I'm participating in some business funding and recently we've faced a severe problem. The question is quite simple: how do we share profit, so that no one would be left behind?
So, there's three co-founders:
It is a test project, so there's quite high chances we'll end up with a loss. Thus we decided to secure certain amount of budget, so that MGR and IN won't loose all their money.
For example, assume our total input is 15k$ and after the complete business cycle we end up with 10k$ (assuming that our only possession is remaining money). In such case, EXEC will get 10% of the remaining money, and everything else is split among IN and MGR in proportion, corresponding to their initial contribution (IN get's most of it since he contributed more than others). However this will basically mean that EXEC is being payed by other two guys. We also decided to have profit shared according to the work done. So IN gets 25% of profit, MGR 30% and EXEC 45%.
However, such model doesn't work if we get some profit or if our profit is higher then it was expected. Say input was 15k$ and the outcome was 20k$. Then EXEC gets 10% of 15k + 45% of 5k$ = 3.75k, MGR gets 35% of 15k + 30% of 5k = 6750 and IN gets 55% of 15k + 25% = 9500. In that way IN got +500 to his money, MGR +750 and EXEC +3.75k. Which seems to be unfair towards IN and MGR. Those are rough numbers but obviously in higher cash flow sense doesn't change too much.
Is there an approach to such problem or an already know model of profit and loss sharing?
Business Profit Sharing Money Loss Sharing
Before discussing your specific numbers, it is important to note that in the US anyway, there is no requirement that losses be split the same way as profits. In fact it is often desirable that they be split according to some other formula due to the various participants being in quite different tax situations. In fact the at risk provisions of the income tax code should be a key factor in designing the structure of the venture in such a case.
Lets take an example, Investor (I) who is in a high tax bracket and programmer (P) with no other income start a venture. I contributes $10,000 while P puts in no cash but does all the work. Lets also assume it is a LLC and that it has losses in the first year. Clearly P can't benefit from a loss in that year (he has no income) while I, being in a high tax bracket, can use it all. This is a case where you would want to pass all the losses back to I and none to P (who can't use them). Provided the losses passed to I do not exceed the at risk amount (the $10,000 he put in) he is fine.
With this same example lets assume that at the end of the first year there P also finished the program and that in the second year the venture makes $1,000,000. Now clearly P should not get it all with P getting nothing (since P did all the work). So what I & P would want is an agreement that states that all profits are split in some agreed upon fashion (50% each perhaps).
This is why agreements can seem overly complex to newcomers. They can become lengthy simply because there may be goals and objectives beyond the basic goal of making money. AS in this case, addressing the specific tax treatment for differing kinds of investors, based upon their activities outside the business, may be desirable.
A third type of split is to consider how the remaining assets are distributed in the event of liquidation (that is shutting down the business, selling it or otherwise ceasing to operate).
Lets apply it to this example. Suppose that at the end of year one a company had offered to buy the whole venture (basically the software is the only asset) for $500,000 with both I and P going on to do something else. Well I & P, before they started and while writing the original agreement might have thought of this possibility and decided that in such a case I would receive the first $20,000 from the sale and then the remaining 30% would go to I and 70% to P. Remember that when drafting the original business agreement you can come up with about whatever terms and provisions that you want. The logic here is that I doubles his investment + some more (what he would presumably be happy with) while P gets the majority if the venture is a big success (remember he did the work). If however it is only marginally successful, they sellout for $30,000 for example, then P does not get nearly as much. This too may also be "fair" in that if P worked for an entire year on software and it is only worth $30,000 then his performance is less than stellar.
To review, we have gone through the splitting of three (3) different things:
1) Losses, 2) Profits from operations and 3) Value in liquidation and each was handled differently.
Your specifics: If that is what your business agreement laid out in writing when you started, then I guess you have to live with it. Quite frankly it seems sub-optimal in that both IN and MGR have contributed $15,000 between them but that in the event you loose it all EXEC gets a $1,500 loss (and in fact he may have a $1,500 paper profit as well since he is apportioned equity for which he did not contribute cash). IN and MGR contributed $15,000 between them but will only be able to write off $13,500 since they "gave" the remaining equity to EXEC.
Perhaps you should have had a better tax adviser before you started.
You are looking at using two different formulas for profit and loss sharing. One one money contributed is king. In the other formula hours worked is King. You will have to determine how this transition from the first to the second takes place.
You may need a 3rd formula, that splits the profits more evenly for the long term. The three individuals will have to determine the percentages, and transition level for the long term agreement. You could go with switching to the long term formula when all three have been credited with same amount of profit.