Written by the Ronald Blue Trust Business Consulting Division
Part 1: Finances
If you have ever considered what retirement means as a business owner, you have probably thought about what makes your business valuable. From the perspective of a potential buyer, value is driven by dependable, consistent, free cash flow. This is achieved through things like strategic planning, strong leadership, and, critically, ownership independence.
When we talk about ownership independence, we start with the idea that God owns the business and has a plan for it beyond the current owner. The business can exist and thrive without the owner, and the owner can exist and thrive without the business.
One measure of a business’s health is that its value is not dependent upon who owns it. This allows for a transfer in ownership that does not affect value, which is naturally attractive to potential buyers. A healthy business also frees the owner. An owner who views the business as God’s and who has addressed both personal and corporate finances in a way that creates this freedom is better equipped to have a Kingdom impact.
We teach business owners seeking to create ownership independence to focus on three key areas:
- Corporate finances – Build independence in areas of financial foundation, leadership, and revenue growth, which allow for strategic and operational continuity from one owner to the next.
- Personal finances – Build independence in areas of income and benefits, distributions, and sales proceeds, which allow for overall company health and focus on having a Kingdom impact.
- Identity – Foster a business identity that is not tied to the owner’s personal identity.
Part one of this post addresses using finances to create ownership independence. Part two will address how identity is tied to ownership independence.
If the owner is funding business expenses with personal money, is the lead salesperson, and/or does not have a leadership team, the business is likely dependent upon the owner.
If the owner is financially dependent on the revenue the business creates, the owner is likely dependent upon the business.
Financial interdependence means the business is at risk if the owner leaves and the owner is at risk if the business falters. It also means the owner may elevate personal need over business priorities. One example we have seen is instead of investing in updated equipment, an owner uses that money to pay personal bills.
It takes time to create a healthy separation between corporate and personal finances, but we have seen it pay off. One client we worked with recently asked us to find a buyer for his business. Because he had achieved ownership independence, his priority was finding a new owner who would further his business’s Kingdom impact over who would offer the highest sale price. Had his personal finances depended on getting as high a price possible for the sale, he would not have been free to make that choice.
Separating personal finances from corporate finances is a crucial step in achieving ownership independence. Doing so frees the owner from a conflict of interest when making personal and corporate financial choices.
Here are some questions to consider as you reflect on how this information applies to your business:
- How have you worked to reduce your financial dependence on the business? Who is helping you develop and execute this strategy?
- How have you worked to reduce the business’s financial dependence on you? Who is helping you develop and execute this strategy?
- How do you balance the financial priorities of the family business and the business of the family?
We recommend these next steps to begin developing financial ownership independence:
- Develop a personal financial plan
- Develop a corporate financial plan
Understanding ownership independence and evaluating your business and role are the first steps. Developing and implementing an actionable plan that pursues this objective and brings the benefits follows.
Would you like personalized guidance as you think through creating ownership independence? Ronald Blue Trust’s Business Consulting division leverages biblical wisdom and practical expertise to advise business owners as they seek to faithfully steward the companies with which they have been entrusted. To learn more, click here to visit the Business Consulting division page on ronblue.com.