Family Business Director was recently whiling away the hours scrolling through the archives of the Harvard Business Review when an article caught our eye. “What You Can Learn from Family Business” was written by Nicolas Kachaner, George Stalk, Jr. and Alain Bloch, and appeared in the November 2012 issue. The authors describe an empirical study they undertook to discern the ways family businesses are different from their non-family owned peers. In a series of posts over the next several weeks, we’ll take a closer look at some of the attributes identified by the authors, particularly from the perspective of privately-held family businesses. This week, we’ll consider how family businesses make capital expenditure decisions.
Is Your Family Business a Builder or a Buyer?
How should you and your fellow family business directors decide whether to build or buy? What will be the most effective form of capital investment for your family business? Since software developers think more about the build vs. buy decision than most of us do, we thought it would be interesting to apply a software-related decision framework to family business investment decisions. For purposes of this blog post, we follow the six step decision framework advocated by Justin Baker.
It is harvest time in rural America. Farmers are working long hours gathering the crops that have been planted, fertilized, watered and worried over since springtime. While the cycle of planting and harvesting is an annual one on the farm, for family businesses, the cycle can span decades or even generations. There are many different ways to classify family businesses, but one simple distinction that we find ourselves coming back to often is that between planters and harvesters. So what time is it for your family business? Is it planting season or harvesting season?
Family business directors must properly distinguish between capital structure and capital budgeting decisions to make the best decisions. In this week’s post, we answer a frequently asked question that leads us into a discussion of what is known as the “separation principle.” In short, what are the relevant cash flows for capital budgeting analysis? And, when is it appropriate to combine investing and financing decisions? If you have ever struggled with these questions, this week’s post has the answers you need.
Part 3 | Finance Basics: Capital Budgeting
This post is the third of four installments from our Corporate Finance in 30 Minutes whitepaper. In this series of posts, we walk through the three key decisions of capital structure, capital budgeting, and dividend policy to assist family business directors and shareholders without a finance background to make relevant and meaningful contributions to the most consequential financial decisions all companies must make. This week, we focus on capital budgeting.
Capital budgeting tools are ideal for answering the question: Is the proposed capital project financially feasible? Too often, however, we see these tools being used to answer what seems to be a related question, but one that the tools are simply not designed to answer: Should we undertake the proposed capital project? The first question opens the door to the second, but the tools of capital budgeting – no matter how sophisticated or quantitatively precise – cannot answer the second. To answer the second question, family business directors need to consider three qualitative questions identified in this post.
The good news – or maybe it’s the bad news, depending on your perspective – is that overly optimistic projections are not necessarily the result of intentional errors on the part of your family business managers. Rather, behavioral economists tell us that humans are prone to overconfidence as a result of what they refer to as cognitive biases. In this post, we address five cognitive biases contributing to overly optimistic forecasts.
At a recent meeting with longstanding family business clients, management mentioned that one of their independent directors had introduced the term “lazy capital” into the family’s vocabulary. We had never heard that term before, but it perfectly encapsulates something we see at too many family businesses: an undisciplined capital allocation process that tolerates sustained underperformance. We ran across a couple articles this week that, while written with public companies in mind, made us think about the perils of “lazy” family capital.
If family business directors are going to make good capital allocation decisions, they need to know what the right hurdle rate is. If the hurdle rate is set too low, the family may experience weak future returns. Setting the hurdle rate too high, however, introduces the risk that the family business will pass on attractive investment opportunities. In this post, we consider how the hurdle rate relates to the weighted average cost of capital.
Stewarding a multi-generation family business is a privilege that comes with certain responsibilities, and each family business faces a unique set of challenges at any given time. For some, shareholder engagement is not currently an issue, but establishing a workable management accountability program is. For others, dividend policy is easy, while next gen development weighs heavily. Through our family business advisory services practice, we work with successful families facing issues like these every day.
Corporate Finance & Planning Insights for Multi-Generational Family Businesses
This is the inaugural post for our Family Business Director blog. By way of introduction, we thought we would anticipate a few questions that you might have.