Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Leadership Isn't Easy and Other Business Lessons from an Army Officer

Following on my earlier post about the Full Metal Jacket Leadership style,   I was intrigued to run across this article written by former army officer, Matthew Hamiliton. He identifies four of the great lessons he took out of his service for our Nation which he believes are applicable to the business world.

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a businessman when I grew up; I wanted to be a soldier. So that’s what I did.

While serving as an Army officer, I was exposed to some amazing leaders and great leadership lessons. Since leaving the Army, I’ve seen those lessons are just as applicable in the private sector and would like to briefly share a few.

1. Give people a purpose.
Giving employees a task is easy. Giving them a purpose is harder, but much more important. Your employees need to understand the why much more than the what.
In the Army, mission orders consist of both a task and purpose. Emphasis is put on the purpose through the “commander’s intent” statement. Giving soldiers a purpose enables them to be flexible and adjust to changing conditions on the battlefield, while still accomplishing the overall intent of their mission.
Think about how your management team gives out assignments. If the only reason an employee knows why they are doing something is “because I was told to,” you may have a problem. Help put their tasks, large and small, in context of your larger organizational mission and situation. As an added benefit, in addition to giving them flexibility, purpose can help increase engagement and lead to more profits.

2. Be precise when you communicate.
Precisely communicating the intent of a mission in the military is extremely important.
For example, there is a difference between attacking an enemy and assaulting one. The differences are subtle and nuanced, but exist nonetheless. Faint variations of language can lead to a big difference in meaning and interpretation.
Think about how many emails you receive in a day in which the writer’s purpose is muddled and unclear. How often have you attended an unproductive meeting because the participants used ambiguous language that left their message indistinct?
In On Writing Well, editorial writer William Zinsser cautions to “care deeply about words (and) master the small gradations between (them) that seem to be synonyms.” Using precise words to convey your meaning will help people understand you.

3. Structure your problem-solving approach.
Soldiers in the Army are often placed in situations where they have to solve complex problems without much leeway for error. While in combat, my helicopter platoon’s priority was maintenance. Without functioning helicopters, we couldn’t accomplish our mission. With limited resources and a long supply chain, we could not afford to make mistakes.
We planned maintenance using the “P4T2” approach – problem, plan, people, parts, tools and time. This helped us to make sure we covered all the bases. Management consultants refer to a structured approach like this as being “MECE” – mutually exclusive, collective exhaustive – meaning you address all the relevant issues without unnecessary overlap.
The P4T2 approach worked for us. Business leaders, however, can benefit by figuring out what problem-solving method works for their organization. Fully structuring your approach before tackling a problem can help ensure you don’t forget something important that can come back to bite you later.

4. Motivate the right way.
I don’t know a single person who joined the military to become rich. Despite this, military service members are consistently some of the hardest working, most respected people. So why is money often the first incentive that many business people turn to?
Soldiers in the Army join, and remain, for myriad reasons. Similarly, many employees are motivated by more than just a paycheck.
It’s your job as a leader to figure out what they really care about. Try to see the world from their perspective, and ask them what matters to them.
Incentives can change over time, too. In combat, the most common motivation for soldiers is to bring everyone home safe. When your organization is in crisis mode, you need to figure out how to focus everyone.
Warning of layoffs may not do the trick, and may send people to look for something more stable. If you build your organization around strong and clear values, that mission can be the rallying cry to pull everyone together.
Leadership isn’t easy. “You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his 2011 TED Talk.
Great leaders continue to learn and grow because they know they don’t have all the right answers. “A leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust.”

Matthew Hamilton is a former Army officer and volunteer co-organizer for TEDxBirmingham, matthew@TEDxBirmingham.org.

This article first appeared in the Business Journal in December 2013

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hire People Smarter than Yourself to Increase the Value of your Business

Five straight-forward, but valuable, pieces of wisdom about how to increase the valuation of your business

By Mark Tepper, CFP, president and founder of Strategic Wealth Partners

For most business owners, the first several years in operation are a time to keep their noses to the grindstone, doing whatever it takes to get the business off the ground. During this phase, providing the marketplace with quality products or services should be the primary focus—but it should not be the only focus. Overlooking longer-term goals can be a big mistake when it comes to the ultimate health and success of your company.
It is important for business owners to realize the decisions made today will gravely impact the value of a business down the line. It may surprise you to know the decisions with big long-term value are actually pretty simple, and if handled strategically can significantly boost the net worth of your business—and your personal balance sheet, too.
Here are five actions every business owner needs to take to reap their long-term benefits.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Determines The Valuation Date During a Divorce?

This is article is written from the perspective of a professional representing a female during a marital divorce. The article was penned by Jeffrey Landers in 2011 and first appeared in Forbes Magazine

You think you want to keep the house. He says he’s more interested in his business. What will happen to the stock portfolio, retirement accounts, the vacant beachfront property and the art pieces you bought together?

It won’t be an easy task, but there’s no getting around it: Divorce requires the division of all your marital assets.

And, as you can imagine, in order to partition those assets properly, each must be assigned an accurate dollar value.
In divorce, the point in time in which an asset is assigned a dollar value is called its valuation date.

That sounds relatively straightforward, doesn’t it? Since each asset needs a dollar value, all you have to do is simply pick a date and appraise each item as of that date. Well, unfortunately, like most other aspects of divorce, the determination of valuation dates isn’t typically very straightforward at all. In fact, the process can be quite complex.


For starters, the value of an asset can significantly vary depending on the date that is chosen to be its valuation date. Plus, each state has its own specific regulations and guidelines. For example:
o      In New York, the Court must select a valuation date as soon as possible after the divorce action has commenced.
o      Other states may use the trial date, the date of separation, the date the divorce complaint was filed or another date as the valuation date.

Since there is often a long delay between separation and divorce, you’ll want to work closely with your divorce team to help you work through these nuances, so that, to the extent possible, you can use a valuation date that is the most advantageous to you.  (The complexity of assigning a valuation date is nicely illustrated in this list of each state’s laws.)

How does the valuation date differ from the date of separation?

.... divorcing women need to pay careful attention to the date of separation (DOS).

And, because there’s often confusion between the DOS and the valuation date, I want to make the distinction between the two very clear.

... the DOS usually draws a very significant line of demarcation. It’s the line in the sand between when you were married (and functioning as a couple) and when you were separated (and no longer functioning as a couple). The DOS is important because it helps determine the division between marital and separate property –and because it can be used to establish a valuation date.
Sometimes, the DOS, itself, is used as the valuation date. But, in other cases, it’s not.

...Which assets are typically valued as of the DOS, and which are typically valued as of the trial date?
Generally, active assets are valued as of the DOS, while passive assets are valued as of the trial date.
An active asset is any marital property that can change in value due to the actions of its owner. For instance, a business, a professional practice and even the marital home can be considered active assets. As you can see, it makes sense for an active asset to be valued as of the DOS –otherwise, the spouse who controls the asset might allow its value to diminish as the divorce proceedings unfold.
A passive asset, on the other hand, is any marital property that can change value because of forces beyond the direct control of its owner. For example, vacant land and stock portfolios may be considered passive assets because their value depends on market forces.

What difference does it make if an asset is valued at one date or another?
Assigning a valuation date can have a significant impact on the value of a particular asset.

The easiest way for me to explain this is by using examples.
In a New Jersey appeals case, the husband owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. The seat nearly doubled in value between the time of the filing of the divorce complaint and the time of the divorce trial. Which date should be used as the valuation date? The Courts ruled that the date of the divorce trial should be used as the valuation date. In this case, the increase in value was viewed as entirely passive since it was not based on the actions of either party.

In other cases, different rules apply. For instance, a business that is managed by only one spouse is usually considered an active asset and would typically be valued as of the DOS (or commencement of the divorce action in New York). This approach makes sense for two reasons:
1 – To protect the spouse who controls and manages the business. Should the value of that business increase between the DOS and trial date due to the efforts of the managing spouse, then that spouse should be awarded the benefits of his/her labor.
2 – To protect the non-managing spouse. Should the spouse who controls and manages the business decide to run the business into the ground, the non-managing spouse should not suffer any loss as a result of the managing spouse’s actions.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that in the current volatile economic situation, things can get even more complicated. For example, a judge may rule that any decrease in the value of a business was a result of the recession and had nothing to do with the actions of the managing spouse. In essence, the judge could deem a normally active asset (the business) to be a passive asset and therefore would use the trial date as the valuation date rather than the DOS (or commencement of the divorce action in New York).

While the complexities surrounding the “straightforward” concept of valuation date can seem a bit confusing at times, don’t feel overwhelmed.  Your divorce team will help you work through the specifics of your case, and with their help, you’ll be able to manage your assets and develop a comprehensive plan for continued financial stability and security in the future.
Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC (http://www.BedrockDivorce.com), a divorce financial strategy firm that exclusively works with women, who are going through a divorce.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Business Valuation is Part Science and Part Art.

I wondered how long it would take for Steve Ballmer's acquisition of the Los Angeles Clippers to make the rounds 

Professional appraisers use hard assets, revenue, projections, goodwill and ‘street smarts’

By Greg Paeth

Business valuations are a science and an art – a process conducted with an eye out for the thumb of emotion on the scales.
In mid-August, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged he was paying an “L.A. beachfront price” of $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, a traditionally lowly NBA franchise overshadowed for decades by the crosstown rival Lakers, who hold 16 championships.
The previous high NBA franchise price was $551 million paid in 2010 for the Washington Wizards. Then last spring, shortly after former Clippers owner Donald Sterling became mired in controversy, writers began to speculate that the franchise might – just might – be worth as much as $1 billion, a mind-boggling multiple of the $12.5 million Sterling paid in 1981.
“The first thing I thought when I heard it (the $2 billion pricetag) is, ‘Geez, what are the Lakers worth?’ ” said Stefan Hendrickson, a CPA and accredited business valuator with the Mountjoy Chilton Medley accounting firm, Kentucky’s largest with offices in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Cincinnati and Jeffersonville, Ind. “The second thing I thought is that the NBA must have taken care of business (for team owners) in the last lockout (of the players).”
Hendrickson, senior manager in MCM’s Lexington office, made it clear that owning an NBA franchise is quite different from a typical business, the thousands of much smaller privately held companies that can be found in virtually every hamlet and every major city in the country.
“The NBA is kind of a playground industry,” Hendrickson observed. “If you have enough money, you want to get a team.”
If a price can be agreed upon.
Even for the many thousands of private business owners who never take a shot on pro sports’ billion-dollar playgrounds, a precise business valuation is just as critical – or perhaps more so – when it’s time to buy or sell all or part of a company.
Some entrepreneurs launch endeavors entirely to sell them as soon as possible. More commonly, transfers happen because of business burnout, estate planning, retirement, divorce, litigation, the death of an owner, a dispute among owners, a proposed merger or an acquisition deal. Other times business owners will seek a professional valuation because of an unsolicited offer.
“A lot of times (a client will) say, ‘I just got an offer to sell my business, and I want to know if this is right’,” Hendrickson said.
Equities markets set theoretical business valuations for publicly held companies every trading day. But those straight-formula estimations often aren’t the final word; deals do use the market’s numbers but also occur at premiums over equity market price when a buyer has factored in additional variables.
Owners optimistic about valuations
“Anytime that someone has a privately held business where there’s not an open market to sell their shares in, they have to come to someone and get a valuation on the value of that business. That’s where we come in,” said Drew Chambers, a CPA, accredited business valuator and a principal at MCM.
Like two other MCM accountants, Chambers devotes all his time to business valuation.
The process can be complicated because some numbers can be fairly easy to nail down while others are tough to calculate and can fluctuate wildly. The pricetag on a company’s office building or a year-old color copier, for example, can be determined with some precision. Far more nebulous is the value of something like the “goodwill” that Standard Widgets created in the community by sponsoring a Little League team for 25 years or chairing the annual United Appeal campaign.
Four knowledgeable people who understand the business valuation process inside and out agreed there’s only one near certainty in the process: Business owners usually believe their company is worth more than its actual value.
“What we usually run into is everyone who is a business owner or an entrepreneur is a very optimistic person,” Chambers said. “So we do run into a lot of folks who, when we say ‘Okay, looking forward at your business, what kind of income levels or revenue levels are you going to have?’ most business owners think the next five years are going to be the best ever, and say ‘we’re going to experience growth like we’ve never had before.’ ”
An improving economy may bolster that optimism.
Louisville businesses’ asking prices and revenues increased in the past year, according to BizBuySell.com, which claims to be the Internet’s largest marketplace for businesses that are for sale.
Revenues and valuations have risen
The 77 Louisville businesses listed on the site during the second quarter of 2014 had a median asking price of $300,000, which is an increase of 30 percent from the $230,000 median for 2Q 2013. Median annual revenue was $408,000, up about $66,000 or just more than 19 percent compared to companies listed a year earlier, BizBuySell reported. However, median cash flow declined by $1,700 per year to $80,000.
Rising prices aren’t just a Louisville phenomenon. At the national level, BizBuySell said second quarter activity indicates that 2014 could be a record year for the number of buy-sell transactions since the company began tracking data in 2007.
Chambers and Hendrickson of MCM as well as Dee Dee McLeod, who runs Cycle Strategies in the tiny Louisville suburb of Glenview, all adhere to clearly defined formulas in the valuation process, using one or more of the three distinct methods – asset, income or market – in providing clients with a valuation that can be used as a reasonable starting point for buy-sell negotiations or, in some cases, an incontrovertible figure that both buyer and seller, or plaintiff and defendant, will live with.
Greg Hedgebeth, a business broker who specializes in selling small businesses – $5 million or less in annual revenue – from his Hedge-Financial office in a Cincinnati suburb, addresses valuation questions differently.
“My approach to it is more of the street-smart informal valuation. The true value of a business is what a buyer is willing to pay for it. The valuation process you’re talking about is a more formal process,” said Hedgebeth, a CPA who has been buying, selling and running businesses for nearly 40 years. “But mine is more of an informal actual valuation of what the business is worth on the street versus a theoretical value that’s essentially on paper.”
Hedgebeth, an exit strategy consultant for small to medium-size businesses in Ohio and Kentucky, isn’t dismissive of the more structured approaches and said he has employed those methods in the past.
Chambers stresses that the valuation process should never be confused with an audit, and McLeod agreed.
“I’m not making judgment calls on what they’re doing,” said McLeod, a CPA who is certified by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts. Her resume includes two years as CFO of Louisville’s john conti Coffee Co.
Three main approaches to valuation
Chambers, Hendrickson, McLeod and Marty Zwilling, writing for the National Federation of Independent Business, offered some capsule summaries of the three different methods that are commonly used in valuations:
• Asset approach: Typically involves a detailed examination of what the company owns and determining what that property – from the real estate to the office staplers to the inventory – are worth if they had to be sold. Determining the value of assets is important, McLeod said, but shouldn’t be considered the definitive factor in a valuation. Business owners have to ask themselves whether their operating income is actually generated by those assets. For example, sometimes it becomes clear that “you do not have to have that office building to operate that business,” she said.
• Income approach: Chambers, Hendrickson and McLeod said they routinely scrutinize financials to develop an accurate picture of the company’s health and its long-term prognosis. Chambers and McLeod said the process calls for an examination of the company’s internal financial records – preferably records that have been audited – as well as tax returns. The final report, said Chambers, often involves “taking a historical stream of earnings and projecting a value for future cash flow.”
Certified valuators are required to consider more than one of the valuation methods when they begin work for a client, Chamber said.
McLeod has been working with one client for two years to prepare his business for sale. She likened selling a business to selling a home and emphasized the importance of having comprehensive, accurate financials available to a prospective buyer.
“Quite honestly, (you want them) as clean as their records can be … just like as clean as their house can be – as clean as can be! You don’t want to have to explain a lot about your financials. Your financials should be stand-alone documents that fairly and accurately represent your business.”
Market approach: This method focuses on examining a business in comparison to similar size businesses in similar industries in similar size markets and determining what that business is worth. In many cases, the business will be compared to similar businesses at the local, regional and national level. In some cases, there are thousands of comparables in the country that would indicate, for example, what full-service restaurants with liquor licenses sell for, McLeod said.
“In a theoretical perfect world, all three of your approaches would line up and be very similar in their calculation, but it can vary sometimes wildly because the majority of the businesses we’re valuing are not public companies, they’re closely held businesses, so getting good market information on those companies can be a difficult task, which is another thing to consider when you’re working with a valuation advisor,” Hendrickson said.
And then there’s “street smarts”
Hedgebeth said his street-level approach is based on his years of experience about how the market works when a business owner decides to sell.
“And that’s the whole counseling process I go through when I talk to the seller,” he said. “I pretty much tell them I know what banks are going to loan for a business and I know what buyers will pay. You’re going to pretty much have to say to the seller, ‘This is what your business is going to sell for on the street. Are you sure you want to sell? Is this something you want to do?’ ”
As might be expected, determining the value of a startup can be much trickier because they rarely have well-established histories that indicate what can be expected next year or 10 years in the future.
Because of the dearth of information, Hedgebeth, who typically deals with businesses that have been operating for at least 20 years, said standard “metrics are thrown out with some startups.”
McLeod agreed. “You are going on projections and that gets very tricky,” she said, “especially if (the startup is) a very niche business. It’s really hard to even find anything that’s comparable to that and actually gauge if the industry is ‘growing by 40 percent year over year over year.’ You really have to dig a little deeper and find out how and why they’re justifying these projections and are they realistic.”
McLeod also said that ethical valuators always know which clients to avoid.
“As soon as you walk into a meeting and they say, ‘I want you to value my business and this is what I want it to be worth,’” she said, it’s time to tell them “Thank you very much, but I don’t think we can do business.”
Greg Paeth is a correspondent for The Lane Report. He can be reached at editorial@lanereport.com

Ever wondered what instructions the IRS gives to its internal valuation professionals?

These guidelines come straight from the IRS Examination manual.

Part 4. Examining Process

Chapter 48. Engineering Program

Section 4. Business Valuation Guidelines

4.48.4  Business Valuation Guidelines   Introduction   Development Guidelines   Resolution Guidelines   Reporting Guidelines  (07-01-2006)

The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines applicable to all IRS personnel engaged in valuation practice (herein referred to as "valuators") relating to the development, resolution and reporting of issues involving business valuations and similar valuation issues. Valuators must be able to reasonably justify any departure from these guidelines.

This document incorporates by reference, the ethical and conduct provisions, contained in the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Standards of Ethical Conduct, applicable to all IRS employees.

Valuations of assets owned and/or transferred by or between controlled taxpayers (within the meaning of Treasury Regulation section 1.482-1(i)(5)) may present substantive issues that are not addressed in these guidelines.  (07-01-2006)
Development Guidelines

Successful completion of a valuation assignment includes planning, identifying critical factors, documenting specific information, and analyzing the relevant information. All relevant activities will be documented in the workpapers.

A review appraisal may be the best approach to the assignment.  (07-01-2006)

Valuators will adequately plan the valuation assignment. Their managers will supervise the staff involved in the valuation process.

Quality planning is a continual process throughout the valuation assignment.  (07-01-2006)

In developing a valuation conclusion, valuators should define the assignment and determine the scope of work necessary by identifying the following:

Property to be valued

Interest to be valued

Effective valuation date

Purpose of valuation

Use of valuation

Statement of value

Standard and definition of value


Limiting conditions

Scope limitations

Restrictions, agreements and other factors that may influence value

Sources of information  (07-01-2006)

In developing a valuation conclusion, valuators should analyze the relevant information necessary to accomplish the assignment including:

The nature of the business and the history of the enterprise from its inception

The economic outlook in general and the condition and outlook of the specific industry in particular

The book value of the stock or interest and the financial condition of the business

The earning capacity of the company

The dividend-paying capacity

Existence or non existence of goodwill or other intangible value

Sales of the stock or interest and the size of the block of stock to be valued

The market price of stocks or interests of corporations or entities engaged in the same or a similar line of business having their stocks or interests actively traded in a free and open market, either on an exchange or over-the-counter

Other relevant information

The three generally accepted valuation approaches are the asset-based approach, the market approach and the income approach. Consideration should be given to all three approaches. Professional judgment should be used to select the approach(es) ultimately used and the method(s) within such approach(es) that best indicate the value of the business interest.

Historical financial statements should be analyzed and, if necessary, adjusted to reflect the appropriate asset value, income, cash flows and/or benefit stream, as applicable, to be consistent with the valuation methodologies selected by the valuator.

The valuator should select the appropriate benefit stream, such as pre-tax or after-tax income and/or cash flows, and select appropriate discount rates, capitalization rates or multiples consistent with the benefit stream selected within the relevant valuation methodology.

The valuator will determine an appropriate discount and/or capitalization rate after taking into consideration all relevant factors such as:

The nature of the business

The risk involved

The stability or irregularity of earnings

Other relevant factors

As appropriate for the assignment, and if not considered in the process of determining and weighing the indications of value provided by other procedures, the valuator should separately consider the following factors in reaching a final conclusion of value:

Marketability, or lack thereof, considering the nature of the business, business ownership interest or security, the effect of relevant contractual and legal restrictions, and the condition of the markets.

Ability of the appraised interest to control the operation, sale, or liquidation of the relevant business.

Other levels of value considerations (consistent with the standard of value in Section (1) list item g) such as the impact of strategic or synergistic contributions to value .

Such other factors which, in the opinion of the valuator, that are appropriate for consideration.  (07-01-2006)

Workpapers should document the steps taken, techniques used, and provide the evidence to support the facts and conclusions in the final report.

Valuators will maintain a detailed case activity record (Form 9984, Examining Officer's Activity Record) which:

Identifies actions taken and indicates time charged

Identifies contacts including name, phone number, subject, commitments, etc.

Documents delays in the examination

The case activity record, along with the supporting workpapers, should justify that the time spent is commensurate with work performed.  (07-01-2006)

In reviewing a business valuation and reporting the results of that review, a valuator should form an opinion as to the adequacy and appropriateness of the report being reviewed and should clearly disclose the scope of work of the review process undertaken.

In reviewing a business valuation, a valuator should:

Identify the taxpayer and intended use of the opinions and conclusions, and the purpose of the review assignment.

Identify the report under review, the property interest being valued, the effective date of the valuation, and the date of the review.

Identify the scope of the review process conducted.

Determine the completeness of the report under review.

Determine the apparent adequacy and relevance of the data and the propriety of any adjustments to the data.

Determine the appropriateness of the valuation methods and techniques used and develop the reasons for any disagreement.

Determine whether the analyses, opinions, and conclusions in the report under review are appropriate and reasonable, and develop the reasons for any disagreement.

In the event of a disagreement with the report’s factual representations, underlying assumptions, methodology, or conclusions, a valuator should conduct additional fact-finding, research, and/or analyses necessary to arrive at an appropriate value for the property.  (07-01-2006)
Resolution Guidelines

Valuators will make efforts to obtain a resolution of the case after fully considering all relevant facts.  (07-01-2006)

The objective is to resolve the issue as early in the examination as possible. Credible and compelling work by the valuator will facilitate resolution of issues without litigation.

The valuator will work in concert with the internal customer and taxpayer to attempt to resolve all outstanding issues.  (07-01-2006)
Arriving at Conclusions

Once the valuator has all the information to be considered in resolving the issue, the valuator will use his/her professional judgment in considering this information to arrive at a conclusion.

Valuators may not have all of the information they would like to have to definitively resolve an issue. Valuators, therefore, should decide when they have substantially enough information to make a proper determination.

Valuators will employ independent and objective judgment in reaching conclusions and will decide all matters on their merits, free from bias, advocacy, and conflicts of interest.  (07-01-2006)
Reporting Guidelines

Valuators should prepare reports of their findings.

This section requires specific information to be included or addressed in each report.  (07-01-2006)

The primary objective of a valuation report is to provide convincing and compelling support for the conclusions reached.

Valuation reports should contain all the information necessary to allow a clear understanding of the valuation analyses and demonstrate how the conclusions were reached.  (07-01-2006)
Report Contents

The extent and content of the report prepared depends on the needs of each case.

Valuation reports should clearly communicate the results and identify the information relied upon in the valuation process. The valuation report should effectively communicate the methodology and reasoning, as well as identify the supporting documentation.

Subject to the type of report being written, valuation reports should generally contain sufficient information relating to the items in Identifying and Analyzing to ensure consistency and quality.

Reports written with respect to Reviewing shall contain, at a minimum, information relating to those items in Identifying and Analyzing necessary to support the revised assumptions, analyses, and/or conclusions of the valuator  (07-01-2006)

Each written valuation report should contain a signed statement that is similar in content to the following: To the best of my knowledge and belief:

The statements of fact contained in this report are true and correct.

The reported analyses, opinions, and conclusions are limited only by the reported assumptions and limiting conditions.

I have no present or prospective interest in the property that is the subject of this report, and I have no personal interest with respect to the parties involved.

I have no bias with respect to the subject of this report or to the parties involved with this assignment.

My compensation is not contingent on an action or event resulting from the analyses, opinions, or conclusions in, or the use of, this report.

My analyses, opinions, and conclusions were developed, and this report has been prepared in conformity with the applicable Internal Revenue Service Valuation Guidelines.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What you can learn about starting a business from Paypal Co-founder Peter Thiel

Five ideas from the forthcoming book by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel These were extracted from an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal by reporter Teresa Novellino.

Next time you think you have a big idea to start a new business keep these 5 ideas in mind.

1. Don't be a copycat

Part of knowing what type of business to go into is knowing which types to avoid. In Thiel's estimation, business ventures in areas in which great ideas and innovations have already taken place are finished.
“All of the great innovations in business and technology happen once," Thiel said.
That's why the “next Mark Zuckerberg," for example, won't be building a social network. While Facebook built and dominated in social media, companies like Airbnb and eBay did the same in their markets, so he said better to stay away.
“I basically focus on the question of what great companies nobody has started," Thiel said.
He's especially fond of people whose ideas sound crazy to most people, like those of his PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk, who is determined to see humans live on Mars in his lifetime and has said that he personally wants to die on Mars, “just not on impact."
One of Thiel's favorite questions for entrepreneurs: “Tell me something that's true that almost nobody agrees with you on." As a “contrarian investor" who started the Founders Fund in San Francisco, Thiel doesn't want to pile onto the same company as other venture capital firms, but seeks out the markets that no one else is investing in. The classic example: He was an early investor in Facebook, which was ignored at the time by Boston VCs.

2. Win at monopoly

“The wisdom of the crowd" has some budding entrepreneurs moving into areas where the competition is steep, assuming that their idea will win and that capitalism and competition go hand in hand. Thiel said they do not.
“The goal of every entrepreneur who starts a company is to create and build a new monopoly," Thiel said. “If you want to have a successful company, you should have a monopoly."

The example he gives is Google, with its lock on search.
“A company like Google is extremely capitalistic, and it's had no real competition in search since it definitively distanced itself from Yahoo and Microsoft," he said.
While Google can also point to other businesses like its Android platform, self-driving cars, Google Glass and more, he suggests these are ways to make its core business and market seem more diverse and its company less a monopoly than it actually is. He suggested companies that are actually monopolies deny that they are, while companies that are not monopolies do the opposite, insisting that they have no competitors.

3. Small markets rule

While the above advice might sound like an indication to go after larger markets, Thiel said he likes to see startups go after smaller markets. Monopoly just means having the greatest market share in any given market.
“Either have a technology advantage that's big enough that people can't copy it, or have some distribution plan that you scale rapidly," Thiel said.

4. Pursue secrets

Thiel likens starting a business to discovering a secret, but to do so you have to believe that secrets still exist.“You have conventional things that everyone understands, mysteries that no one does, and secrets that people try to figure it out," Thiel said. A common and disheartening mistake is to think “there are no secrets left, everything has been found." Those who believe there are secrets are those “who will look for things to discover and will find them. And the people who don't, wont' even try. That's at the core of what drives many of these startups."

5. Work with friends or potential ones

Considered the “don" of the PayPal mafia, Thiel said he and co-founder Max Levchin assembled a group of other co-founders who knew each other either from Stanford or the University of Illinois. Their idea was to create a company “where some incredibly strong friendships were formed." They hired not necessarily only friends, but people “we thought we could be friends with."
The reason? To avoid the sort of cut-throat competitive atmosphere Thiel experienced when he worked for a New York law firm for less than a year.
“One of the things I didn't like was all the people around me were structurally hostile. Of the 80 people who came in, only five would make partner," he recalled. “Way before the external competitors destroy you, it's the internal people that don't get along," he said.
By contrast the PayPal founding team, had “a good prehistory," plus an idea they had been "thinking about for a long time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

US Spending on Halloween Candy to exceed the GDP of Ebola-ravaged Liberia.

US spending on Halloween candy this year is projected to exceed the GDP of  Liberia, the country hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. Seems like a simple opportunity for American's to redirect resources for a greater purpose!  In fact, if you donate only half of your candy budget to UNICEF to help fight ebola, the Paul Allen Foundation will match your contribution!

Source of Halloween spending stats

Source of Liberia GDP

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Cost of a Professional Business Valuation.

Business Valuations cost between $3,000 and $40,000 reports Bloomberg. Are they worth it?

...There are a number of valid reasons to get a professional business valuation. And really, assuming your small business is your family’s biggest asset—perhaps other than your home—isn’t it smart to have a realistic idea of what it’s worth? Recent research shows many small business owners are counting on their companies as nest eggs —they’re less likely to have diversified investments because they plan to retire on the proceeds of selling the business.
When would a valuation be needed, other than for a sale? Most commonly they are done for tax purposes, such as estate settlement, income tax or property tax disputes, or litigation, or to satisfy the annual requirements for Employee Stock Ownership Plans. Other situations that could require a valuation include mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy, estate planning, gifting of minority stock interests, qualifying for a loan, or taking on an investor.
Rick Gould, managing partner at New York City mergers-and-acquisitions company, SGP Worldwide  specializes in valuations of creative services companies. He says a typical valuation takes about three weeks and requires substantial probing of the company’s financial documents, management, and operational structure.
Valuations in the U.S. cost between $3,000 and $40,000, depending on the accuracy needed and the complexity of the company involved, according to a February report from independent research firm IBISWorld . Preliminary valuations—which turn out at least a rough number—usually cost $3,000 to $10,000, the report says.

That’s a lot of money for many small companies. The process of pulling together the required financial documents can be time-consuming, and the results can be painful if they don’t live up to expectations. It’s no wonder that “many business owners have absolutely no idea—or the wrong idea—about what their company is worth,” according to Julie Gordon White, principal at BlueKey Business Brokerage Mergers & Acquisitions.
She recommends that entrepreneurs get at least a ballpark estimate of their company’s value on an annual basis, though they don’t have to pay for a certified appraisal. Just having a reliable figure in mind “does wonderful things, like make you more realistic about how you’re spending your money and how that’s affecting profitability, and it helps you make plans for the future,” she says. “Having a number also relates to how you value yourself as an entrepreneur. Are you growing something that just makes money along the way but can’t be transferred to someone else eventually? Or can you make changes so it is profitable enough so that you’ll sell it someday and get that pot of gold that could fund your retirement?”...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Big Problems for the British!

Fortunately, it’s notpolitically incorrect to laugh at yourself…I’m a British-American.
The general American perception of British people is that we are well-educated, well mannered, easy-going people. But take a look at this list of British “problems” and you may start to wonder? Any Canadians have the same problems?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"If I was two-faced would I be wearing this one?" How Lincoln energized the nation.

What made Abraham Lincoln such an energizing leader? Here's six lessons that I gleaned from this piece that appeared in The Week. The writing credit goes to Eric Barker.

1. Get out of the office and circulate among the troops

Historians believe he met every single Union soldier who enlisted early in the Civil War. In 1861 Lincoln spent more time out of the White House than he did in it. If a Union soldier had enlisted early in the Civil War, he likely saw the president in person. Lincoln made it a point to personally inspect every state regiment of volunteers that passed through Washington D.C

Lincoln knew people were his best source of information. And accessibility built trust. Lincoln effectively had an open-door policy. John Nicolay and John Hay, his personal secretaries, reported that Lincoln spent 75 percent of his time meeting with people Lincoln was always trying to get the best information so he could make good decisions. He virtually lived at the War Department's telegraph office so he could gain access to key information for quick, timely decisions

2. Persuade rather than compel

Despite having the power of the presidency, Lincoln didn't strong-arm people; he persuaded them.
He made them his friends. He made them like him. Here's Lincoln talking about his methods:
“ It is an old and a true maxim, that a "drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find by little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.”
And it shows in the way he handled subordinates. He didn't give orders — he made requests. Look at his letters:
  • To McClellan (10-13-63): "…This letter is in no sense an order."
  • To Halleck (9-19-63): "I hope you will consider it…"
  • To Burnside (9-27-63): "It was suggested to you, not ordered…"
3. Lead by being led

Lincoln always gave credit where credit was due and took responsibility when things went wrong.
Not only did this satisfy Lincoln's need for honesty, integrity and human dignity; it also gave his subordinates the correct perception that they were, in many ways, doing the leading, not Lincoln. If nothing else, it made them feel good about their jobs. It also encouraged innovation and risk taking because they knew that if they failed, Lincoln would not blame them. Lincoln had no problem saying he screwed up, like in this letter to General Ulysses S. Grant: “I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you reached the vicinity of Vicksburg… I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I that the expedition could succeed… I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was wrong.”
4. Encourage innovation

What did Lincoln know about innovating? Well, he's the only U.S. President to ever patent something.Years before assuming the presidency, Lincoln had shown his interest in innovation when, on March 10, 1849  he received a patent for a new method of making grounded boats more buoyant. And even during his most difficult times, Lincoln continued to call on his subordinates to screen new advances, implement ideas, and win while learning. He realized that, as an executive leader, it was his chief responsibility to create the climate of risk-free entrepreneurship necessary to foster effective innovation

5. Influence people through storytelling

Lincoln was a great storyteller and he actively leveraged this skill to win people over. Lincoln reports “They say I tell a great many stories. I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way”

6 Don’t take yourself too seriously

Honest Abe  had a good sense of humor: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
Like President Reagan, he knew that by self-deprecating he was endearing himself to the population

"If I was two-faced why would wear this one?" asked President Lincoln. 'Only one hat,' thought the General to himself. 

Six leadership lessons from a highly energizing President!   Of course, if you try to emulate him there's no need to wear that ridiculous top hat...in fact, I would counsel against it unless you are running some form of Funeral Home.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Managing Branson, Einstein, JFK and others with Attention Deficit Disorder

Dear Chief Energy Officer,
Do you have any advice on how I should motivate one of my most difficult employees? On one hand, she sometimes comes up with the most brilliant ideas. On the other hand, she seems unable to pay attention in staff meetings, and frequently interrupts. She also has trouble completing her assigned tasks, unless she’s really interested. When she’s interested, her work is exceptionally good. When she’s not interested she has me pulling my hair out!

Martha G, Marketing Director, Tacoma, Washington

Dear Martha,
It’s often the case that the “most brilliant” of employees are also the most challenging to manage. I am not a medical doctor, but based solely on the symptoms you describe, there’s a good possibility your employee has Adult ADD, i.e. Attention Deficit Disorder. While termed a “disorder” adults with ADD have many extraordinary gifts and are often:

This could explain her “brilliant” ideas. Famous brilliant people with ADD include Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, and President John F Kennedy.

Her challenges “paying attention in staff meetings” and “completing tasks in which she is not interested” are consistent with distractability which is one of the clinical symptoms of ADD. Ironically, when people with Attention Deficit are interested, they go into a state known as “Hyper-focus”, which is maybe why you are describing her work under such circumstances as “exceptionally good.”

The second clue it might be ADD is her frequent interruptions. This if often coursed by impulsivity, which is another symptom of ADD.

Fortunately there are many treatment options some medical and others behavioral. My advice is to encourage her to do her own research. Remember you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.

In the meantime, your best bet is to acknowledge her gifts, and look for ways to help her overcome her challenges, e.g. providing more admin support, more "air time" in staff meetings etc.

Finally, keep in mind that under the Americans with Disabilities Act you are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with ADD.  This does not mean giving her carte blanche to perform as she pleases; it does mean you have to make a reasonable effort to help her succeed in her current responsibilities.

Please stop pulling your hair out! 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I learned from a Seattle Sunbreak

I learned a lot yesterday.

Here in Seattle we had a rare occurrence. A day of glorious sunshine in April. After several months of grey, Seattle residents become euphoric at the first sign of a huge yellow spherical object in the sky, and head for the outdoor bars, beaches, parks etc.

Jeff Nitta, Treasurer of Weyerhaeuser Corp, and Ivan Braiker, CEO of Hipcricket compare notes at a Cheese & Wine evening at the Center for Energizing Leadership, April 29, 2014

Great news for everyone. Unless you planned an indoor marketing event for that evening!

My predicament
Coincidentally, that evening, the Center for Energizing Leadership was holding the first in a series of Cheese and Wine events put on for the purpose of educating the market about our innovative Energy Cabinet program. The big idea is an Energizing Leadership Development program for accomplished entrepreneurs that converts into a New Business Incubator.

Our initial event was “sold out”.  As soon as I saw the early morning sun, I knew that the event would experience many no-shows. 

Where to turn for advice
I related this concern to my work-out buddies at the local LA Fitness.  

Immediately, one of the most seasoned of the group, an elderly retiree (with a general phobia towards new technology) told me that this was a “good” thing.  Say what? He pointed out that any prospect who failed to show up due to a "Seattle sunbreak" was unlikely to be a good prospect to join an Energy Cabinet. He told me to think about the time I would save, by not wasting time with “flaky” prospects.

The outcome
So what happened later that evening?

Kara Hamilton, Smartsheet Inc; Jennifer Olsen, Resourceful HR; Amy Allen, Morgan Stanley enjoy meeting each other at the Center for Energizing Leadership's Cheese & Wine Evening, April 29, 2014

As I had feared, several people were no-shows. But overall, we had an excellent turnout of quality CEOs and senior executives. Due to the reduced numbers I was able to spend quality time with the right prospects.

What I learned
So what did I learn? Three points worth sharing:
  •          Although I am an optimist by nature, sometimes it takes a third party to point out that you can view the same set of circumstances through “a glass half-full” lens or “a glass half-empty” lens.  
  •         Just because someone is computer illiterate doesn’t mean they are not business savvy.  There is a great deal of untapped wisdom among our grey-haired retired friends.
  •       Don’t be afraid to share predicaments with others. Sometimes the wisest advice comes from the most unlikely sources in the most unlikely places.

My other take-away was that when it comes to marketing events, quality of prospects is far more important than the quantity.  The Energy Cabinet program is a winner. Those leaders who attended quickly grasped the concept.  Due to the unexpected Seattle sunbreak we had the right people in the room!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Secret Sauce For Energizing Leadership?

Dear Chief Energy Officer,

I’v heard you emphasize the importance of personal mastery recently. Can you please explain why its one of the 'secret sauces' of energizing leadership.

John H, CEO, Seattle, WA

Dear John H,
According to MIT’s Peter Senge, the author of the Fifth Discipline, “Personal mastery is a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively”

Personal mastery means knowing yourself completely and accepting yourself deeply so you think, feel and act from a grounded, integrated center.

Personal mastery builds integrity, authenticity and confidence in a leader. It opens them up to clearer vision and more decisive action. It's experienced as personal power which leads others to trust and be inspired to follow. It motivates those around you to produce their best. What starts on the inside, produces outstanding results when the rubber hits the road in the business world.

At the Center for Energizing Leadership, we've seen that personal mastery provides a solid foundation for great leadership development. This is because energizing leadership comes from who we are, not just what we do. Enduring change happens from the inside out.  It is based on knowledge and self-acceptance. We believe that real, lasting, powerful change happens when a leader's inner foundation is strong.

In my experience working with dozens of leaders of businesses, the decision to take the path toward personal mastery brings immediate positive changes in leadership behavior, and business performance.

In other words, personal mastery is one of the key foundations on the way to energizing leadership. This is why we teach it in the first few sessions of our Energy Cabinet program. It’s important because ultimately personal mastery can lift your leadership to its full potential.

Best regards,

Please keep your questions coming to jc@energizing-leadership.com