6 out of 10 U.S. business owners
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.
Employee ownership deepens the impact
Benefits to the selling owner
– Take care of your employees
– Realize market rate for your business
– Enjoy tax advantages
own nearly half of all privately-held businesses with employees nationwide.
As baby boomer business owners retire, our local business landscape is poised to go through a dramatic shift. With boomers owning about half of all privately-held businesses in the United States we will see a massive ownership changeover of locally-held businesses as the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirements approaches.
The vast majority (over 85%) of business owners do not have a succession plan in place, and increasingly, many are finding it hard to find a buyer when they are ready to sell.
As a result, some of these companies will quietly close down, a very small percent will be passed on to family members, others will sell to another local owner, and some will be sold to a larger company or out of area buyer. Those in this last category will likely lay off employees and will further concentrate ownership and wealth.
We have the opportunity to keep many of these businesses locally-owned for the long term and to deepen their positive impact on our local economy.
How? By helping them transition to broad-based employee ownership.
Why does this matter?
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, making up 99.7% of all firms and providing 48% of jobs nationally. Locally owned businesses circulate three times more money back into the local economy than absentee-owned firms or chain businesses. And local businesses are based on local relationships, fostering trust and civic engagement.
Employee ownership extends the legacy of these businesses while deepening their impact in our community. By selling businesses to the employees businesses remain anchored in the region while continuing to provide good jobs, enhance access to wealth and promote entrepreneurship.
What can we do about it?
We can all play a role in keeping businesses local and promoting employee ownership.
Raise awareness of the problem
We hear about the impact of baby boomer retirements on health care and on employment, but there is low awareness of the impact on local business ownership. Please share this information with your city government and others who can help.
- Local governments can measure the impact on their tax base by using business license data to track how many businesses are over 15, 20 or 25 years old.
- City and regional planners can convene local officials, business networks, lenders and others to determine how they are assessing and addressing this issue.
Engage businesses about employee ownership transitions
The benefits of broad-based employee ownership are clear, but most business owners do not know that selling their business to their employees is a great way to preserve its legacy.
- Business service providers can add succession planning to their service offerings and include employee ownership as an option
- Cities can add succession planning into their economic development goals and partner with organizations that provide education and expertise on employee ownership
- Regional planners can integrate the stabilization of local business ownership into their goals
Explore below to gain insight into the effects of the small business closure crisis in the following regions
Project Equity and our partners
As a national organization, Project Equity advocates for and raises awareness of broad-based, democratic employee ownership, and we support businesses in transitioning to this highly beneficial business model. We are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and through amazing local partners, we also support this work in regions across the country.
The Industrial Commons, our partner with offices across Western North Carolina, formed in 2015 in response to a need to provide resources and support to firms and networks in a way that improves livelihoods and roots wealth in communities in Western North Carolina.
Nexus, our partner in the Twin Cities region works with community-based organizations in low-wealth areas to support them in creating communities that reflect the vision and creativity of the people who live and work there.
The Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE), our outreach partner in Michigan, provides legal, financial, product development, marketing and self-management expertise to create living-wage jobs through employee ownership in any of its forms—particularly among historically under-served populations in the Detroit region.
ASSETS, our outreach partner in Central Pennsylvania, is a non-profit organization focused on transforming our community through business. They provide training, 1-on-1 coaching, and financing to entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses.
Santa Cruz Community Ventures, our outreach partner in the Central Coast Region of California, is a nonprofit organization focused on building an inclusive economy. They are committed to doing their work in ways that remove systemic barriers to economic equity in a variety of family-centered, culturally appropriate ways.