What To Know When You Exit Your Business

If you're a business owner, you know there is going to come a day when you will step away from your business. During COSE's recent Small Business Convention, James Aussem, a shareholder at the law firm of Cavitch, Familio & Durkin, laid out three things business owners should know before they exit their business.

If you're a business owner, you know there is going to come a day when you will step away from your business. At COSE's recent Small Business Convention, James Aussem, a shareholder at the law firm of Cavitch, Familio & Durkin, laid out three things business owners should know before they exit their business.  

1. Anticipate your needs

Retirement can be costly. To keep up with your current lifestyle, you're going to have to know how much you're going to need in terms of such things as living expenses, health insurance, and more. If you're selling your company, you're going to need to make sure you get enough from the sale to help provide a comfortable retirement.

2. Business needs

It's important to understand what the needs of the business are. Some considerations to keep in mind are:

  • capital requirements;
  • taxes; and
  • expansion of the successor generation's income. 

3. The next generation

If the owner intends to sell to the next generation, he or she needs to understand several things first. For example, there are tax risks involved with bargain transactions between family members. The Internal Revenue Service presumes all transactions among related parties have a gift element, for example.

Want to know more about exit strategies? Keep an eye out in January for COSE's refreshed magazine for small business owners which will include an in-depth feature on what entrepreneurs need to know when it comes to exit strategies. 

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  • Next up: What You Learn from A Restaurant that Hires Only the Formerly Incarcerated
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  • What You Learn from A Restaurant that Hires Only the Formerly Incarcerated

    Brandon Chrostowski knows a thing or two about what it means to hire for potential.

    Brandon Chrostowski knows a thing or two about what it means to hire for potential.

    The founder and CEO of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland started EDWINS, a restaurant staffed entirely by people who spent time incarcerated. At any given time, there are 40 people enrolled in the program with a new class beginning and ending every two months. The restaurant provides job training, life training and perhaps most importantly, a second chance to its staff. 

    “There’s so much potential in this town,” Chrostowski says. “There’s so much depth. There are so many people willing to work. There’s just no system in place to facilitate this.”

    EDWINS provides such a system for some, though with every one of his employees having previously been imprisoned, he acknowledges it’s important that he keep a keen eye for hiring. So, what are some of the key things he is looking for?

    “Someone who wants it,” he says. “A desire.”

    Chrostowski continues: “I run them through the mill. It’s a test to see who has a winning attitude. I want to see if in the first three weeks they’re not getting up early; they’re not improving. They have to show improvement. We can train anyone with a ‘I can, I will’ attitude.”

    Needless to say, Chrostowski is a big believer in second chances. “If you believe in human will and fair and equal opportunities for everyone and put all of that together, it should all come together. It’s obvious it should,” he says.

    Given his experience at EDWINS, what’s Chrostowski’s advice to his fellow entrepreneurs? Be vigilant about everything that is going on in your business and be aggressive about getting things taken care of.

    “When you see a problem, fix a problem,” he advises. “There’s no reason why you should wait or the problem should wait. If you don’t address it, you’ll have a bigger one.”

    In addition to the Feb. 7 event, learn about additional COSE events that will provide you with the resources you need to grow your business.

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  • Next up: What Ohio Business Owners Need to Know About Anti-Harassment & Anti-Retaliation Laws
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  • What Ohio Business Owners Need to Know About Anti-Harassment & Anti-Retaliation Laws

    It's crucial for business owners to fully understand the laws governing aspects of workplace interactions. Read on to learn what your responsibilities are to a worker who has experienced sexual harassment on the job.


    As a business owner, you want to provide your employees with a safe working environment. Federal laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 work together to ensure that workers' rights are upheld and provide guidance to employers regarding hiring practices, discrimination, harassment in the workplace, and other employee-relations issues. 

    Ohio has also passed state laws governing the various aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Knowing details of anti-harassment and anti-retaliation statutes is critical for your business operations. What are your responsibilities to a worker who has experienced harassment on the job? What are your potential liabilities? Do you have policies in place that comply with federal and state laws regarding retaliation in the workplace? These are questions you should consider if you run a business in the State of Ohio.

    Handling Claims of Harassment in the Workplace

    Workplace harassment not only hurts employees, productivity, and overall business, but it is also illegal in Ohio. There are two primary types of this unwanted behavior: favors or job benefits for sex, and harassment that creates a hostile work environment.

    Here is an example of each:

    Quid Pro Quo 
    This type of harassment occurs when a supervisor or person in a position of authority requests sex in exchange for benefits such as a promotion or raise, or for not firing or punishing the employee. For example, an employee receives a bonus simply because they are dating a supervisor or other person of authority. 

    Hostile Work Environment 
    This harassment occurs when a member of your business commits unwelcomed behavior toward another coworker based on their protected class (race, sex, religion, disability, etc.) and does so in a way that interferes with their ability to work. 

    Hostile work environment situations often depend on the severity and pervasiveness of the harassing behavior. Teasing could easily create a negative work situation because it can interfere with another employee's work performance to the point that it is unlawful. For this reason, any complaints about a worker being offensive toward another should be dealt with right away. 

    RELATED: Understanding digital harassment

    Employer Liability for Workplace Harassment Claims
    Suppose you are an employer that has both an adequate anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures in place and both are well-written and promptly followed. In that case, you may have improved our chances of having a successful defense against lawsuits against your organization should an employee sue for harassment. 

    What constitutes an adequate anti-harassment policy? In your policy you should be sure to do the following:

    Use clear and unambiguous language
    Have your policy in writing and shared broadly throughout your company
    Conduct annual review and in-person training of these policies
    Be clear on which roles and responsibilities belong to employers and which belong to employees in instances of reported harassment 
    Use crystal clear explanations of what conduct is prohibited and constitutes harassment
    Implement a complaint process that is easily understood, followed, and provides several paths to report incidents through impartial channels
    Explain the complaint process that must be followed at the moment a complaint is reported
    Highlight your commitment to perform a prompt and thorough investigation
    Include non-employees, like vendors or temp employees, in the scope of the policy
    Ensure as much confidentiality as legally possible
    Outline what corrective actions management takes if a harassment report is validated
    Emphasize that workplace retaliation toward the reporting employee is prohibited and has consequences

    Whether a coworker was making offensive jokes at the water cooler or someone sent a text message to a teammate making unwanted advances, take all reports seriously.

    Workplace Retaliation Can Spell Big Problems

    Employers should also be familiar with retaliation in the workplace. Under both Ohio and federal law, it is illegal for employers to punish employees for reporting discrimination they witness at work. State statutes, for example, protect employees with good-faith beliefs that they saw or experienced discriminatory behavior, or who act against such instances. 

    RELATED: Read more by Alex Gertsburg

    There are several types of such protected activities. Here are some examples: 

    A company owner tells a hiring manager not to hire women for a vacant job role because they believe women are incapable of performing the required tasks. Instead of following this discriminatory policy, the manager hires a female candidate anyway, going against their employer's demand.

    An employee takes direct action to combat discrimination in their workplace. This often involves the worker filing a complaint against the business and assisting the investigation. Coworkers who witnessed discriminatory behavior can also take part as a protected activity. 

    Courts will take a hard look at what circumstances caused employees to take these actions against their employer. Those who punish their workers for complaining or reporting discriminatory conduct are violating state and federal anti-retaliation laws. 

    If you receive a complaint that discrimination is occurring in your business, avoid reacting out of anger, even if you are the subject of the report. Be professional, objective, and don't try to make their life more difficult on the job out of spite.

    One of the best ways to prevent retaliation allegations is to have a comprehensive anti-retaliation policy in place. Make sure any guidelines you create take the following suggestions into consideration:

    Any anti-retaliation policy you have should be in written format
    If you receive complaints of retaliation in the workplace, pursue independent investigations to avoid accusations of bias
    Investigate complaints of this behavior promptly
    Make it clear that any retaliation against protected activities is prohibited

    These steps, taken in conjunction with good written policies supporting workplace fairness, equality, and respect, can help prevent allegations of discrimination from turning into accusations of retaliatory behavior.

    Workplace Harassment and Retaliation Claims are Preventable

    As a business owner, you have a significant amount of influence and control over the behavior your employees, vendors, and customers engage in at your workplace. Prioritizing these issues and creating policies that confront these situations head-on can save you costly lawsuits and reputational damage to your company name. 

    Whenever an employee complains about a customer making inappropriate sexual jokes, you are responsible for making it stop. Always take complaints involving harassment or retaliation seriously to minimize your liability and show you mean business regarding workplace protections for your team.

    Alex Gertsburg is a managing partner at Gertsburg Licata and is a board member of COSE and Greater Cleveland Partnership. He can be reached at agertsburg@gertsburglicata.com or by phone at (216) 573-6000.

    At Gertsburg Licata, home of CoverMySix®, our innovative anti-litigation audit service, we help business owners take inventory of their hiring and employment policies, procedures and documents to ensure they are on firm ground in instances of harassment and retaliation claims. We invite you to call 216-573-6000 or fill out our contact form for a complimentary* consultation call with one of our attorneys.

    *Complimentary CoverMySix® consultation calls are exclusive to COSE members. 

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  • Next up: What You Need to Know about New Overtime Rules
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  • What You Need to Know about New Overtime Rules

    There are new rules on Overtime pay that will be going into effect December 1 that will impact anyone who has salaried employees making less than $47,476 per year. So, what does this mean for your business?

    There are new rules on Overtime pay that will be going into effect December 1 that will impact anyone who has salaried employees making less than $47,476 per year. So, what does this mean for your business?

    Learn more about the reasons for this change, the implications for small employers and the potential impact on your HR Policies in a webinar featuring expert analysis from Keith Ashmus of Frantz Ward LLP and Mireille Wozniak-Michalak of Petiole HR, LLC.



    Download the presentation as a PDF here.

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  • Next up: What's an LLC?
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  • What's an LLC?

    Curious about LLCs? Here’s a guide that explains what this structure is, how you can form one and what the benefits and disadvantages are.

    A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. The owners of an LLC are referred to as members. Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), or two or more individuals, corporations or other LLCs.

    Unlike shareholders in a corporation, LLCs are not taxed as a separate business entity. Instead, all profits and losses are “passed through” the business to each member of the LLC. LLC members report profits and losses on their personal federal tax returns, just like the owners of a partnership.

    Forming an LLC

    While each state has slight variations in its requirements for forming an LLC, they all adhere to the same general principles:

    Choose a Business Name. There are three general rules for your LLC’s name: 1. It must be different from an existing LLC in your state, 2. It must indicate that it is an LLC (such as LLC or Limited Liability Company), and 3. It must not include words restricted by your state (such as bank or insurance).

    File Articles of Organization. This is a simple document that includes information such as your business name, address, registered agent and sometimes the names of the members. In Ohio you file with the Secretary of State, though in other states it may be the State Corporation Commission, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, or the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code. There is typically a filing fee that must accompany the articles of organization.

    Create an Operating Agreement. Most states do not require operating agreements. However, an operating agreement is highly recommended for multi-member LLCs because it structures your LLC’s finances and organization, and provides rules and regulations for smooth operation. The operating agreement usually includes percentage of interests, allocation of profits and losses, members’ rights and responsibilities, buy-out provisions and covers other important items.

    Obtain Licenses and Permits. Once your business is registered, you must obtain other necessary business licenses and permits. Regulations vary by industry, state and locality.

    LLC Taxes

    In the eyes of the federal government, an LLC is not a separate tax entity so the business itself is not taxed. Instead, all federal income taxes are passed through to the LLC’s members and are paid as part of their personal income tax. Note that though the federal government does not tax income on an LLC, some states do.

    LLCs must file a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return. Talk with your accounting professional to determine whether your LLC is automatically classified and taxed as a corporation by federal tax law, or which tax classification to choose that best meets your needs, as well as which tax forms to file. For additional guidance visit IRS.gov.

    There is an additional option of requesting S-Corp status for your LLC.  You’ll have to make a special election with the IRS to have the LLC taxed as an S-Corp, and must file prior to the first two months and 15 days of the beginning of the tax year in which the election is to take effect.  The LLC remains a limited liability company from a legal standpoint, but for tax purposes it can be treated as an S-Corp. Be sure to contact the state’s income tax agency to determine how it handles an S-Corp election as well. Your accountant can best guide you in making these decisions and filing the proper paperwork.

    Advantages of an LLC

    Limited Liability. Members are protected from personal liability for business decisions or actions of the LLC. This means that if the LLC incurs debt or is sued, members’ personal assets are usually exempt. This is similar to the liability protections afforded to shareholders of a corporation. Keep in mind that limited liability means “limited” liability—members are not necessarily shielded from wrongful acts, including those of their employees.

    Less Recordkeeping. An LLC’s operational ease is one of its greatest advantages. Compared to an S-Corporation, there is less registration paperwork and there are lower start-up costs.

    Sharing of Profits. There are fewer restrictions on profit sharing within an LLC, as members distribute profits as they see fit. Members might also contribute different proportions of capital and sweat equity. Consequently, it’s up to the members themselves to decide who has earned what percentage of the profits or losses.

    Disadvantages of an LLC

    Limited Life. In many states, when a member leaves an LLC the business is dissolved and the members must fulfill all remaining legal and business obligations to close the business. The remaining members can decide if they want to start a new LLC or part ways. However, you can include provisions in your operating agreement to prolong the life of the LLC if a member decides to leave the business.

    Self-Employment Taxes. Members of an LLC are considered self-employed and must pay the self-employment tax contributions toward Medicare and Social Security. The entire net income of the LLC is subject to this tax.

    New Tax Considerations

    Effective January 1, 2018, the tax audit rules affecting LLCs have changed. If you have an existing LLC, it is important to update your operating agreement to accommodate these critical changes.

    Stacy is a founding member of BauerGriffith, a business law firm providing high quality legal and business counsel to a wide array of clients, with an emphasis on non-profit organizations, small business and individual planning clients. She serves as outsourced corporate counsel for diverse clients, partnering with executive management to design, plan and implement stated and defined business objectives within legal parameters.

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  • Next up: What the NFL Draft Can Teach You About Finding the Best Talent
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  • What the NFL Draft Can Teach You About Finding the Best Talent

    In the first of this two-part series we are exploring three of seven objectives to keep in mind while securing the best employees for your business. Join us next month as we wrap up with the last four objectives to an effective recruiting, hiring and induction system.

    Every year at this time the NFL talent search is in full swing as scouts, coaches and owners strive to upgrade their team’s performance. Starting at season’s end they dissect results at every level to identify the gaps and needs for the coming season and how best to fill those gaps. Each of the 32 teams only has 53 slots to field a team that can win the division and make the playoffs.

    Of all the priorities you face building a successful business, one priority has to be establishing a successful sales team. The primary purpose of any successful business is to attract and retain customers, so it is logical that a talented team has to be high on an owner’s and leader’s priority list.

    As with professional sports, your goal is to get the right people in the right seats and select a candidate who has the best chance of being successful for you.

    • RELATED: Do the sports analogies really hit it out of the park for you? Here are some lessons from the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians that you can apply to your small business.

    A proven recruiting, hiring and induction system should be based on seven specific effective objectives. Here we discuss the first three, and we will take a deep dive into the other four objectives next month.

    Objective No. 1: Win the talent war

    Start with your growth goals. Depending on the number of openings, the right hire can have dramatic impact on your results.

    Growing a business provides a continuous opportunity to energize and engage your whole team and help you attract the proven performers you need on your sales team. Your story as a growing company is attractive in a market where employee engagement is a major cause for top performers to look for new opportunities. Your recruiting process needs to intercept with those who are actively looking.

    Start your recruiting process with the goal of hiring the talent you will need to deliver your revenue growth trajectory over the next 12 to 36 months. Think like an investor and put your money in the best spot for revenue growth.

    You have X number of openings now or in the coming months—what kind of talent do you need? Are you dependent on “top performers” for a majority of your sales? Do you have real growth opportunities over the next 12 months? Do you have a specific sales talent gap and do you have the talent you need to capture these opportunities?

    What do you need to do differently to attract and hire the best talent who can do the job and win? The process of recruiting is a major challenge for business owners and leaders. Like any process in your business, improving the performance of your sales recruiting process is an ongoing exercise.

    Start with where you are today.

    Objective No. 2: Develop a sales candidate “profile”

    As we are learning from our marketing experts, the development and use of a customer profile helps a company understand what the perfect buyer needs and wants. The same process can work for attracting the perfect sales candidate. Your profile must take you beyond the experience listed on a resume and LinkedIn or found in a background check.

    What is the profile of a top performing B2B sales person? The best performers consistently get the sales job done so it is essential that your candidate profile identifies the things your top talent does consistently to win.

    Identify the behaviors and attitudes that proven performers display. Are the candidates comfortable with winning, goal achievement, money, success and a desire to win, or are they insecure and have limiting beliefs that undermine performance and make them complacent at a certain level of success? Do their personal beliefs, values, attitudes, biases and behaviors that impact success align with your company culture and values?

    Do they need to remain calm and confident to make sound decisions when under stress or in chaotic situations? Do they need to be adaptable, accept feedback, be coachable and willing to learn and change?

    Define the proven skills you need now and in the future. Past success may not always guarantee future success in a new environment so the interviews have to uncover areas of concern. The profile and your interview process help reveal the hidden sales weaknesses of a salesperson. Your process needs to identify the strengths and the weaknesses in order to determine their potential for getting the sales job done. Create a candidate scoring and ranking system that allows your interview team to keep score at every stage.

    Objective No. 3: Attract and recruit the talent that fits your profile

    Now that you have a candidate profile, you need to develop an attraction plan similar to the ones used for customers. As with attracting customers, talent recruiting is a two-way interview process. The question for the candidate is, “Why should I want to work for you?”

    As you are assessing and evaluating candidates, candidates are evaluating you against their current employer as well as others looking to upgrade their teams. The purpose, reputation and “brand” of your company—the job, the career, and earning potential, as well as the environment and culture of your company—are part of the candidate’s evaluation.

    The goal of the job advertising process is to attract resumes that best fit your criteria and help you find “fully formed" adults who have the competencies you need; they fit your culture and they demonstrate the positive attitudes, behaviors and passion to get the job done consistently.

    The goal of your advertising strategy is to grab their attention, get them interested and attract qualified prospects who are currently working but are actively looking for something better. Why you? Is your opportunity better?

    The best hiring decisions come down to your needs against a profile that details the proven skills, attitude and behaviors and the fit with the unique culture of your company. Stay tuned for objectives four through seven next month!

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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