March 25, 2023

Bucks Blog: A Meal Discount for Well-Behaved Children?

Children at an etiquette class in San Francisco.The New York Times Children at an etiquette class in San Francisco.

Last summer while enjoying an anniversary dinner at a lovely — and pricey — waterfront restaurant, my husband and I realized that guests at a nearby table had two children who appeared to be under age 10. They had been so quiet and orderly — no one was demanding ketchup or complaining loudly — that it was an hour into our meal before we realized they were there.

We joked with our waiter that their parents must have sedated them before venturing with them to such an upscale establishment. I recalled one infamous restaurant meal from my childhood, when my mother left the table in tears because my brother refused to stop belching. Now I’m the mother, and my two daughters aren’t necessarily loud, but they do tend to be a bit messy. We generally get a sitter if we’re going to a sophisticated restaurant.

Now, I find out that putting extra effort into your offspring’s table manners can sometimes save you money. Waiters notice these things, and some even give discounts for well-behaved children, according to a recent post in The Consumerist.

The item detailed how a waitress in Poulsbo, Wash., voluntarily gave a $4 discount to a family’s bill to show her appreciation for their three young children’s exemplary behavior. A photo of the receipt, including the line for “well-behaved kids,” ended up posted on the Reddit Web site, prompting a heated debate over whether that perk was appropriate.

“You shouldn’t get rewarded for teaching your kids how to behave in public,” opined one commenter. “That SHOULD be an expectation.”

Another suggested, instead, adding fines for poor behavior — whether by whiny children or boorish adults.

Do you think it’s reasonable to offer a discount to restaurant-savvy children, or is that rewarding behavior that should simply be the norm?

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You’re the Boss Blog: Ten Hard-Earned Lessons About Selling a Business

Creating Value

Are you getting the most out of your business?

My last three posts have focused on Holly Hunter and her business sale that went bad. I want to thank Ms. Hunter for allowing her story to be told. Although she made some mistakes, she was willing to talk about them in the hope that others might learn from her experience.

But those mistakes are hardly unique to Ms. Hunter. In fact, many business owners have had similar experiences. The most important step owners can take when they think about selling their business is to make sure they understand the sales process. Once you start down the road, you’ll enter an alternate universe where the unexpected becomes the norm. Dealing with the unexpected is easier if you follow best practices.

If you decide the time is right to sell, here are 10 lessons that owners like Ms. Hunter have learned the hard way.

1. Hire an experienced team of advisers. You have spent years building your business, and you usually get only one shot at selling it. Having a team of advisers — an accountant, a business intermediary or broker, an attorney, a financial adviser and a business generalist — who have been down this road many times is crucial.

2. Use an intermediary to sell your business. Going through the sale of your business can be very difficult. You need an experienced intermediary or broker who will speak with the other party and represent you and only you in the sales process. Sellers who represent themselves almost always make mistakes that cost them time and money. This is not a time to cut corners in professional fees.

3. Make sure your advisers work only for you. As we saw with Ms. Hunter, her business broker was representing both sides of the deal. When this happens, the broker usually ends up working for no one — and problems occur.

4. Accept that the person who buys your business will change it. Most buyers have their own ideas about how things should be done. If your sale involves an earnout or seller financing, you want to make sure the seller’s actions won’t limit your ability to get paid any deferred money that is owed you.

5. Make sure you tie your most important employees to the business. Have them sign employee agreements that can be transferred to the new owner. The new owners may want you to stick around for a transition period, but they will want your main people to stay longer. Making sure they stay and don’t disrupt the company while it’s in transition is crucial to a successful sale.

6. Be sure your business continues to run well throughout the sales process — even when the sale becomes an all-consuming project. If sales fall through and the company falters while the owner is selling the company, it can hurt or even ruin a sale.

7. Be prepared for due diligence. It can feel like a colonoscopy and its real purpose may be to help buyers reduce the price they have to pay, but there is no getting around it. When businesses are getting ready to sell, I recommend  that they go through a mock due diligence process. This can help you figure out where your company’s weak points are and allow you to prepare responses for a potential buyer.

8. Get a personal financial plan done before trying to sell. One of the most common reasons seller’s remorse exists is that sellers often find out that they didn’t end up with enough money to reach their goals. A financial plan will help you determine how much money you need and set reasonable expectations.

9. Know what you will do with yourself after you sell the business. I’ve seen many sellers lose their way in life when they have no place to go. Before the sale, you were most likely spending between 40 and 60 hours a week at your business. You need to find a way to fill that time meaningfully.

10. Make sure you follow best practices even for the little things. Start, for example, by making all interested parties sign a non-disclosure agreement that has teeth. If possible, have an offering memorandum produced. Have a letter of intent in place with your buyer before you start to show sensitive corporate materials. Have a purchase and sales agreement that lays out the terms of the sale but also protects you after the sale from being sued by the buyer, the government or regulatory agencies.

Following the items above does not guarantee a happy outcome. But if you know what you’re getting into and have taken the time to follow best practices, you’ll be more likely to get the result you want. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about using common sense. As we’ve seen over the last several weeks, it’s easy for common sense to go out the window in a business sale.

What have I missed in this list? What do you think are the most important things to check off as you sell a business?

Josh Patrick is a founder and principal at Stage 2 Planning Partners, where he works with private business owners on creating personal and business value.

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Bucks Blog: Wrestling With Halloween Cost Creep

A Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.European Pressphoto AgencyA Halloween display in Decatur, Ga.

Halloween used to be a one-night event. When I was a kid, my mother helped me and my brothers put together costumes — usually, homemade. We carved a pumpkin. Maybe we bobbed for a few apples. We went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. We tried to con each other into trading candy we liked better. And that was it, until the next year.

Times have changed. Halloween has morphed into days — even weeks — of October parties, festivals and candy giveaways that strain budgets and overload youngsters with more sweets than my Milky Way-addled childhood brain could ever have imagined. There’s no need for sibling bargaining, when everyone has an overabundance of treats.

I find this “holiday creep” annoying, not to mention potentially fattening, as well as expensive. The average American will spend nearly $80 on decorations, costumes and candy this year, up from $72 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Total Halloween spending is expected to be about $8 billion.

It’s not that the organizers of all the extra events aren’t well intentioned. Last week, my children attended a “fall festival” (it involves costumes and candy, but is apparently named so as not to put off those who object to Halloween). It was a fund-raiser for a very deserving local charity. But bringing two children, plus a friend, totaled $60 for the night. (I realize I have free will, and could simply have chosen not to go. But it gets harder to sit out when excess celebration is becoming the norm, and all of your children’s friends are attending, too).

Today, my younger child had a celebration at school. (Call me a party pooper, but I didn’t bake cupcakes.) And this afternoon, my offspring will go trick-or-treating at their dad’s workplace, where employees elaborately decorate their cubicles for the holiday to entertain the kids. Finally, at dusk, we’ll venture out into the neighborhood for the actual door-to-door event.

In addition to being tiring, the cost of all this partying adds up. Unless you’re adept at homemade costumes or have time to browse thrift shops, you’ll pay about $15 to $20 per child for an out-of-the-bag get-up, and three to four times that if you order from a higher-end catalog. If your child is the messy type, you may need more than one costume for the different events, which adds to the cost. (My youngest was a vampire for the fall festival, but agreed – whew! – to recycle a Pocahontas costume from a school play for the “official” trick-or-treat outing.) This year we’re pet owners, so my kids begged for a pumpkin sweater for the dog. (O.K., I do have to admit that she looks really cute).

By the time we’re finished, we’ll have shopping bags full of candy. This is the situation that leads parents to turn to the “Halloween fairy,” who takes away excess treats in exchange for a toy, which adds to the cost further. But wouldn’t it make more sense to scale back the excess in the first place?

How do you keep the lid on Halloween, without appearing to be a killjoy?

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Third Quarter

A Toll Brothers house under construction in Boca Raton, Fla. Homebuilder stocks have been some of the stock market’s best performers this year.

Ways to Play a Recovery in Housing

Homebuilder stocks have surged this year, but have they come too far, too fast? Analysts look at the investment options.

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