What's a "Stay Bonus" and How Is It Helpful?

Simply put, a Stay Bonus is an amount of money paid to “key” and/or “important” employees to prevent them from leaving when an owner either voluntarily (i.e, sale to third-party) or involuntarily (death or disability) exits the business.

Lifetime Stay Bonus example: An owner is approached with an attractive offer by a potential Private Equity buyer. The selling owner is excited about the offer and wants to move ahead with the proposed deal. As the buyer’s due diligence process is implemented, the key employees, who have not been incented to remain during transition periods, are all getting “nervous” regarding the uncertainty of their future with the business. One actually leaves and the others are “looking around”. If the selling owner had implemented a Stay Bonus prior to a potential sale it could alleviate this potential deal-killer.

Stay Bonus Upon Death example: In a meeting with a client and her estate planning attorney, the attorney was recounting the story of a business owner who recently passed away and how his passing impacted the family and business. Of course it was emotionally agonizing for the owner’s spouse and family, but what compounded the pain of the situation was there nothing in place to keep key employees in place to continue to run the business. Hence, key employees left and so did customers and the value of the business (which the owner’s wife was depending on) decreased significantly. A bonus that had been planned and structured to retain key employees during this time would have saved the family, the employees, and the customers from much pain and uncertainty.

Key considerations:

  • Plans designed for a short period of time must provide a meaningful payout in a short period of time if the business is sold.

  • Keeping key employees is almost always necessary for the business to be sold at a maximum sale price.

  • The benefit should be greater when the business is actually sold while more affordable when a potential sale went through due diligence but did not sell.

  • Key employees are often asked to do even more during transition periods than what there regular job description calls for.

  • As all cash sales to third-parties are the exception, owners are often exposed to post-sale financial risk that can be increased with departing or unmotivated key employees.

Contact us if you need to give further and serious consideration to implementation of a Stay Bonus Plan.