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by Karl Stark and Bill Stewart

 

Those of us who have large investments in private businesses aren't like typical savers. We need a different strategy for our personal investments.

 

Most personal finance experts tell a fairly consistent story about the need to build a diversified investment portfolio focused on long-term growth. But that type of investment strategy doesn't necessarily apply to entrepreneurs and owners of private businesses, especially high-growth businesses.

 

We are a unique lot. Our concentrated investment in a risky but highly attractive company means that our overall investment portfolio is skewed differently than the average investor. One business owner once told us, "My business is my retirement strategy." This perspective underscores the importance of building a plan that's unique to your risk profile and your appetite for entrepreneurial opportunities.


Here are seven personal investment principles we have learned to keep in mind when your job is growing a business:


1. Build a "no touch" portfolio.

When you invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, put them out of reach by creating "no touch" portfolios in accounts that you will never access. This will reduce the temptation to dip into long-term investments to address a short-term need for a cash infusion if your business is struggling. You can create more protection by loading up your retirement accounts and your kids' education accounts. These are places where there is a huge financial penalty to accessing those funds, which will keep you honest.


2. Protect your assets.

Structure your investments--and your company--so that creditors can't reach your money if the business runs into financial or legal peril. In addition to structuring your business appropriately, this also involves transferring assets to spouses and children where possible and investing within retirement accounts and real estate, which in some cases are out of reach.

 

3. Diversify away from your business.

Seek investments in your portfolio that are counter cyclical to your industry and business cycle. Investing in commodities may be risky in general, but if your business is heavily linked to the broader economy or public equity markets, a counter cyclical asset such as commodities may be attractive.


4. Invest more conservatively outside your business.

Most investment professionals recommend a heavy equity portfolio for younger professionals and a larger fixed-income portfolio for older individuals. Given that an entrepreneur's business may largely cover her "equity risk," she may be better off with a more conservative portfolio outside of her business.


5. Build a cash cushion for future entrepreneurial ventures.

Most of us can't pass up a good deal when it comes along. That's why we became entrepreneurs in the first place. If you have the luxury of cash outflows from your business, put a sufficient amount aside so that you can keep some dry powder when new opportunities present themselves.


6. Make smart business investments.

The best way to protect your personal finances is to ensure that your business has a sound, balanced approach to investing its capital. Our recent column on a growing business's investment strategy discussed this in some detail.


7. Build a great business model.

Of course, the best personal investment strategy may be your business itself. After all, your business can be your retirement strategy if it's successful. Building your business should be what you do best. So focus your time and effort there and leave the investing to a professional.

 

We should note that although we advise private investors on investing in growth companies, we aren't investment advisers. We can share our own thoughts and experiences, but for more targeted advice you should seek a professional investment adviser.


Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.

7 Investment Principles for Entrepreneurs | Inc. 5000

 

QAgarymilkwick_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.

 

Currently under debate in Congress, the Marketplace Fairness Act, which, if passed into law, would require all online retailers to collect sales taxes for the sales where they ship goods. Such a law may have considerable ramifications for small businesses that have an online reach. But how much? Recently, business writer Iris Dorbian spoke to Gary Mllkwick, vice president of 1800Accountant.com, an accounting firm in New York City that works with small business clients nationwide. He also offers some tips on how small businesses should prepare themselves if the Marketplace Fairness Act is enacted into law.

 

 

ID: In light of the new Internet sales tax bill that may become law shortly, what should small business owners who have an online presence keep in mind? How will this affect them?

GM: The whole issue focuses on the relationship you have with a state to where the state has the jurisdiction to tax you. In the past, the laws have always been that if you have a physical presence (i.e. brick and mortar store) in a state and if you have employees in that state, then you, as a company, are responsible for collecting sales tax in those states where you have a physical presence.

 

However, when the laws were written 30 or 40 years ago, they weren’t anticipating the Internet. Now what this law is saying is that if you have more than $1 million in online sales a year, then you are responsible for collecting and remitting taxes to all states in which you are selling to—which is wherever the clients are purchasing or where the customers are located. That’s a big change. In the past, if you were operating an e-commerce business in California and you only had 15 employees there then all you had to do was collect sales tax on sales made to customers in California.

 

ID: Is this bill something that small business owners with an online presence should worry about?

GM: It depends on how big they are. For the mom-and-pop companies that maybe have $10,000, $20,000 or $100,000 a year in revenue, it’s not going to affect them. In one version of the bill that passed, the threshold that you would have to comply with the law is more than $1 million. My understanding is that some people in the House want to increase that to $10 million because even if you’re a business with a $1 million in revenue, that doesn’t mean you’re generating much profits. And if profits decline, [this bill could hit small businesses hard] due to collecting and remitting sales tax from different states. The people who are most worried right now are those who are in the $1-million to $10-million annual sales bracket.

 

ID: So the bill could actually benefit qualified small business owners?

GM: While it is true that the law does create some additional reporting
 requirements, it may actually make the scary process of collecting and
 paying sales taxes much easier than the business owners expect. The bill
 passed by the Senate and now being considered in the House includes a
provision that states have to provide free software that calculates the sales tax on items sold in the state, and files the required reports for the business owner. There
 is also a safe-harbor provision in the law that protects small
 business owners from penalties if they collect the wrong sales tax amount 
because of a problem in the software they use. 




 

Also, in the bill passed by the Senate [there’s a provision that] will force states to simplify their sales tax collection process. In particular, each state will only be allowed to have a single point of contact for sales tax. Right now, some states, such as Alabama, require separate payments in each county. So the law could reduce the number of sales tax jurisdictions from hundreds (maybe thousands)
 to just 50 (one for each state).

 

QAgarymilkwick_PQ.jpgID: Have you been getting calls from small business clients about this bill?

GM: Yes and we expect to get more calls as news 
stories about the law continue to appear. I think business
 owners are going to be quite relieved once they understand what the law actually says. The key is to be prepared for the change. The proposed 
legislation has broad bipartisan support and it's a pretty good bet that
 it will pass in some form. Business owners who are prepared can continue to 
profit from online sales, while those who wait until the last minute may have to 
scramble to comply. 

 

ID: As a small business tax expert, do you see any problems with the bill?

GM: Not necessarily. I kind of see it from both sides. I think for our clients, they would like to see a higher threshold of $10 million to $50 million because that $1 million threshold is pretty low. The margins are so thin they’re not making very much profit on a million dollars in online sales.

 

ID: Based on your experience and insight, how should small business owners who have an online store or e-commerce site prepare themselves if this bill becomes law? What should they do and what should they not do?

GM: Make sure they have good reporting systems in place and they have a plan for being compliant. The worst thing is if they aren’t prepared and don’t begin collecting the sales tax. Then you run into serious penalties and interest. Figure out a way to be in compliance—whether that’s [small businesses] doing it internally or whether it’s hiring someone else to do it.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and interviewees. Since the details of your situation are unique, you should always seek the services of a qualified CPA, tax advisor, and/or other financial professional.

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