How to Protect Your Business in a Divorce

If you are a business owner facing divorce, the thought of protecting your business from divorce can only add to the stress and strain that you are already going through. Unlike most property or personal assets, your business represents a personal investment of your own time, money, creativity and hard work. The idea that you might lose something you built because of an unfortunate turn in your personal circumstances can be both frustrating and frightening.

There are a few things you should keep in mind, both when going through divorce, as well as before divorce even seems a prospect to you. If you never get divorced, that’s great, congratulations. But by taking time to make sure your business is protected you can prevent many headaches, including every entrepreneur’s ultimate nightmare: losing your business.

Here are some things you should consider that may help keep your business intact and functioning:

Get a prenuptial agreement. Sure, it’s not very romantic to contemplate divorce before you even marry, but if you own a business it’s your responsibility to think about the possibility. Speak openly and honestly with your intended about your desire to keep your business separate from the marriage, and craft an agreement that is fair and prudent for both parties before you have any reason to be contentious.

Insert provisions into your business agreements to keep your spouse out of the business. This sounds cold-hearted perhaps, but if you are in a partnership or corporation you owe it to yourself, your partners, your employees and your shareholders to protect the business. You should already have a buy-sell agreement with any partners. This will typically state what should happen to the business should any owner’s status change, will outline any pre-set price agreements for sale of the business, and may contain language that limits your spouse’s involvement in the business. The buy-sell agreement, while it doesn’t protect you entirely from the events that may occur in a divorce, does provide a contractual framework and legal foundation for any future court rulings about the business.

Keep your family assets separate from your business assets. This is just common business sense, but it’s even more important in the event of a divorce. If you are using family money to fund your business, you are creating a situation where your spouse may have claim to some of your company’s equity.

Pay yourself. Similarly, if you are not taking a salary, or taking a salary that is less than the going rate for your line of work, your spouse can claim that you have taken assets that rightfully belonged to your family and put them into your business. In the eyes of the court, this may substantiate your spouse’s claim to a stake in your business.

Don’t involve your spouse in your business. Again, this sounds cold, but there are sound business reasons for keeping your spouse’s involvement in your business to a minimum. If you hire your spouse, it is prudent to terminate that relationship as soon as possible if you end up in a divorce. The greater the involvement of your spouse in your business, the greater the claim your spouse can make to a stake in that business.

Create a Property Settlement Note. This will outline in advance how your spouse is to be paid out for their share in your business, should your marriage be dissolved.

Put your business and its assets in a trust. This will protect the assets from divorce, as you will no longer technically own them. The trust becomes, in effect, the owner of the business, and not only its current assets but also its future growth will remain outside the parameters of your marital assets.

Writing A Business Plan For Success

Business plans are good for entrepreneurs starting a business who want to attract funding and established firms looking to expand into a new venture or grow their business. A business plan is a road map to the success of a business, many businesses fail every year because of improper planning. A good business plan eliminates this dilemma.

Purpose: The purpose of a business plan is to help determine the course of the business; where it should be in the future and where to place the resources in order to achieve that goal. It is a document that provides future lenders and investors with proof of the entrepreneurs’ credibility. Thus, making them better candidates for funding.

Length: A Business plan wording and formatting should be straight forward and simple. The business plan should not be more than 40 pages. Summary tables and business charts should be used to make the numbers easy to read and grasp. No more than two fonts should be used. Font size should be at least 11 or 12 point size. Page breaks should be used to separate pages and charts.

Objectives: The main objective of a business plan is to establish revenue projections for the business and provide details on how the business will acquire the revenue.

BUSINESS PLAN FORMAT

A) Executive Summary

This is the first section of a business plan. This section is a brief overall summary of the business. It will define the nature of the business. The executive summary should be the last thing written. Once the rest of the components of a business plan have be written, entrepreneurs will have a clearer sense of what to write as their executive summary. The executive summary contains the following:

Mission Statement- This is where the business plan states how the customer will benefit from what the business has to offer. The business plan needs to state what products and services the company will be providing.

Objective – This is what entrepreneurs expect the business to accomplish, basically setting goals for the company.

B) Company Description

In this section, the business plan will go over a detail description of the business. The company description section contains the following:

Ownership – What type of ownership will the company be: sole proprietary, partnership, or corporation.

Location – This states where the business will be located. Office’s, retail shop and any other type of facility that is associated with the business should be mentioned. A website address should be listed if the business has one.

Product & Services – What will the business be providing, will it be a service or a product?

Funding – This is where it is stated how the small business will get funded. Funding is broken down into two parts, start-up expenses and start-up assets. Start-up expenses is legal bills, renovation and leased equipment. Start-up Assets are items that the business owners will be using for the business operation. For example, cash, purchased equipment and inventory.

C) Management & Operation Plan

This section of the business plan details how the business will function on a day to day basis. It contains the following:

Management – This will be a list of the personnel that will have a managerial position and the definition of their role in the business.

Operation – This describe the process that it takes for the business to deliver the products or services to the consumer.

D) Marketing Plan

It details the small business effort’s to sell the products or services to the customer base. A marketing plan will contain a list of the following items:

Industry – This lists all the players in the market; the competition, the type of products and service that they have, the strengths that they have and how they attract customers.

Business Loan Rates and Small Business Growth

Americans know that friendly business loan rates and small business growth are essential to the growth of the economy, and new business owners have many avenues for creating a successful start-up. Recent investigations by the Small Business Administration, which offers SBA loans to small businesses around the country, suggests that small businesses account for over half of all the sales made in the United States each year. Even more importantly, small businesses provide employment for over half the jobs in the country, as well as a significant number of all new jobs created in the country since the 1970s.

When a bank determines what business loan rates it will offer a client, one of the primary characteristics investigated is the history of the borrower. For new business owners or anyone looking to create a start-up, getting a great rate on commercial real estate loans is often dependent upon business history, which might not exist for some new business owners. In such cases, the only way to get low rates or even get a loan in the first place is when the business owner puts up his or her own collateral or uses his or her credit history to secure the loan.

This reliance upon an individual’s credit for new business loans is why it’s important to have all of one’s financial “ducks” in a row before applying for an SBA loan or any loan connected with a new business. Business loan rates fluctuate just like the economy, and one of the primary indications of whether a bank will loan an individual money is whether the business will be able to survive the expected fluctuations of the economy. A few months or even a few quarters of poor sales shouldn’t mean a new business needs to shut its doors. Some type of emergency reserve, collateral, or savings is an essential buffer for any business.

Sometimes it’s best to think of commercial real estate loans in the same way a borrower might approach a traditional mortgage. Securing a low mortgage rate means coming to the table with great credit. The same might be said for commercial loans. Business loan rates that are low are awarded when an applicant or business has good credit. However, new business owners must also consider a variety of other issues that will come under investigation by the bank such as cash flow and the industry in which a business will operate. Due to these additional factors, a borrower might need to go beyond a standard mortgage rate calculator to one with additional variables.

It might seem like an impossible feat to convince a bank of the creditworthiness of an individual who has never owned a business before; however, some options exist for ensuring a new application is granted the lowest possible business loan rates. For example, a new business owner may provide past examples of business success, even if the owner wasn’t at the head of a company during those successes. Perhaps a business owner once worked in the financial department of his or her last company and was able to save the company thousands of dollars with innovative ideas.

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses occupy somewhere between 20 to 34 billion square feet of commercial space in the United States. Keeping that number on an upward trend is essential for America, and small business loans, as well as commercial real estate loans, help keep the country growing in a post-recession environment. Business owners who make smart decisions about credit and arrive at a bank with the best possible application will ensure the business opens its doors with the best possible financial future. Entrepreneurs should investigate business loan rates and help make sure the economy continues to grow through new small businesses and valuable jobs.