A Belated Graduation Speech to Baby Boomer Business Owners -- Inc

By Corey Rosen — Founder, National Center for Employee Ownership

Graduation speeches have come and gone again, urging young grads to go out and pursue their dreams. Well, you did that. You built a successful company that has created financial security for your family, jobs for employees, taxes for your community, and useful products and services for your customers.

But now you are thinking about graduating too. It’s time to start scaling back your involvement in the business and getting some liquidity for all that equity you have built up in the company. Hopefully, your business is strong enough that you have the option to sell to another company or maybe a private equity group.

Getting a good price obviously matters. You deserve it, after all. But as all those commencement speakers tell the graduating seniors, you want to think about more than just making money. You also want to think about making a difference. More than one graduation speaker has urged the grads to think about living their life in terms of what they ultimately want to be remembered for. Not many people say they want to be remembered for how big their house was or how expensive the car they owned was. But they do want to be remembered for how they made the lives of other people better. As a baby boomer, these issues seem more urgent than ever because, alas, the time left before you are a memory is getting closer.

Of course, one way to make a difference is to take some of the money you make and give it to a favored charity or charities. But in figuring out how ownership will transition in your company, it’s also worth thinking about legacy. What if you sell the company to another company that offers a great price but you strongly suspect (no matter what they invariably promise) will end up laying people off or moving the business? And that private equity group might make a very attractive offer, but you know that all too often their goal is to cut costs and flip the business in five years or so. All that will be bad for the employees, and probably the community, too.

To read the Rosen article in its entitreity, we encourage you to visit Inc.com.