The Silver Tsunami and Employee-ownership Conversions

Over the next twenty years retiring baby boomers will be exiting the workforce in droves, a phenomenon often described as the “silver tsunami.” Baby-boomers own 66% of all businesses with employees in the U.S., and their retirement will cause the transfer of trillions of dollars in business assets. The open question is – to whom?

Some have predicted that these businesses will be gobbled up by private equity firms. But private equity may not be available to many small business owners, and even where it is, the private equity model – which seeks to purchase equity in a business and sell that equity at a 100% profit within three to five years – may not achieve many of the business owner’s core concerns. Given that private equity investors are looking to sell the business in a short time period, they cannot commit to core values, such as retaining the business’ identity, reputation or fulfillment of a community need. For small business owners who’ve devoted the majority of their working life to their company, and whose legacy is at stake, private equity might be an unsettling prospect. Fortunately, there exists an alternative that may help ensure the business’ long-term viability: selling to the employees as an employee-owned business.

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