Developing Countries Small Business Manual
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Editing and Design:
Lidija Rangelovska A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2003 First published by United Press International – UPI Not for Sale! Non-commercial edition.
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LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA REPUBLIC MACEDONIA
I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. XVI. Small Business – Big Obstacles Making Your Workers Your Partners Going Bankrupt in the World The Inferno of the Financial Director Decision Support Systems Valuing Stocks The Process of Due Diligence Financial Investor, Strategic Investor Mortgage Backed Construction Bully at Work – Interview with Tim Field Is My Money Safe? Alice in Credit Card Land Workaholism, Leisure and Pleasure Revolt of the Poor – Intellectual Property Rights The Author About "After the Rain"
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Small Businesses - Big Obstacles
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
Everyone is talking about small businesses. In 1993, when it was allowed in Developing countries, more than 90,000 new firms were registered by individuals. Now, less than three years later, official figures show that only 40,000 of them still pay their dues and present annual financial statements. These firms are called "active" - but this is a misrepresentation. Only a very small fraction really does business and produces income. Why this reversal? Why were people so enthusiastic to register companies - and then became too desperate to operate them? Small business is more than a fashion or a buzzword. In the USA, only small businesses create new jobs. The big dinosaur firms (the "blue-chips") create negative employment - they fire people. This trend has a glitzy name: downsizing. In Israel many small businesses became world class exporters and big companies in world terms. The same goes, to a lesser extent, in Britain and in Germany. Virtually every Western country has a "Small Business Administration" (SBA). These agencies provide many valuable services to small businesses:
They help them organize funding for all their needs: infrastructure, capital goods (machinery and equipment), land, working capital, licence and patent fees and charges, etc. The SBAs have access to government funds, to local venture capital funds, to international and multilateral investment sources, to the local banking community and to private investors. They act as capital brokers at a fraction of the costs that private brokers and organized markets charge. They assist the entrepreneur in the preparation of business plans, feasibility studies, application forms, questionnaires - and any other thing which the new start-up venture might need to raise funds to finance its operations. This saves the new business a lot of money. The costs of preparing such documents in the private sector amount to thousands of DM per document. They reduce bureaucracy. They mediate between the small business and the various tentacles of the government. They become the ONLY address which the new business should approach, a "One Stop Shop". But why do new (usually small) businesses need special treatment and encouragement at all? And if they do need it - what are the best ways to provide them with this help? A new business goes through phases in the business cycle (very similar to the stages of human life).
The first phase - is the formation of an idea. A person - or a group of people join forces, centred around one exciting invention, process or service. These crystallizing ideas have a few hallmarks: They are oriented to fill the needs of a market niche (a small group of select consumers or customers), or to provide an innovative solution to a problem which bothers many, or to create a market for a totally new product or service, or to provide a better solution to a problem which is solved in a less efficient manner. At this stage what the entrepreneurs need most is expertise. They need a marketing expert to tell them if their idea is marketable and viable. They need a financial expert to tell them if they can get funds in each phase of the business cycle - and wherefrom and also if the product or service can produce enough income to support the business, pay back debts and yield a profit to the investors. They need technical experts to tell them if the idea can or cannot be realized and what it requires by way of technology transfers, engineering skills, know-how, etc. Once the idea has been shaped to its final form by the team of entrepreneurs and experts - the proper legal entity should be formed. A bewildering array of possibilities arises: A partnership? A corporation - and if so, a stock or a nonstock company? A research and development (RND) entity? A foreign company or a local entity? And so on.
This decision is of cardinal importance. It has enormous tax implications and in the near future of the firm it greatly influences the firm's ability to raise funds in foreign capital markets. Thus, a lawyer must be consulted who knows both the local applicable laws and the foreign legislation in markets which could be relevant to the firm. This costs a lot of money, one thing that entrepreneurs are in short supply of. Free legal advice is likely to be highly appreciated by them. When the firm is properly legally established, registered with all the relevant authorities and has appointed an accounting firm - it can go on to tackle its main business: developing new products and services. At this stage the firm should adopt Western accounting standards and methodology. Accounting systems in many countries leave too much room for creative playing with reserves and with amortization. No one in the West will give the firm credits or invest in it based on domestic financial statements. A whole host of problems faces the new firm immediately upon its formation. Good entrepreneurs do not necessarily make good managers. Management techniques are not a genetic heritage.
They must be learnt and assimilated. Today's modern management includes many elements: manpower, finances, marketing, investing in the firm's future through the development of new products, services, or even whole new business lines. That is quite a lot and very few people are properly trained to do the job successfully. On top of that, markets do not always react the way entrepreneurs expect them to react. Markets are evolving creatures: they change, they develop, disappear and reappear. They are exceedingly hard to predict. The sales projections of the firm could prove to be unfounded. Its contingency funds can evaporate. Sometimes it is better to create a product mix: wellrecognized brands which sell well - side by side with innovative products. I gave you a brief - and by no way comprehensive - taste of what awaits the new business and its initiator, the entrepreneur. You see that a lot of money and effort are needed even in the first phases of creating a business. How can the Government help? It could set up an "Entrepreneur's One Stop Shop". A person wishing to establish a new business will go to a government agency. In one office, he will find the representatives of all the relevant government offices, authorities, agencies and municipalities.
He will present his case and the business that he wishes to develop. In a matter of few weeks he will receive all the necessary permits and licences without having to go to each office separately. Having obtained the requisite licences and permits and having registered with all the appropriate authorities - the entrepreneur will move on to the next room in the same building. Here he will receive a list of all the sources of capital available to him both locally and from foreign sources. The terms and conditions of the financing will be specified for each and every source. Example: EBRD loans of up to 10 years - interest between 6.5% to 8% grace period of up to 3 years - finances mainly industry, financial services, environmental projects, infrastructure and public services. The entrepreneur will select the sources of funds most suitable for his needs - and proceed to the next room. The next room will contain all the experts necessary to establish the business, get it going - and, most important, raise funds from both local and international institutions. For a symbolic sum they will prepare all the documents required by the financing institutions as per their instructions. But entrepreneurs in many developing countries are still fearful and uninformed. They are intimidated by the complexity of the task facing them. The solution is simple: a tutor or a mentor will be attached to each and every entrepreneur. This tutor will escort the entrepreneur from the first phase to the last.
He will be employed by the "One Stop Shop" and his role will be to ease life for the novice businessman. He will transform the person to a businessman. And then they will wish the entrepreneur: "Bon Voyage" and may the best ones win.
Making your Workers Your Partners
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin Also read these:
The Principal-Agent Conundrum The Labour Divide - V. Employee Benefits and Ownership
There is an inherent conflict between owners and managers of companies. The former want, for instance, to minimize costs - the latter to draw huge salaries as long as they are in power. In publicly traded companies, the former wish to maximize the value of the stocks (short term), the latter might have a longer term view of things. In the USA, shareholders place emphasis on the appreciation of the stocks (the result of quarterly and annual profit figures). This leaves little room for technological innovation, investment in research and development and in infrastructure. The theory is that workers who also own stocks avoid these cancerous conflicts which, at times, bring companies to ruin and, in many cases, dilapidate them financially and technologically. Whether reality lives up to theory, is an altogether different question. A stock option is the right to purchase (or sell - but this is not applicable in our case) a stock at a specified price (=strike price) on or before a given date. Stock options are either not traded (in the case of private firms) or traded in a stock exchange (in the case of public firms whose shares are also traded in a stock exchange).
Stock options have many uses: they are popular investments and speculative vehicles in many markets in the West, they are a way to hedge (to insure) stock positions (in the case of put options which allow you to sell your stocks at a pre-fixed price). With very minor investment and very little risk (one can lose only the money invested in buying the option) - huge profits can be realized. Creative owners and shareholders began to use stock options to provide their workers with an incentive to work for the company and only for the company. Normally such perks were reserved to senior management, thought indispensable. Later, as companies realized that their main asset was their employees, all employees began to enjoy similar opportunities. Under an incentive stock option scheme, an employee is given by the company (as part of his compensation package) an option to purchase its shares at a certain price (at or below market price at the time that the option was granted) for a given number of years. Profits derived from such options now constitute the main part of the compensation of the top managers of the Fortune 500 in the USA and the habit is catching on even with more conservative Europe. A Stock Option Plan is an organized program for employees of a corporation allowing them to buy its shares. Sometimes the employer gives the employees subsidized loans to enable them to invest in the shares or even matches their purchases: for every share bought by an employee, the employer awards him with another one, free of charge. In many companies, employees are offered the opportunity to buy the shares of the company at a discount (which translates to an immediate paper profit).
Dividends that the workers receive on the shares that they hold can be reinvested by them in additional shares of the firm (some firms do it for them automatically and without or with reduced brokerage commissions). Many companies have wage "set-aside" programs: employees regularly use a part of their wages to purchase the shares of the company at the market prices at the time of purchase. Another well known structure is the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) whereby employees regularly accumulate shares and may ultimately assume control of the company. Let us study in depth a few of these schemes: It all began with Ronald Reagan. His administration passed in Congress the Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA - 1981) under which certain kinds of stock options ("qualifying options") were declared tax-free at the date that they were granted and at the date that they were exercised. Profits on shares sold after being held for at least two years from the date that they were granted or one year from the date that they were transferred to an employee were subjected to preferential (lower rate) capital gains tax. A new class of stock options was thus invented: the "Qualifying Stock Option". Such an option was legally regarded as a privilege granted to an employee of the company that allowed him to purchase, for a special price, shares of its capital stock (subject to conditions of the Internal Revenue - the American income tax - code). To qualify, the option plan must be approved by the shareholders, the options must not be transferable (i.e., cannot be sold in the stock exchange or privately - at least for a certain period of time).
Additional conditions: the exercise price must not be less than the market price of the shares at the time that the options were issued and that the employee who receives the stock options (the grantee) may not own stock representing more than 10% of the company's voting power unless the option price equals 110% of the market price and the option is not exercisable for more than five years following its grant. No income tax is payable by the employee either at the time of the grant or at the time that he converts the option to shares (which he can sell at the stock exchange at a profit) - the exercise period. If the market price falls below the option price, another option, with a lower exercise price can be issued. There is a 100,000 USD per employee limit on the value of the stock covered by options that can be exercised in any one calendar year. This law - designed to encourage closer bondage between workers and their workplaces and to boost stock ownership - led to the creation of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). These are programs which encourage employees to purchase stock in their company. Employees may participate in the management of the company. In certain cases - for instance, when the company needs rescuing - they can even take control (without losing their rights). Employees may offer wage concessions or other work rules related concessions in return for ownership privileges - but only if the company is otherwise liable to close down ("marginal facility"). How much of its stock should a company offer to its workers and in which manner? There are no rules (except that ownership and control need not be transferred). A few of the methods:
1. The company offers packages of different sizes, comprising shares and options and the employees bid for them in open tender 2. The company sells its shares to the employees on an equal basis (all the members of the senior management, for instance, have the right to buy the same number of shares) - and the workers are then allowed to trade the shares between them 3. The company could give one or more of the current shareholders the right to offer his shares to the employees or to a specific group of them. The money generated by the conversion of the stock options (when an employee exercises his right and buys shares) usually goes to the company. The company sets aside in its books a number of shares sufficient to meet the demand which may be generated by the conversion of all outstanding stock options. If necessary, the company issues new shares to meet such a demand. Rarely, the stock options are converted into shares already held by other shareholders.