The Next Crisis - Family Businesses

Our guest blogger this week is Tom Deans, author of Every Family's Business:

It occurred to me that the sub-prime and resulting liquidity crisis is nothing compared to the much bigger bomb ticking away in family businesses big and small.
My prediction is that if the banks don't begin to press harder for evidence of real succession plans, the $10 trillion sitting in the retained earning of North American family businesses will dissappear faster than you can say Lehmann Brothers sell Lollipops by the Sea Shore.
When I say "real succession plans" I mean evidence that gifting the family business to junior isn't the plan. Gifting an operating business to dis-interested, ill-prepared, incapable hands of family is not going to cut it with lenders, shareholders, customers or employees.

by Tom Deans, Author, Every Family's Business: 12 Common Sense Questions to Protect Your Wealth. www.ProtectingFamilyBusinessWealth.com

Creative capitalism means private equity

Bill Gates is frustrated. He spoke about world poverty publicly with Warren Buffet at the last Davos conference and the conversation is now to be found in a book, but with the addition of economists weighing in with their views on the subject which makes for interesting reading.
The book has a cumbersome title: Creative Capitalism: a conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other economic leaders.
Gates and Buffet both spoke about creative capitalism which means companies that are not just working for their own dime but think far wider than that. For example, I did a project in South Africa for the largest mining company creating a data base of one person “businesses” near to the mines. The mine then hired these people on contract basis for cleaning, typing or temping services in order to support the community through work, not a hand out. People had purpose and money for work. The mine did not need to work in this more fragmented and unpredictable way, but they wanted to help the community.
One if the contributors, Larry Summers, is now an advisor to Obama who cautions this concept of creative capitalism and prefers to let companies pursue their own purpose. Summers cites Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac as a “really good creative capitalism idea” that did not work.
Perhaps Gates and Buffet are onto something says Economist Paul Ormerod who sees creative capitalism as buttressing the legitimacy of democratic capitalism against authoritarianism in China. Private equity is trying to improve its image and are early up-takers of this concept.
Creative is the second name for most Americans. Already, there have been thousands of get-togethers held across America to discuss the health care situation. Obama’s website gave a few starter discussion sheets and suggestions on how to organize each party. The answers to questions were sent back to the White House. There are naysayers, likening this movement to Tupperware parties, but people could add their own material and speakers.
Anyway, what's wrong with Tupperware parties? I see citizens getting involved with their country.
Discussion educates and encourages people to see more than one side. Creative capitalism certainly creates integrity and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have started this interesting conversation.

Does gifting a family business destroy it?

Does gifting a family business destroy it?
With a large number of family businesses operating in North America, the idea that gifting a business to the next generation is mainstream thinking.
At a debate held by the Family Firm Institute in Toronto, Tom Deans was brave enough to contradict the wisdom of the masses. As the son in a second generation business, Tom went through the experience of joining a family firm and working hard to achieve a dream. Tom details the difficulties of conversations not had and questions not asked by family members destroys the family in the long run. In his best selling book, Every Family’s Business, Tom advices that every business should have a plan to sell.
During the debate, Tom explained that if both generations know there is a sale time and what the economic benefit will be for them, the trust will be high.
Trusted advisors need to understand that families shy away from these difficult conversations but that they could help. Using Tom’s 12 questions listed at the back of his book, every trusted advisor could be helping family businesses create the wealth that both generations deserve.

Can companies pursuing their own purpose achieve more?

During these tough economic times it is too easy to get swept away by the general mood. I spent my Friday evening with people who had faced down cruel adversity and created something extraordinary.
I was at the Liberty Grand (with a thousand other people) as guest speaker. I was to talk about Meaghan’s Walk, which has raised nearly $1 million dollars for brain research at Sick Kids’ Hospital, Toronto, including $50,000 by TD Waterhouse. CTV was there to film the event and I was worried I would be caught on TV, struggling to finish my speech, caught up in the emotion of how the fund raiser began.
Meaghan’s Walk was created by Dennis Bebenek, who lost her five year old daughter to brain cancer but wanted to make this tragedy into something positive, and so she created a walk and fundraiser for Sick Kids' Hospital.
As Dr. Eric Bouffet spoke about how, as he phrased it, seed money from Bebenek’s efforts had been used for research that would not have happened otherwise, it became clear that medicine also needs its private equity, higher risk money. Dr. Bouffet emphasized that the money raised meant ideas that were not as main stream were researched and with good results. Bebenek’s drive to pursue her purpose for her daughter’s memory has achieved far more than government funding alone.

Cash for Happiness





















Ari Gold, of HBO's Entourage, once said, "Nobody is happy [...] except for the losers. Look at me, I'm miserable, that's why I'm rich". Though I tend to agree with Ari, a new study by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and published by Economist.com disputes Ari's quip on success.


According to the study, companies that were labelled "Best Company to Work For", by Fortune Magazine, provide better returns than the broader market. Alex Edmans, who conducted the study, says that Fortune's portfolio comprising of its 'best to work for' companies, has generated returns 4.1% higher than the CRSP Index, which includes all shares traded by the NASDAQ, the NYSE, and the AMEX.

In times of turmoil it is impossible to suggest that layoffs can be avoided. However, layoffs may be the catalyst to better things. An engineering friend with 12 years of experience at the same firm was let go recently, and he had some interesting insight into his predicament. He said, "I almost expected it, I don't really fit the culture anymore." Though competent and in demand (he would pick up a new job in less than a week), a new ownership team had come in last year that created friction with some employees. A wave of young, flexible, and eager graduates had been hired and slowly the 'old guard' was being removed. The young graduates were cheaper, more willing to take on new responsibilities, and more likely to act without much 'push-back'.  The new ownership was essentially reinventing the identity of the company from the ground up, and for those who proved obstacles to the makeover, they were being removed. 

Though it seems unfair, being laid off was the best thing that happened to my friend, "I noticed that I was getting lazy and bored,' he said '...complacent really" He was forced to leave a situation that made him frustrated for a new and challenging one that, more significantly, made him more productive.

Though qualitative and intangible, according to this study by Mr. Edmund there is a return on happiness. It may simply be the result of a proactive and energetic team, rather than a complacent and demoralized group, but a company that attracts and cultivates a happy group may be proving Ari wrong.

Private investment in Sports continues to thrive

Although Mr. Petty, CEO of Toronto's Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment private company, did not know how the Fall 2009 ticket sales would go, seems as if sports is one place that still has profits.
Spanish soccer fans are spending their pocket money on uplifting events. You can see Real Madrid and FC Barcelona came in 1st and 3rd place in terms of revenues.
As an aside, George Bush invested $850,000 into a baseball team and reaped $15M from the investment when he exited. Now if only he had done that sort of turnaround private equity investing magic for the USA.

Does privacy pay off for private equity?

One of the criticisms of private equity is its secrecy or as the fund managers may prefer to say, "Their below the radar approach." Privacy is why some owners choose to raise capital from private investors rather than expose themselves to the scrutiny and criticism of the public market. This approach certainly works for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE).
Maple Leaf Sports (MLSE) is the owner and operator of the Toronto Maple Leafs National Hockey League team, Toronto Raptors National Basketball Association team, Toronto FC Major League Soccer team, and Toronto Marlies American Hockey League team—all based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to owning these franchises as well as Leafs TV and Raptors NBA TV (the official television stations of the Maple Leafs and Raptors respectively), MLSE is also involved in property management, including ownership of the Air Canada Centre, the home arena of the Maple Leafs and Raptors.
Quite a private company.
The owners are top private equity companies and others:
- 58% – Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan
- 20.5% – Kilmer Sports Inc. owned by Larry Tanenbaum. (Their boardroom boasts the biggest collection of basketball sneakers in the biggest sizes I have ever seen.)
- 14% – TD Bank Financial Group, through TD Capital Group
- 7.5% - CTVglobemedia
As I listened to Richard Peddie, the CEO, speak recently, I admired his pluck at addressing a crowd of Toronto sports fans who wanted to know how MLSE can keep selling seats to losing teams.
Who is buying those seats priced at $200 plus? How much does MLSE make per year, despite losing teams? Could they pay more for players?
Richard Peddie is under no obligation to reveal anything but he did let slip that MLSE is very profitable this year. Private equity gives the business financial support but keeps the cards close to the chest and by the glowing speech by Mr. Peddie, this secrecy strategy is working very well. The fans keep buying and the money keeps flowing.

Tax spending will create more jobs


CARPE DIEM: Cartoon of the Day





Multiple Mayhem

Valuation multiples have fallen.  Everyone knows it.  The industries hit the hardest are healthcare and IT according to data collected from Standard & Poors (see below).  











Last year, multiples sky rocketed, a response to so much credit floating in the market, which allowed many fund managers to aggressively pursue deals.  This led to very high bussiness valuations as so much money was chasing each deal.  In 2008, the flurry of activity led to the most private equity deals done in one year and the greatest amount of capital invested in private companies.  Not news.  But what is interesting these days, is that the $1 Trillion of uninvested capital in the private equity market is poised to gush into the market soon enough.   

However, maybe not soon enough for some.  To get a better sense of the loss in value, the chart below shows the average market valuation multiple.  Obviously, we're wading through an aberration, but for business owners looking to raise equity capital, seeing the value their business cut by half, in some cases, simply because of seemingly external forces, is a difficult pill to swallow.











There are, however, financial structuring alternatives that can preserve the value that has been painstakingly established over time.  The reason for this is the flexibility offered in the private market.  In public deals there are regulatory issues, such as the 10% insider rule (requiring shareholder approvals) or warrant prices which must be fixed, which confine the possibilities of how to preserve and realize shareholder value.  In private deals, there is far more flexibility, which can likely overcome the majority of losses seen in the markets today.

Oh, Canada

At school, American friends made a hobby of slagging Canada.  Pretty standard.  "Canadians are too polite", "Canadians are boring".  Luckily, "The Man Everyone Loved to Hate" was President of the U.S. at the time and the conversations were short.  We've all heard the swipes, some in Canada would agree with them, very politely and boring-ly, though despite our unflappable humility, we do love to have our skirts fanned from time to time.  

Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International is apparently taking a serious run at a Governor General's Award this year, despite the fact he's American.  Last week he published a column in Newsweek applauding Canada's virtues.  Mr. Zakaria writes in his article "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative", Canadians should be proud of the "common sense" and the capitalization rates of our banking system, which is getting recognition the world over.  Not exactly riveting stuff, but Switzerland must be hating us.

Canada is the only country in the industrialized world that has not faced a bank failure or calls for bailouts and government intervention.  The reason for this is our conservative, staid, risk-averse attitudes, the fodder of a-many jabs.  Our banks have been regulated to have far higher capitalization rates than the rest of the world.  Typically, our banks are leveraged 18 to 1 ($18 of debt for every $1 in the savings account), whereas the Americans are generally 26 to 1 and the European banks are a staggering 61 to 1.  Ooh la la.  Needless to say, this functions as a lot of profit in boom times, and, when the boom turns to bust the bank goes bursting and a Frenchman has one less half-caf, triple, Grande, three pumps sugar-free-vanilla, soy, no foam, 180 degree cappucino. 

Apparently, TD is brimming with pride these days.  They have gone from the backbenches of North American corporate obscurity, having been the 15th largest bank in N.A., to a major player, becoming North Americas 5th largest bank.

Mr. Zakari goes on to sing the praises of our 'responsible' natures when it comes to our fiscal policy.  We have been very good beavers and have stored up a lot of nuts through fiscal surpluses over the past decade to deal with the current financial crisis with a stable and sober approach. The Harvard PhD also likes our immigration program, our accountable mortgage policies, and our healthy life-expectancies.  Stop it, I'm blushing.

After having read this, I looked again at the the first line of the article.  It reads, "The legendary editor of The New Republic, Michael Kinsley, once held a "Boring Headline Contest" and decided that the winner was "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative".  This, for me, encapsulated much of the torn pride I felt throughout the article.  Though disguised as complements, we Canadians, can never escape the love affair foreigners have with taking a few jabs at our responsible, risk averse, common sensical, conservative selves.  Characteristics of good bankers it seems.

Business owners like the long view

"One of the reasons business owners are preferring private equity," says Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet, "Is they appreciate that the investors go in for five years. It sure feels better than the short term view of shareholders in the public market who bale as soon as they see anything slightly off."
Long term trends are difficult to remember for investors in public markets.
This is an interesting chart as you can see we are still 5% above the trend line. Yet the public market ignored job loss information that came out last week, and ended up higher by Friday probably due to wishful thinking.
Private equity is in stark contrast to this short term thinking demonstrated in the public markets. Five years with a company before taking back the money is the shared goal. Think how this long term approach by shareholders helps business owners during these times.
One of the top fund managers at my secret handshake club said that these are historic times and our children will read about them. Now that is long term thinking.



Mining likes investing in Africa

Africa ain't for the faint hearted. Despite the harsh environment, and clash of cultures, Canadian mining companies are making huge advances.
The time when Canada's presence on the African continent was primarily characterised by numerous missionaries and food donations is well and truly over! In countries such as Congo, Mali and Tanzania, when it is learned that you are from Canada, Denis Tougas says you are immediately asked if you work for the ‘mining’, a perception entirely consistent with reality.
Canada is now dominant - in fact, some say superpower - in the African mining sector, a position the country intends to maintain and develop using all means at its disposal.The salient presence of Canadian mining is relatively new in Africa and is rooted principally in the programmes of liberalisation of the sector from the early 1990s. These programmes have been driven by the World Bank, which from 1992
(1) had begun defining the extractive sector as the main engine of development for many countries.
(2) The privatisation of state enterprise – promoted as a means of encouraging the entry of foreign investment – has opened the door to foreign companies. At the head of this development, especially with regard to the smaller exploration companies known as ‘juniors’, are Canadian companies. These companies have an immense commercial presence in Canada: of the 1,223 mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the largest in the country, more than 1,000 are juniors!
(3)A HUGE EXPANSION
Currently, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources Canada (NRC), only the Republic of South Africa, with over 35% of assets and investments, is just ahead of Canada in the African mining industry. But with South Africa’s assets concentrated on its own territory, Canada dominates the rest of the continent.The data compiled by the NRC demonstrates the speed with which the value of Canadian mining assets in Africa has grown over the last twenty years: at US$ 233 million in 1989, this figure grew to $635 million in 1995, and $2.8 billion in 2001, growing further to $6.08 billion in 2005, and $14.7 billion in 2007.(4) This total value is estimated to reach $21 billion by 2010.
Read more...
Thank you to Michael Power for the referral to this article.

Does mean marketing grab market share?


German Engineering, Swiss Innovation, American Nothing.
Ouchy!
This is an advertisement used by Daimler and is it mean? It's good business. Competitive companies get on with growing their business. Brand America is tarnished and Mercedes is using the anti-American sentiment to grow their market share.

Does an experienced partner win private equity more?

The quality of your partner counts big time. In the case of entrepreneurs seeking capital from Venture Capitalists, nothing helps more than having a partner with past success.
Venture-backed firms tend to cluster in industries. Those that are most common for venture capitalists to fund are Internet and software, biotechnology, and telecommunications. SJ Gibson of Harvard Business School recently completed a study on these industries to measure who gets financing and who tends to be those who have had a successful start-up.
Here's an excerpt:
Q: Was there anything in your findings that surprised you?
A: The size of the effect of past success was surprising. We know that there was likely to be some degree of performance persistence, but the magnitude was quite striking.
Q: Given the current economic conditions, do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who are considering launching a new venture at this time?
A: Certainly one lesson that emerges from our analysis is to find an experienced (and successful) partner! Given the very difficult investment conditions, venture investors are paring back their portfolios and are hesitant to make new commitments. To get serious consideration, the more that you can do to seem like a "sure thing," the better off you are.
More generally, being as careful as you can be with resources, and flexible.

The Big Mac Index


Another way of looking at prices and inflation with regard to different countries/regions is to consider the concept of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).
Definition from Wikipedia:

"The purchasing power parity (PPP) theory uses the long-term equilibrium exchange rate of two currencies to equalize their purchasing power. Developed by Gustav Cassel in 1920, it is based on the law of one price: the theory states that, in ideally efficient markets, identical goods should have only one price."
A popular derivative of the PPP concept is the Big Mac Index, developed by The Economist Magazine. The Index is based on the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries and that in the long run; the exchange rate between two countries should move towards PPP rate and hence moves the prices of the same goods for each country towards equilibrium.
The Economist just published the latest Big Mac Index on January 22nd:

Based on the latest findings, Switzerland has the most overvalued currency whereas the currencies of South Africa, China and Russia (as part of the industrialized nations) are the most undervalued in relation to the US Dollar. Canada looks strong.

Think of the US mortgage and credit market as a giant pyramid scheme. The people closer to the top of the pyramid usually get out relatively unscathed. But the investor closer to the bottom of the pyramid end up with nothing.
That would explain why US markets faired relatively better than India, China and other countries of the developing world who seemingly ended up lower down the chain in this massive pyramid scheme.
Here's a link to George Soros discussing his trading philosophy and how he did so well in 2008 relative to the rest of the world - drink your strong coffee before you read it.

David Rubenstein at Davos

Davos has a more subdued David Rubenstein of Carlyle discussing the future of private equity. Read more at Carried Interest blog.

Will inflation hit private equity?

This is a copy of an old 10 Billion Mark coupon.
Ponder this extraordinary piece of paper (which is obviously no longer is in circulation). Use it as a reminder of the hyper-inflation of the 1920s in Germany. In those days, these sums were the cost of daily groceries.
Certain early childhood experiences stay with you forever and some of these can impact the way you look at money and finances. In my case, I've always been weary about the hidden loss of value from inflation due to my upbringing in Zambia and Zimbabwe. So, yes, the 1920s were very different times which hopefully never come back. But with the current economic climate, particularly in the epicenter of leverage and deficit spending i.e. US government and households, we should never loose sight of the danger of inflation.
Look no further than Zimbabwe where in 2008, a loaf of bread cost 1.6 trillion Zimbabwe Dollars. In short, various prices have come down and quite rightly so are now at much more realistic levels, but we should fear inflation much more than deflation.
Private equity has cash but is not coming into the market at valuations business owners want. This dance will continue for 2009.


Where Do I Get Money?

Money is the grease the helps businesses operate; it also allows a company to grow. Entrepreneurs who decide that they want to get wealthy put aside their egos and surround themselves with experts. They also learn what makes others put money into their companies.
"CYBF is a terrific place for young entrepreneurs to begin their journey," says Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet. "CYBF will take entrepreneurs through the steps to managing their money and also help out with a mentor."
Listen to more on the radio show Small Business, Big Ideas.