As with any team, it’s the synergy of the members working together that optimizes the talents of each and promises the best overall outcomes for the enterprise. So, the annual meeting is the single most effective tool available to a business owner to take full advantage of the complementary strengths of his/her team of advisors.
Logistics and Coordination
Set your annual meeting at fiscal year end, giving each advisor at least two months prior notice to adequately prepare. Designate a meeting facilitator. The facilitator need not be the business owner—often the attorney takes the lead role. The facilitator is tasked with shepherding the meeting’s process, including sending out appropriate notices and developing an agenda with input from the working group.
In this age of conference calls and virtual meetings, there is much value to be garnered from a physical, face-to-face meeting. After all, much communication is non-verbal. The team can perform better if the members actually meet and regularly interact. Make the annual meeting a real meeting, not virtual, as it may be the only time each year that the team assembles to focus collectively on the business.
What should be on the agenda? In simple form, the agenda should review the recent business history and current state of affairs and establish the business’ goals for moving forward. Importantly, the agenda must review both the business AND individual owner planning considerations. The annual meeting is a good time to align — or re-align — the expectations and goals of the business and the ownership.
Planning begins with this meeting. As tax consequences permeate virtually every area of business decision — financial planning, legal, benefits, operations — tax issues drive the process. These considerations take into account the projected taxable income and projected tax liabilities and how each then compares to previous years’ projections. The comparisons enable advisors to use their collective expertise to arrive at strategies that will best minimize tax consequences while advancing toward corporate and individual planning goals.
No small wonder that advisors relish such “team” meetings. They enable each advisor to better serve the owner(s). They afford a “50 mile high” view of the planning being done for the company. Advisors gain a better understanding of developments that have occurred in areas outside their range of expertise and how such developments have impacted the business. Access to the other advisors’ perspectives and team interaction enable better coordination of tax, legal and financial planning. Finally, the owner has an opportunity to bring up issues and get collective input instead of consulting with each advisor separately.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” — Ken Blanchard
The opportunity to sit around a table with the team of key advisors at year-end, to assess the previous year’s achievements and shortfalls and use this meeting to plan for the next, is invaluable for all businesses, regardless of size or stage of success.
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