35th Annual Ohio Employee Ownership Conference update

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The Succession Planning Crisis

A monumental shift in the American economy is taking place. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are retiring at the staggering rate of 10,000 a day. They own nearly half of all privately held businesses in the United States and employ 25 million people and account for over $5 trillion dollars in sales.

Small businesses are extremely important to the local communities they reside in, circulating a much larger percentage of revenue back into the local economy compared to national chains, they also account for half of all private employment in the U.S.

Roughly 80% of business owners do not have a detailed succession plan in place, meaning there is no plan for what to do after the current owner retires or exits the company. This lack of planning can often result in a shutdown or forced sale of the business, leading to negative results for the family, the employees and our communities. Fewer family businesses are passing on to the next generation of family ownership, and less than 50% will find an outside buyer. A report, by Capital Impact Partners and Citi Community Development found the ratio of business closures to business sales of companies with 25 years of operations and 20-100 employees is 9 to 1.

The Ohio Employee Ownership Center has a long history of working with business owners to develop a succession planning strategy that ensures the needs of business owners are met. To learn more about our current programs contact us at oeoc@kent.edu

Resources

It used to be that family businesses were passed down in the family. But family size keeps dropping, and the average business owner’s children are far more likely to go to college and to become doctors and lawyers than in the past. While over half of business owners still want the business to stay in the family, data indicate that only 30 percent of family businesses will make it to the 2nd generation and only 15 percent to the 3rd. An Owner’s Guide to Business Succession Planning provides a basic road map to assist owners of small and medium-sized businesses as they begin to plan for ownership and management succession.

If you are a business owner looking for an exit strategy that can provide you with significant tax savings, flexibility in how and when you exit the business, and chance to reward employees that helped you build the business all while priming the company for future growth. Then selling part or all of your company to your employees using an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or worker-owned cooperative may be for you. Our manual Selling Your Business to Your Employees: Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) & Worker-Owned Cooperatives  describes both strategies in non-technical, easy to understand language, and will help you to explore whether these two options are right for you.

Succession Planning, an Economic Development Strategy

It is our contention that the failure to plan for business succession in small and middle-sized closely held businesses is the leading preventable cause of job loss in the U.S.

The OEOC has long recognized that succession planning has benefits for selling owners, companies, employees and the greater community. In three publications below we outline how our approach of combining succession planning with employee ownership can help build resilient communities and reduce wealth inequality.

Building Legacies: Retaining Jobs and Creating Wealth Through Employee Ownership

In our new report Building Legacies: Retaining Jobs and Creating Wealth Through Worker Ownership we outline how decades of research and experience demonstrate that worker ownership is a proven economic development strategy that can retain and strengthen businesses, create dignified family-sustaining jobs, and provide real wealth-building opportunities for individuals and communities.

There are clear benefits that worker ownership offers:

  • Employee advantage: Employees at worker-owned businesses have higher wages and better benefits.
  • Selling Owners: can take advantage of a flexible succession strategy that ensures their legacy continues.
  • Company advantage: Worker-owned companies are more profitable and productive.
  • Community advantage: Worker-owned businesses are less likely to close,  relocate, or lay off workers during downturns.

Succession Planning, Employee Ownership, and Baby Boomer Retirements

Chris Cooper and Michael Palmieri of the OEOC, along with Pete Shuler of Crowe LLP co-authored an article "Succession Planning, Employee Ownership, and Baby Boomer Business Retirements" in the Economic Development Journal published by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

In it, we outline what we see as the two biggest economic challenges of our time: the impending wave of baby boomer business owner retirements and growing wealth inequality. We highlight how the sale of companies to employees is a powerful, yet often overlooked, succession planning option that meets these dual challenges head on. Moreover, we explain how succession planning and employee-ownership can be combined to benefit selling owners, companies, employees, and the surrounding community. You can access our article here, or the full journal here.

Investing In Entrepreneurs of Color: A Playbook for Economic Developers

In a recent publication by the IEDC titled "Investing in Entrepreneurs of Color: A Playbook for Economic Developers" the OEOC was highlighted as a case study demonstrating how succession planning programs can be implemented through partnerships between economic development offices, chambers of commerce, and local community groups. Our current work with Co-op Cincy were mentioned as well as an example of offering education in succession to underserved communities. You can find the free executive summary here or the full report here.

What are your next steps?

The Succession Planning Program at Kent State University is designed to provide business owners with the information they need to get started with their business transition; and to provide Economic Development Professionals with the information and resources to help them retain businesses and jobs in their communities.

The Succession Planning Program is a service of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, a non-profit based at Kent State University. The goal of the Succession Planning Program is to help small business owners in transferring the ownership of a business to the next generation, with a specialty on selling to the employees.

Questions?

If you have additional questions about succession planning please contact the Succession Planning Program

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