26 August, 2013

Planning the investment mix for a Business owner

Think this over – It will be great if all flowers in the inflorescence turn to mangoes. But normally, there are just 3-4 mangoes per bunch, even though there are hundreds of flowers per bunch.

This has some interesting parallels for us as regards one’s investments. Everything you invest in would not give great results.  Atleast, it will all not do well at the same time, though we would very much like that to happen. There are going to be some at any point that are doing well. But that does not mean the other portions of the portfolio needs to be channeled into what is working today.

Investments cannot be done looking at the rear view mirror. It has to be rather done on what will work, going forward. But that is extremely difficult to predict, in the best of times. When there is a global churn, like now, it is almost impossible to predict which assets will do well, going forward.

Even within an asset class there are sub categories, which should not be disturbed. If one is investing in  equity through Mutual Funds, one cannot channel large cap investment into sectoral funds, just because they are doing well now. The risk-return profile for both, are different. Also, importantly, one does not know if sectoral funds will do as well, going forward.

But then a normal investor does just that. Moreover, they wait on the sidelines till the asset class has run up and participate at the end of the rally. So they never make money as they came in pretty late. The crux of what I’m driving at is that one should think well and come up with suitable asset allocation and stick to it. Tactical changes to the portfolio can be made though. But, one should not completely overturn a properly thought out strategy.

There is an important consideration while putting together a portfolio strategy for a business owner. Apart from various other considerations, a business owner is additionally exposed to higher risks emanating from the business itself. The income from the business itself is contingent on how well the business is doing. A business performance has several aspects which can all impact performance –  input & other costs, competitive pressures, obsolescence, market shifts, skilled manpower availability, regulatory business environment etc. As we can see, there are several factors which are not in control of an entrepreneur. These can result in further investments to continue the business, operations becoming expensive & profits coming down as a result. This can well result in lower income or can result in income fluctuations.

We need to factor this when drawing up a portfolio strategy for an entrepreneur. One factor that clearly emerges here is that the risk an entrepreneur is exposed to and by corollary his personal life, is high. Hence, the risks one can take in the portfolio should be lesser than in case of another, who is in service.

Most proprietors do not bifurcate the business income and their own drawals & spend everything from the same account. This should be avoided to bring in discipline, clarity & eliminate confusions in accounting. Lastly, business owners should have proper insurances in place – Life insurance & Key man insurance, health insurance for the family, professional indemnity where applicable, Premises insurance & other insurances as applicable.    

These are ofcourse the broad contours.  There are ofcourse going to variations as per individual situation. Stay hungry, stay foolish advice of Steve Jobs does not apply here! 

The other aspect to be addressed is the fluctuating income. We regularly suggest a liquidity margin of three months expenses. In case of a business owner, the margin should be much higher – ranging from six months to one year so that there are no hardships, if there is a prolonged phase of dip in income. If the business is such that, it may require cash infusions or capital investments from time to time, one needs to create that provision too and use it when needed.

Author : Suresh Sadagopan  | www.ladder7.co.in

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