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Beware of business killers!
by Jessica Garcia
Aug 20, 2009 | 1652 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid -
Hawley MacLean, president of MacLean Financial Group, advised business owners to make investments for retirement instead of relying on their business income. "Wal-Marts and shopping carts could be in your future," MacLean warned.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Hawley MacLean, president of MacLean Financial Group, advised business owners to make investments for retirement instead of relying on their business income. "Wal-Marts and shopping carts could be in your future," MacLean warned.
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Larry Weiss left his teaching position at the University of Nevada, Reno in June to start a nonprofit: the Center for Healthy Aging. Now the teacher has become a student all over again.

He’s educating himself on what it takes to run a business and the long-term planning he must do to keep it alive. Though the new Center for Healthy Aging is currently being run out of his Reno home, Weiss knows there will be many pitfalls to avoid along the way.

On Thursday, he learned what it means to bypass mistakes that can cause a painful end for companies, or “Business Killers,” at a workshop led by Hawley MacLean of the MacLean Financial Group, Inc. in Reno.

“I think planning is important and people don’t (do it),” Weiss said. “They don’t think things can happen, they don’t think they can die, they don’t think they can change.”

The six biggest mistakes, according to MacLean’s presentation, are:

• “I know what my business is worth.”

• “I’m too busy running the company.”

• “That’ll never happen to me.”

• “There’s plenty of time for that.”

• “My business is my retirement.”

• “You can’t beat Uncle Sam”

As the workshop progressed, participants filled out a “risk barometer” form to measure their risk of committing these fatal errors. The barometer asks questions that guide business owners in the right direction on some of the tasks they need to do to properly plan ahead.

There are several keys to avoiding all the business killers, MacLean said. One tenet is having a buy/sell agreement in place. This means having a plan to give away, sell or liquidate the business and its assets to a friend or making an agreement with the competition to buy out the business, which is often a popular strategy, MacLean said.

Having a succession plan is equally crucial, MacLean said, especially if the business owner dies and a family member or friend inherits not only the business but is also then responsible for any added taxable value if the business worth increases.

“Family is always an issue,” he said. “It’s important to figure out if something happens what’s the exit plan.”

It can be a challenge, but a business can create a legacy that most business owners don’t want to die, MacLean said.

Part of the legacy is considering trusts, wills and estate tax planning, Weiss added.

“You also need to do it with living wills,” he said. “This is all very important. We also need issues around the qualified retirement plan. Even though I was working as a professor (at UNR), (the university) did all that for you. But when you have your own business, you’ve got to plan for that.”

Planning, according to MacLean, is key for any business owner to keep from seeing their business perish, especially in the current economy.

“This is the wild west,” he said. “It’s a new frontier, but there are a lot of opportunities out there. … Businesses have to redesign themselves. They’re losing tons of money just to break even. They’re doing more with fewer employees. It’s what all the companies have to go through and it’s a lingering effect.”

Asked what the local business landscape looks like, MacLean said versatility is becoming more important in the recession.

“The outlook is definitely choppy,” MacLean said. “Business owners need to be able to be adaptable. Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”

MacLean said after the workshop that having a solid business plan to keep it surviving is like cooking.

“You can have world-class ingredients, like your manager and investment manager and attorney,” he said. “But if you have a lousy recipe it doesn’t matter what your ingredients are.”

Weiss, who is a client of the MacLean Financial Group, said he would like to take what he’s learned and use it in his center and that he plans to work for a while longer.

“I’m 62, so I’m not going to be working for 20 to 30 years, but maybe 15,” he said. “All of us are going to be aging a lot longer than we anticipated. It may not all be pleasant, but we have a plan for that. Death is something we eventually have to plan for and I talk to our family about it.”
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