Contract for Equity in Your Company

A contract for equity provides a powerful path to business success while preserving cash assets.

Sometimes called an employee equity agreement, these contracts allow you to compensate employees—all or in part—by conveying an equity share in your business.

Your company can put its cash to work in other ways while equity employees work harder to ensure company success.

A business employment lawyer can discuss the best way to use contracts for equity to help grow your business.

What Is a Contract for Equity in a Business?

A contract for equity is a type of employment agreement that allows employees to earn a share of ownership in your company.

Typically, employers use equity agreements in addition to traditional compensation. Equity stake employees will earn a portion of their compensation through a salary or hourly wage.

Workers will earn the balance of their compensation through an incremental stake of company ownership. Although you can explore the potential of paying employees purely in equity, most will require some financial compensation as well.

You can also use an equity-for-services agreement with independent contractors. However, many businesses prefer to apply this useful tool for their own in-house employees.

How Can You Use an Employee Equity Agreement to Grow Your Business?

Small businesses and start-ups rarely have an excess of cash at their disposal. Consequently, you might lack the financial resources to hire and retain top talent.

If you have a lucrative concept and a persuasive pitch, you can use these assets to lure in the employees you need for success. When savvy employees recognize the potential you have to offer, they will be eager to grab a ground-floor stake.

Another key advantage of using equity compensation agreements is the engagement these arrangements generate. When you bring someone on board in exchange for a share of the company, that employee essentially becomes an owner.

With an ownership interest, employees understand they’re working for the success of their own future. You can’t generate this level of engagement with traditional salaried or hourly employment arrangements.

Why Potential Employees Will Value a Contract for Equity in a Company

Today’s employees recognize the value they can contribute to their employer. At the same time, they can feel resentment when their hard work goes exclusively to the benefit of someone else.

One of the most talented and fastest-growing segments of today’s workforce are millennials. This demographic grew up on success stories like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Facebook used contracts for equity in the early stages of its start-up. After Facebook’s IPO, those ground-floor employees enjoyed the fruits of their labor and a very valuable ownership interest.

Business owners can use contracts for equity to court their industry’s top talent for positions throughout the company. In the case of Facebook and Google, company founders brought in executives and high-level managers they couldn’t otherwise afford, using equity as compensation.

What Forms of Equity Can You Offer Potential Employees?

Your business structure will dictate the details of your employee equity compensation agreement.

The most common forms of equity you can offer potential employees include:

  • Granted shares of stock,
  • Stock options, and
  • Stock warrants.

Structuring your equity offering requires careful consideration. You must carefully oversee the administration of your program also. As employees become vested over time, both you and the employee must file various tax documents. You and your employees could also incur unexpected costs.

Talk to an attorney who has experience in these matters to ensure everyone clearly understands the program. Setting expectations in advance will help ensure smooth sailing as your company begins to grow and expand.

How a Business Lawyer Can Help with Your Equity Compensation Agreement

Using equity as compensation offers a variety of compelling benefits for business owners. Unless you take great care in structuring these agreements, however, you could encounter costly legal hassles.

Drafting a contract for equity in a company requires advanced legal expertise in areas that include:

  • Employment laws and regulations,
  • Taxation laws, and
  • Securities laws.

Your attorney will also assist you in determining the appropriate value of equity to offer each level of employee. This calculation is based on the potential value the employee contributes to the business. For elite talent, you might want to offer a larger percentage stake, to provide the best possible incentive.

Equity compensation arrangements are a great way to incentivize and engage talented employees, but they have to be very well designed and managed. There are a lot of hidden traps, like imputed taxable wages, that require experienced handling.

Florida Business Attorney Trevor Brewer

Contact a Florida Contract for Equity Lawyer Today

Brewer Long provides comprehensive legal services to small- and medium-sized businesses in Florida. We have deep experience in the areas of business including employment law for employers. We understand the struggles that small companies and start-ups face in today’s competitive marketplace.

We can help you craft strategies that minimize your liability while helping grow your company. To learn more about using contracts for equity with your employees, contact us today

Author Photo

Trevor Brewer

Primarily working with business owners and their families, Trevor advises clients on business structuring and sale transactions, regulatory compliance, third-party contracts, liability protection and general matters facing small business owners. His focus extends beyond legal advice and includes business strategy and wealth preservation. Trevor also works with families regarding their estate planning needs, including probate, trust administration, and wills.

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