Entrepreneurs Looking To Exit, Your Employees May Be Your Buyers

Twin threats to economic growth and prosperity can both be addressed by increasing employee ownership, according to Camille Kerr, Co-Director, of Workers to Owners at Democracy at Work Institute.  (RMEOC is on the Workers to Owners steering committee)

The first problem, she explains, is the aging baby boomer generation of entrepreneurs and business owners. “Right now, the United States is in an ownership crisis. As business owners in the baby boomer generation retire, an estimated $10 trillion in assets will be for sale. Because of the flood of businesses on the market, many will not find buyers. The jobs, wealth potential, and services they provided to their community will be lost, and their value will be liquidated. Even those that are sold are often downsized or relocated.”

The second problem is a workforce struggling to get back on the economic track. She says, “Much of the workforce still has not recovered from the Great Recession. In a larger trend that started over 30 years ago, wages have remained stagnant and many Americans are in jobs that lack security and benefits. Their income fails to pay the bills, let alone allow them to own a home or a business.”

Kerr says the answer is clear. “The solution to both sides of this ownership crisis is democratic employee ownership. With employee ownership, selling owners can structure a flexible exit from the business and receive a fair value for their shares, while giving workers the opportunity to accumulate wealth and have a more meaningful work life.”

That said, problems remain. “There are currently thousands of businesses that are strong candidates for becoming employee-owned, but only a handful of them know about the option and have access to the support they need to make the transition,” Kerr adds.

This is where Kerr focuses her time. She says, “We are working to change that. Understanding the magnitude of the task, we have convened a collaborative of nonprofits, finance institutions, business advisers, and others already working in the field. This group, called Workers to Owners, is working to make transitions to employee ownership the norm for retiring owners.”