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Shop Owners: Do you have an exit plan?

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After 39 years in business, it's time to get serious about my exit plan. While I don't think I will ever truly retire, I do think it's time to plan the next chapter in my life.  I would  like to hear from shop owners out there in the same  situation.  What are your plans?  Are you selling your repair shop?  Do you have a succession plan?  And are you thinking about a different line of work to keep you busy?


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  • 2 months later...

I am hoping to have enough rental properties that I do not care what happens to the business for my own personal financial reasons. Then I hope to pass it on to a young person In the industry that wants to make a go of it. I will work out a deal that will make it easy for that person to succeed and wish them the best. I will then sail the world.

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  • 2 months later...

@Joe Marconi 

For all the shop owners who are looking to exit their business through sale of the business. Please ensure to do tax planning before you sign off on the sale. There are strategies which can totally eliminate your transfer taxes but it can only happen if the strategies are implemented before the sale.

If you don’t wish to sell now, you can take cash out of the value of the business. There are compensation and profit sharing strategies that will.

  1. Give you cash from the business 
  2. Keep employees loyal and they will feel like a part of the business.
  3. This will allow you more time outside of the shop.
  4. You don’t have to pay for it out of your shop’s cash flow.
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I started looking at exit plans almost a decade ago. I approached my 15 year manager with a 15/20 year "manage to own" plan. It was better structured then some, but still woefully lacking in key ingredients. It did not speak to his needs, only mine. After all, if i am going to give him the "business" (no real estate), why should i have to worry about his needs? Right? Not right...   He declined and made it clear that he was not interested in ownership. 

I did not give up and brought a much stronger plan back, a few years later, designed to use with potential candidates from outside my organization. That offer culminated in a 10 year plan that allowed a candidate the ability to own the business and the real estate with a 10 year commitment. It basically involved paying the rent(we own the real estate outright), minimal salaries for myself/my wife, and health insurance for myself and my wife.  It also involved strict guidelines for financial viability of the business and a 30% "bank letter of credit" as collateral.  That one peaked some interest, but in the end, we could find no one with enough confidence in the location and/or their ability. 

Unlike Larry, we have 2000 cars a day driving by our shop. The main highway one block away(which we do not face) has 10,000 cars a day. The county has 2 traffic stop lights and several caution lights. We have a 10k sq ft building which includes 8 service bays, a two bay quicklube and two tire bays. We are general generalists. We work on most things that don't eat us. We have done 1.3-1.4 million in sales for the last several years. We have generated an average of 180k in discretionary cash flow a year, for the last 4 years.

A few years ago I had multiple good fortune opportunities. First i hired a 30 year old as a quick lube manager, who is hungry and anxious to be a business owner. Second, I meet a gentleman whose passion is assisting small business owners in transitioning their business to the next generation, usually by working with individuals from within the organization. 

We will be signing a legal Letter of Intent" on a several year plan shortly after the new year, 2020. 

I am seldom impressed. I am exceptionally impressed by the process and the documentation that Bob Ward from Perpetual Business ( https://www.wardden.com/#/home ). The letter of intent is exceptionally well done, his preparation of the mindsets of the buyer and the seller has been key to the success of this  transaction, and he is sincerely consumed by the success of the transactions he works on, for the life of the agreement.

This post is not about being a testimonial for Bob.

It is a testimonial for the possibility of exit opportunities for profitable automotive service shop owners. Like everything with our business's, it doesn't happen by itself . It starts with you.



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@rpllib Have you ever thought about a Phantom Stock Plan?

This is a deferred compensation plan where you can allocate stocks in your shop to employees if they meet certain predefined growth or sales targets.

The beauty of this strategy is that, you don’t have to give up ownership of your business, the stocks are vested some time in the future therefore you can buy insurance or do investments to make the payments when they become due and most of all the employees will be working towards something ie. a part of the business.

Quick case study. Say your shop is valued at $10M. You would say for example, if the shop increases revenue by 20% over five years the employee will get say 12% (this will be decided by you). Now during those five years you can buy insurance or investments to pay for the shares when they become due or if you want him to take over the business he can take it in actual shares. This plan comes with a lot of tax benefits and at the end of the day the employee has an incentive to help grow the business. 

To learn more about Phantom Stock Plans you can send me a private message or visit my website.

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