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Helping “Forever Owners” With the COVID Crisis

Submitted by John Brown on Wed, 05/27/2020 - 4:54pm
business owner

In the prior post (In Today’s Business Ballgame, Do your Clients Want Out After Strike Two?), we suggested that once the COVID crisis ends, many owners will decide to exit before the next economic bombshell falls. Today, we consider another subset of owners: Boomers (and others) who want to keep their companies indefinitely.

Three data points confirm the existence of owners that want to remain owners.

  1. Boomer owners have aged, but they have not triggered “the Boomer tsunami” that experts predicted. They have not exited their companies en masse and faded into the sunset. This suggests that there isn’t a direct cause and effect between aging owners and business exits. Something about ownership still calls to them, as we shall see.
  2. Owners did not run for the exits during the Great Recession, and once their businesses returned to full operations, most experienced growth and profitability.
  3. One quarter of the respondents to BEI’s 2019 Business Owner Survey indicated that they want to stop working in their businesses within ten years but retain ownership. There are several reasons that support this surprising finding.

What is Going on Here?

In hindsight, we see that Boomer owners, especially those who experienced the years-long Great Recession, survived and their businesses recovered. Today, four out of five owners expect their businesses to be back at full capacity within six months. Their belief that effects of COVID-19 on the economy will be short term and their expectation is that their businesses will survive it. Should this crisis last significantly longer than six months, we believe that most owners in this subset will remain owners for two reasons. We explore the first reason below. Tune in next week for the other reason why business owners remain confident they will survive.

The #1 Reason Why Owners Wish to Remain Owners - Owners Enjoy Being Owners

Ownership is fulfilling and business owners feel as if they make a difference. Their businesses often give owners meaning and purpose in life. Ownership puts them in control and they like the challenge. After they exit, owners wonder what will replace the benefits—personal and financial—that they enjoy now.

Do these “forever owners,” the 25% who want to retain ownership but exit active participation in their companies, need Exit Planning? Emphatically yes. In fact, forever owners have a huge need for carefully designed plans and immediate execution. To achieve their goals, their companies must continue to operate with minimum disruption to cash flow.

As you know, a company’s ability to operate successfully without its owner is the very definition of transferable value, and transferable value is the bedrock of every successful business exit.

The Advisor’s Response

At the heart of all Exit Planning is an owner’s goals, so advisors must reach out to support their owner/clients in their desire to remain owners without having to run their businesses. Owners are not skilled in the design and implementation of plans that create and protect transferable value and provide business continuity while simultaneously achieving their other goals and aspirations. Exit Planning advisors are.

Owning a company indefinitely could well mean that forever owners will be carried out on their shields. This means that we must pay special attention to the business continuity aspect of Exit Planning.

In our next post, we will explore the second reason that owners may choose not to sell their companies and move on.

Takeaways

  • The COVID-19 crisis will not initiate a mad rush of owners to the nearest exit. While some owners will choose to exit their companies, many others have other plans to continue.
  • Many owners want to exit their jobs, not their ownership.
  • Exit Planning for forever owners must focus on developing transferable value as well as creating business continuity plans that are as comprehensive as lifetime Exit Plans.


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