraction can aid us in better focusing.
When we feel overwhelmed, we can find ourselves running after our days and tasks – rather than running the days and tasks ourselves – chasing the next thing to get done. Feeling, at the end of the day, not the satisfaction of accomplishment, but the frustration of not having got enough done.
One strategy that’s helped me manage my time better is using Cal Newport’s calendar method. This method entails blocking my time off to ensure I keep the work flowing. Setting this hour for x project, that hour for a conference with y client, helps me accomplish more in my day. There’s also an open-door period for my team to come to me with questions.
And the funny thing is, setting out a schedule for the day, with time blocked for the essential things I need to address, helps me prepare for focusing deeply on the tasks I’ve scheduled myself to work on.
Because it’s mindful, of itself. It requires me to focus on prioritizing and evaluating what needs to be done today, what can be scheduled for tomorrow or later in the week, and what might best be delegated to one of my team.
And it’s empowering, to take control of my time, rather than being pulled in 50 directions at once.
So, how to block time? I consult my weekly and monthly planners to make sure I’m moving forward on what’s important. I take into account emails and phone calls which require my attention, however briefly.
And I leave some gaps because schedules sometimes have to change and because often I need a few minutes between working on one client’s solution and meeting with another, to change mental gears.
It works for me – blocking my time in this way has made my days more productive and in fewer work hours!
How do you schedule your time?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to know your strategies and tips.
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Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
At the most basic level, I think I was put on this earth to help people. That’s my bread and butter; it’s how I’ve built my business. Helping you achieve your personal, individual, and business goals through empathetic listening, understanding, and then applying my expertise and experience to assist you. I love devising solutions tailored to your individual needs and then assisting you in implementing those ideas to help you along your unique journey.
Empathy’s a funny thing, though. The more you exercise it, the stronger it grows. Like a muscle. And one day, I found I had a lot more of it than I’d had before, and it wanted me to do more with it than I had been.
I’ve found that it’s a great thing for me – and this is a personal story, not necessarily applicable to all – to give back, to help those who can’t pay me for my help. It’s a tremendous gift – as much or more to myself as to the recipient.
I forget, sometimes, that the word charity means love, the sort of love that doesn’t seek benefit for oneself, but only for the loved one. When we love without expecting anything back, we allow ourselves to authentically be, and we invite vulnerability to strongly take its place both alongside of us and within us.
So, I try to do kind things for people who can’t repay the favor. Maybe I’ll help out someone I see counting pennies on the grocery checkout line. Spend time caring for an aging relative, or just listening to someone as they explain what they are struggling with currently.
These acts just make me feel good. Charity is a mutual grace – your good action and goodwill are your grace, the recipients’ gratitude theirs.
I give because it helps others and because it provides me a happier day each time I do it.
Meaning that charity can be performed for both unselfish and selfish reasons at the same time.
Maybe there’s a reason it works out that way.
I do try to set clear boundaries, though, and not do business profit work for free or charity work for a profit.
What are your thoughts on helping others?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to know what you think.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
Entrepreneurs. They – or, rather, we – are a unique breed. We drive a significant segment of the world’s economy, we create jobs – and we help people. But one thing I’ve found about us – we tend to take on too much ourselves.
I don’t know whether Dwight D. Eisenhower ever thought of himself as an entrepreneur – maybe not, having lived much of his life in the U.S. Army. But, as a general in that body, as Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II, and as the 34th President of the United States, serving for two terms, he had to have known the feeling of having too full a plate.
In response, he invented the Eisenhower principle, which is translated graphically into the matrix above, to help him regiment his days and weeks.
How do we use it? Read on to learn how:
DO IT NOW – this section is where we put the tasks which are at once the most urgent and the most important, which aren’t always the same thing. These tasks also require our personal attention and timely completion.
PLAN IT – for work which is less urgent but still essential and requires us to address it ourselves. We schedule these tasks for the coming days.
DELEGATE IT – if a task is urgent, requiring immediate attention but not necessarily ours, delegate the work to the best person to handle it. Find a WHO not a HOW!
DROP IT – is the task neither urgent nor essential? If so, can we simply delete it from the schedule? Sometimes we can’t – so those occasions would fall under the ‘Delegate’ category. But, by all means, eliminate what really doesn’t need doing.
The fundamental principle holds that a single schedule can work for both work and personal matters; I’m not so sure that is what works best for me, though I’ve certainly used the principle.
But the Eisenhower principle, and the decision matrix, are an excellent reminder to:
- Prioritize, with intention,
- Not try to do everything ourselves,
- Delegate!!! again, FIND a WHO sometimes and not a HOW (this is a reference to Dan Sullivan’s excellent book, Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork, which I highly recommend).
- Maybe some things don’t even need doing at all.
How do you schedule your day?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to know your strategies.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
Isabel Guzman, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), recently announced plans to streamline the forgiveness process for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans between $150,000 and $2 million.
While initially, no details were forthcoming, it now appears that the SBA is planning to create its own online portal for small businesses to apply directly to the agency for loan forgiveness, rather than applying through their lenders.
In addition, the SBA has announced that plans are being made to eliminate for certain businesses with PPP Round II loans of $150,000 or less the current requirement that recipients demonstrate a 25% revenue reduction in 2020 compared with 2019 (a single quarter of such reduction is sufficient). No details have been provided as to what businesses this easement of the process will apply to.
Further, in April of this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Proposal 2021-20, which provides a safe harbor for PPP Round I loan recipients who, relying on IRS guidance prior to the late 2020 enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), filed 2020 tax returns on which they did not claim deductions for normally deductible expenses which were paid for with PPP Round I loan proceeds.
Under the safe harbor, such taxpayers may elect to deduct these expenses on the taxpayer’s timely filed original Federal income tax return or information return, as applicable, for the taxpayer’s first taxable year following the taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year rather than filing an amended return or administrative adjustment request for the taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year. Note that the safe harbor does not extend to the expanded list of deductible expenses included in the CAA. Nor does it apply to expenses paid for via PPP Round II loans (see here, here, and here for more detail).
In addition, a lawsuit was filed by the American General Contractors (ACG) in December of 2020 against the SBA in connection with the “loan necessity questionnaire,” Form 3509, implemented by the SBA in November of 2020 for PPP loans previously granted in amounts greater than $2 million.
The ACG questioned both the form itself and the process by which it was developed.
With regard to the form, “Most notably, the questionnaire does not ask borrowers to describe the states of their operations and the attendant business anxieties that they were experiencing at that time. Instead, the Questionnaire probes deeply into what came after, over the ensuing months of 2020 . . . For the most part, the Questionnaire (and SBA’s online portal; for submitting the answers) is a “Yes/No” exercise that does not grant borrowers an opportunity to present the totality of their circumstances. Borrowers are not afforded a meaningful opportunity to provide any broader, and objectively helpful, context for their answers.”
As for the process, “On October 26, 2020, as required by the PRA (Paperwork Reduction Act), SBA published in the Federal Register and invited a 30-day public comment on, an information request that included among its topics the Questionnaire here at issue. Although the whole point of the PRA is to give the affected public an opportunity to comment on the burden an agency estimates any given information collection will have, the Questionnaire itself was not attached to SBA’s notice. On the contrary, SBA told OMB (Office of Management and Budget) that it did not want to make the Questionnaire available for public review because it feared borrowers would change their business practices to suit what they thought SBA wanted to see from them if they knew in advance the questions SBA intended to ask.”
During recent settlement negotiations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) informed the ACG that Form 3508 was being withdrawn, and on July 2, 2021, the SBA notified PPP lenders that the forms are no longer required. Note that this withdrawal does not impact the SBA’s PPP Loan review procedures.
Ms. Guzman has also spoken publicly to warn PPP borrowers not to miss their deadlines to apply for forgiveness of their loans – with the modified 24-week “covered period” for expenditures, and ten months from that period’s end to apply for forgiveness, the deadline may have been far enough down the road to have dropped “off the radar” for some small business owners.
In addition, some PPP borrowers may be waiting until the last minute in order to take the fullest advantage of the fact that they were made eligible for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) via changes to Internal Revenue Code Section 206 enacted in the CAA. Previously, PPP borrowers had been ineligible to take advantage of the credit – the two relief programs having initially been mutually exclusive. See our blog post of January 6, 2021, for more details.
According to SBA data as of late May of this year, almost 2 million PPP borrowers had not submitted applications for forgiveness of their loans.
Miss the deadline by one day, and there is no forgiveness available.
Check with your RFG CPA, and make sure you don’t miss your deadline. Your CPA can assist you with expense calculations and preparation of your PPP loan forgiveness application, to ensure you have all your ducks in a row beforehand.
If you received a PPP loan, and have applied for forgiveness, what was your outcome?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d be very interested to know your thoughts and experiences.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
Someone recently suggested – knowing I believe in maintaining a work-life balance – that I look into The Four Burners Theory.
In brief, the theory suggests we look at our life as represented by a stove with four burners:
It further holds that to be successful, we have to be willing to cut off one of them, and, to be very successful, two.
Now, if what you want is to write a Pulitzer-prizewinning book, maybe you do need to get away from everything, go to a cabin in the woods, and just write. Maybe for months on end. The same if you’re working on a cure for cancer, only in that case it would be your lab you sequester yourself in.
But I can’t go with that – it wouldn’t work for long for me in my own life – though I am a fan of turning off distractions to focus deeply. Everyone’s different, and we need to make our own choices about what’s appropriate for us, based upon the life we choose to lead, but it’s a little unbalanced, for my life.
I know for a fact that maintaining good relationships with my family and friends, spending quality time with them, makes my work better when that’s my focus.
Nor can I dispense with my health – I try to maintain a healthy diet, and to exercise, from running to bike riding to skiing – I’ve very much enjoyed the latter, especially, during the time I’ve been blessed to spend in Park City, Utah. I simply can’t believe that making myself less healthy serves any good purpose.
And since I do need to eat, and love what I do, turning the work burner off for any significant length of time is out of the question.
But it is true that we can’t focus deeply on every aspect of our lives simultaneously.
So, even if I can’t buy into the whole theory, the image of four burners is useful. A cook doesn’t keep all their burners on high all the time. What if, instead of turning burners off, we think about lowering and raising the flames?
When I get up and go exercise in the morning, it’s my health burner on high; when I hit the office, that lowers, and the work burner gets turned up.
When I go home at the end of my workday, everything else turns down, and the family burner gets turned all the way up.
No, I really can’t see fully turning off any of my burners – certainly not for days, let alone weeks or months, on end.
But turning the various flames up and down, depending on time and circumstance – that works for me – that, I can get behind.
Still, every one of us has to gauge what’s the best balance for our own lives – it depends on our own natures, our priorities, and choices.
How do you manage your four burners?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to know how you prioritize!
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
On May 28, 2021, the Biden Administration released its proposed 2022 Budget, in tandem with the U.S. Treasury Department’s release of its “Green Book,” which contains further details regarding the Administration’s tax proposals.
Some of the significant proposals to raise revenue to fund the American Jobs Plan include:
- Increasing the corporate income tax rate from the current 21% to 28% for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022. For businesses with fiscal years which do not correspond with calendar years, the tax rate increase would apply to corporate income earned after December 31, 2021. Note that prior to the enactment of the TCJA, the maximum corporate income tax rate stood at 35%.
- Creation of a 15% minimum tax on corporations whose worldwide pre-tax income amounted to $2 billion or more for tax years beginning January 1, 2022.
- Repealing various oil and gas tax benefits – for example, taxpayers would no longer be allowed to expense intangible drilling costs, such as wages, fuel, and repairs. Exploration costs pertaining to domestic oil, gas, and coal would be required to be capitalized rather than expensed. Publicly traded partnerships deriving 90% or more of their gross income from fossil-fuel-related activities would no longer be treated as partnerships for income tax purposes, and would therefore be liable for corporate income tax liability for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2026. These are only a few of the oil and gas-related tax benefits the Biden Administration proposes to eliminate.
- However, the provisions include expansion and extension of numerous tax credits for non-fossil-fuel energy investment (ITCs) and production (PTCs). For example, under current law, solar energy plants whose construction began or begins before the end of 2022 are eligible for a 26% ITC, dropping to 22% for facilities on which construction begins in 2023, and 10 10% thereafter. The proposal is to extend a 30% ITC for such facilities, and for geothermic facilities, on which construction is begun after 2021 and before 2027, with a phase-down of 20% of the credit for each tax year thereafter beginning in 2027. The ITC is further expanded to include stand-alone energy storage facilities which have a capacity of 5 kWh or greater. Other renewable energy tax credits are included, expanded, or extended.
To fund the American Families Plan, the Administration proposes:
- Increasing the top income tax rate for individuals from 37% to 39.6%, effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022. Note that the current 37% top rate was enacted in 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but as a temporary measure which absent, the Biden Administration’s proposed increase would have expired effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2026.
- Reducing the income threshold at which the top income tax rate kicks in from $523,600 for single filers and $628,300 for married couples filing jointly in 2021 to $509,300 and $432,700, respectively, for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022. The income thresholds will remain indexed to inflation.
- Taxing capital gains and qualified dividends at ordinary income rates for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of over $1,000,000. This would raise the tax on capital gains to a maximum of 43.4% – this represents the 39.6% top income tax rate plus the 3.8% net investment income tax (see below). Currently, capital gains are subject to a top tax rate of 20% for assets held longer than one year. This provision, according to the Green Book, would be effective retroactively as of “the date of the announcement,” though whether this refers to the date the proposed American Families Plan was announced (April 28, 2021) or the date the Budget and Green Book were released – one month later – is not clear.
- Treating gifts and death as “realization events” for capital gains purposes. This means that gifts and bequests are subject to taxation on capital gains from the date of the asset’s initial purchase to the date of the gift or bequest. Currently, such gifts and bequests are subject to capital gains taxes only on the appreciation from the date the asset is transferred to the date it is disposed of by the recipient. Taxation on bequests would be deductible against estate tax liabilities. This provision would apply only to asset transfers among individuals or entities owned by or benefitting individuals, not to charitable donations of appreciated assets to donor-advised trusts or 501(c)(3) organizations. This would become effective for property gifted or transferred by bequest after December 31, 2021. For certain property owned by trusts, partnerships, and other non-corporate entities, the provision would become effective January 1, 2022.
- Exclusions for bequests would include a $1,000,000 per-person exclusion, a $250,000 per-person exclusion for bequeathed residences (not limited to principal residences), and transfers to spouses until the asset is disposed of by or inherited from the spouse. Transfers of certain small business stocks and family businesses (such as farms) also benefit from exclusions, for so long as the business remains family-operated. The Green Book makes no mention of such exclusions with respect to gifts.
- Extension of the net investment tax of 3.8% to apply to all business income earned by taxpayers whose income exceeds $400,000, to the extent that such income is not subject to employment taxes, effective for tax years beginning on January 1, 2022. This is a significant departure from the current tax code, which imposes the net investment tax only on passive income, including dividends, interest, and other income a taxpayer receives from businesses in which they do not materially participate.
- Imposition of self-employment tax on distributive shares of limited partners, LLC members, and S-Corporation owners who materially participate in their businesses and whose income exceeds $400,000, effective January 1, 2022. Current exclusions for such income as rents, dividends, and capital gains will remain in force.
- Taxation of carried interest as ordinary income, subject to self-employment tax for individuals whose business income exceeds $400,000, effective January 1, 2022.
- Limiting capital gain deferral on “like-kind” exchanges (e.g., 1031 exchanges) to a total amount of $500,000 per individual annually ($1,000,000 for married couple filing jointly) effective January 1, 2022. The Green Book does not specify how the limit will be determined for entities rather than individuals, e.g., at the partner or partnership level.
- Making permanent for non-corporate taxpayers the current limitation on deductions for non-passive business losses – $262,000 per individual, $524,000 for married couples in 2021 – which would have otherwise expired for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2027.
Taken together, these proposals represent sweeping changes to the current tax code; it remains to be seen what the Congressional response, ultimately, will be.
There has been enough pushback on some of the proposals from both sides of the aisle that infrastructure spending, initially part of the American Jobs Plan, has been broken out as stand-alone legislation, due to opposition from Senators from both parties to some of the more comprehensive Plan’s provisions. The remaining provisions of the American Jobs Plan are up in the air at present but may be addressed in Congress at a future date.
President Biden is currently traveling through the Midwest to push the American Families Plan.
If you have questions as to how these proposals, if enacted, might affect you and your business, please click here to email me directly – my team and I are here to help.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
From our nation’s Tax Code:
“Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect appropriate action will be taken against employees, return preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.”
On June 8, 2021, the news site ProPublica published confidential tax information pertaining to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, naming the taxpayers and associating these names with their data, including income and Federal income tax paid. ProPublica asserted that they received some 15 years’ worth of this data, and would not disclose how the information was obtained.
The unauthorized disclosure, whether delivered to ProPublica by an IRS employee or a hacker, represents a criminal offense – it is illegal for IRS employees to release such information, and obviously, it is illegal to hack into the IRS’ systems to obtain it.
This is a matter of grave concern for every individual who values their rights and their privacy. Whoever is responsible for the release of this data has violated both – and not just the rights and privacy of the named individuals, but of all of us. If malefactors feel themselves entitled to access and publish (or arrange for publication of) the private financial details of any taxpayer, which are shared with the government under compulsion but with the assurance of confidentiality, who will be targeted next?
This is of course not the first time taxpayers have suffered from breaches of IRS data by hackers; however, it does represent the first time so much data on so many individuals has been published. And it is uncertain at this time whether a hacker was responsible for this particular breach.
It’s an awful thing to find our own tax account has been hacked, our refund claimed by a thief. But thieves exist, we know that – probably since Mr. Caveman at Cave 1B envied the stone knife of Mr. Caveman at 3A, or Mrs. Caveman at 4C swiped a mastodon leg from Mrs. Caveman’s fire at 7E.
The IRS has always responded with procedures, however burdensome, through which to recover what is ours.
But no theft or attempted theft of money is involved here; dissemination of the confidential financial information seems to have been the principal, if not the only, purpose of the data’s release.
How are we supposed to have confidence in the IRS’ ability to maintain our confidentiality, in light of this? The answer is, we cannot reasonably maintain such confidence.
While an investigation is underway as to how such a massive breach of confidentiality occurred, in a social climate which can give rise to such an occurrence, it’s wise, especially for the nation’s wealthier citizens, to consider the privacy of their confidential tax information effectively non-existent.
We have no privacy left.
This is particularly disquieting in light of the current Administration’s proposals to require banks and other institutions to provide even more of our sensitive data to the IRS than they do now.
In addition, the IRS is asking Congress to enact legislation to allow them to require the disclosure of taxpayers’ crypto-currency transaction data.
In other words, we are being asked to trust the IRS with ever-increasing amounts of our sensitive information, just as it is demonstrated that the agency has no ability to guarantee such data will remain confidential.
I’m appalled, frankly. And deeply troubled.
As a CPA, I live in a world of confidentiality – the privacy of my clients – and their financial data – is sacred to me.
But apparently not to everyone. And I want to urge caution for all of us – let’s share only what we are required to, and hope for the best.
Hope, in other words, that we are not interesting enough – yet – to people like the individual or individuals who illegally amassed this data and illegally provided it to a news organization that would publish it.
Have you experienced inconvenience or harm via a breach of any of your data? What did you do about it?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d really like to know about your experiences.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
One recent Sunday evening, I sat on my front porch, feet toward Lake Pontchartrain and head toward the Mississippi River – those two bracketing and defining New Orleans waters. I felt a breeze coming off the river, as refreshing to the spirit as the music I was listening to – a recording of the Neville Brothers’ JazzFest set from 2003 on WWOZ’s JazzFest program in place.
Now, it’s not exactly news that I’m a music lover. My tastes range wide, but I have a special love for New Orleans-funky music, Dr. John, the Neville Brothers (all the amazing Nevilles!), so many others.
The Neville Brothers no longer play at JazzFest, sadly. When they did, they had the place of honor – as the final band on the final day, their set closed the festival’s main stage.
At 5:30 p.m. that Sunday I felt the sun’s warmth, but as it set, a thunderstorm began rolling in, to the Neville Brothers singing Amazing Grace. It was a moment of such peace and transcendence. I was unplugged from everything but the music and the atmosphere – no phone, no iPad, no laptop. This was a profoundly recreative experience.
It was also a moment of poignancy and hope. Poignancy, as I reflected on yet another disaster’s impact on the city I love to call home. Hope, because now over 50% of New Orleanians are vaccinated against COVID-19, and we can begin looking toward a return to some social activities like live music.
Hope, too, because JazzFest is also returning to New Orleans – to us – this October! We’re used to an annual event – with the cancellation of JazzFest 2020 and the October commencement of 2021’s festival, there will have been a two-and-a-half-year gap between the last JazzFest and this next one to come. Sometimes it has felt as if JazzFest belonged to an era that was over and done, and I know I am not alone in finding a message of hope in its return.
I’ve missed JazzFest deeply – the music, of course, but JazzFest isn’t just about the music, it’s about the people the music brings together from all over the world. Maybe I’ve missed the people more than the music.
Because the music does bring us together, gives us a mutual point of reference which makes any other irrelevant. For the time we share at the Fairgrounds, we are a community, and we join in the celebration of New Orleans’ special musical culture and heritage.
You might be a king or a pauper, sitting next to me, on a chair, on the grass – how would I know, and why would I care? We’re all casually dressed music lovers together, and when I get up for a beer or some crawfish bread, I’ll ask if I can get you some, too.
This shared community knows no compass – true north is whatever stage the band’s playing on. It’s us – people – at our best.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve missed that. But I’m looking forward to JazzFest’s triumphant return this autumn!
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels like promised sunshine.
What are your most treasured JazzFest memories? What are you most looking forward to when it returns?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.
Until next Wednesday –
To Our Valued Clients and Friends:
Welcome to the ninth and final installment in our series on preparing your business to weather unexpected events. Read Parts I – VIII here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. This week, we discuss 10 mistakes businesses should avoid during a crisis.
Crises do happen – we all know that, and if we didn’t before March of 2020, we’ve learned it since. And, of course, none of us was nor could have been fully prepared for a global pandemic, nor for the attendant scrambling by our government agencies – at all levels – to address it effectively.
Even businesses with good risk-preparedness plans can be severely impacted by crises and Draconian regulations, especially when these fluid situations keep changing. But here are some general tips for mitigating the worst impacts of an unexpected event.
10 Things NOT to do in a Crisis:
- DON’T ignore potential sources of credit. Even if you have some reserves remaining, if you are concerned about longer-term survival for your business, consider a small business loan or business line of credit through your (or another) bank. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is another good source of loan funding. In fact, we recommend making sure you have a line of credit in place just in case of such events – the last time you want to borrow money from a bank is when you really need it.
- DON’T avoid creditors. Be honest with them – if your business has dropped, let them know. If you are in a larger building, consider banding together with other tenants, who may also be seeing a drop in revenues, and asking your mutual landlord for reduced rent for a period of time, or a moratorium on rent collection for a few months. Individually, you can take a similar approach to both landlords and suppliers – they may be willing to be flexible to maintain a long-term relationship. Some contracts have “escape clauses” in case of forced business closures – in the maritime industry, this is called “force majeure.” Do your research, and don’t be afraid to reach out as soon as you know there are issues – often in a real crisis, people are willing to work together more than when things are “normal.”
- DON’T fail to read your insurance policies carefully. Your insurance may provide more coverage than you think via such clauses as “act of God,” “loss of business income,” or “force majeure;” see whether any of these applies in your case, and if one does, make your claim.
- DON’T ignore additional strategic revenue opportunities – think outside the box. DO consider targeting new/different market segments. DO consider new products or service lines – is there a need? Can you fill it? If the answer is “yes,” and the product or service fits your business, consider offering it, after a thoughtful analysis of the pros and cons. On the other hand, if a key product or service cannot be offered or is not in demand during a crisis (e.g., in-restaurant dining), consider vertical integration (e.g., food delivery service). If a product or service can be offered and is in demand, see whether you can deliver it differently and better.
- DON’T worry about maintaining inventory at pre-crisis levels. Review your existing inventory in light of your current business situation and customer demands and adjust accordingly. Also, review your current inventory management strategy and procedures – do they need updating? With today’s technology, it may be possible, if you are a reseller, to simply have products shipped from your suppliers direct to your customers, obviating the need for substantial inventory altogether. Conversely, if you need to maintain inventory and fear some items may become scarce (e.g., semiconductors), consider stocking up.
- DON’T rely only on your best customers. While it’s great to have them as a base, and you should never ignore a chance to help them, it’s also necessary to recruit new customers – this is true always, but especially in a crisis. Remember that helping people should always be your goal and grail. Be on the lookout for new problems to solve, and new people you can solve them for. In a crisis, it may be that you have significant opportunities to help others in new and profitable ways. Make sure you find them if they’re there.
- DON’T fail to pursue your marketing strategies. If there’s any time when clients and potential clients need to know you’re still in business, it’s when your community is suffering a shared crisis. Marketing outreach can provide an excellent opportunity to reach people who are either evacuated from their homes or kept isolated in them.
- DON’T purchase non-essentials. In a crisis, postpone plans for equipment purchases, expansions, or business travel – unless you feel there’s significant profit to be made. Think it through – if you believe there’s a real opportunity after analyzing the situation as a whole, you may want to take advantage. If not, put it off until the situation changes to make a resulting profit more likely.
- DON’T consider the crisis to be “downtime.” It shouldn’t be – this, particularly, is an opportunity to use your business time – identifying new lines of service or products and setting those in motion, making sure your team gets any training or continuing education they need, and – of course! – never stop asking your clients how you can best help them, whatever the situation
- DON’T be afraid to ask for help if you need it! There is no shame in this. In a crisis, people pull together – we’ve seen this time and again. Don’t let pride be your enemy here. And remember, even if you can’t pay back the favor, you will always, in the end, find an opportunity to pay it forward.
There’s a unifying theme here – it’s “Be Proactive!”
A crisis can make us all feel helpless, powerless, especially in the initial stages of a crisis. But we aren’t helpless or powerless against all of the factors. Some may be within our control, others within our ability to manage – so let’s focus on addressing those.
So, take charge, and take action!
How have you addressed the various business challenges posed by COVID-19?
Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Until next Wednesday –
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