Who Will Fill Your Shoes?

Are you a business owner from the baby boomer generation? Let me guess, you don’t have a solid succession plan. You’re not alone.

Baby boomers own two out of every three privately held U.S. businesses with employees. Succession planning is a real need for companies today, as only 15% of family-owned businesses have kids who want to take them over.

It can be devastating for communities when these long-standing, locally rooted businesses close or are sold to out of town buyers that relocate or cut jobs.

There can be another way.

The Island Employee Cooperative is the story of three locally owned shops that have served a community for 43 years. These stores meet the neighborhood’s basic needs for grocery, gas, hardware and pharmacy. They still exist today as vibrant local businesses because when the long-time owners retired, they sold the business to the employees. It happens to be in Maine, but could be in your neighborhood, it could be your business.

In 2014, Vern and Sandra Seile wanted to sell their business and retire, but worried that an outside buyer would consolidate operations and cut jobs. Many of their 60 employees had worked with them for several decades and they had formed a close community with their customers. By selling the shops to the employees, not only did the Seiles save 60 jobs, they gave their employees access to business ownership. In addition, the Seiles were able to get a fair price and take advantage of substantial tax benefits for becoming employee owned.

Employee ownership doesn’t just sound good; it creates strong local economies. Studies show that employee owned businesses deepen impact in communities by increasing job quality and stability, investing locally and having a positive impact on job creation and business retention.

Do you know a locally owned business that you think could be a fit for employee ownership?

Share your story with us >

We can help! Project Equity is an Oakland-based nonprofit that helps business owners figure out if employee ownership is a good fit, and supports businesses in making the transition.

Visit us at Project Equity and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.