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ANCA helps shift boomer businesses to new owners

A panel discussion between an older business owners looking to sell his business and young entrepreneurs takes place Wednesday at “Preparing to Sell your Business,” a workshop by the Adirondack North Country Association’s Center for Businesses in Transition at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE – Around 10,000 members of the 76 million-strong baby boomer generation retire every day. Many of them are small business owners — so what’s to be done about it?

The Center for Businesses in Transition, an organization created by the Adirondack North Country Association, held a workshop Wednesday morning at the Hotel Saranac to answer a piece of that question — selling your business. Around 35 people turned out for the free event.

Angela Smith, assistant director of the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center, said in the North Country there are 10,000 to 16,000 businesses looking to make a transition between owners — while nationwide, the number is around 12 million.

“One in six private-sector employees is going to be affected by a transition of a business from one owner to the next,” Smith said.

ANCA calls this large cohort of boomers leaving the workforce the Silver Tsunami.

Angela Smith, assistant director of the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center, presents at “Preparing to Sell your Business,” a workshop by the Adirondack North Country Association’s Center for Businesses in Transition at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

One possible solution discussed to address the problem was baby boomers selling their businesses to younger entrepreneurs. Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and event moderator Patrick Murphy said this lets individuals looking to own a business go a different route than the traditional entrepreneurial start-up. On the flip side, it offers business owners a chance to retire but see their life’s work continue and evolve.

One of the Center for Businesses in Transition’s goals is to connect those two parties.

Keith Braun laid out the benefits of going this route, as he works to purchase Mac’s Canoe Livery & Outfitter from Brian McDonnell.

“I’m really working with somebody who has 40 years of experience in the business that I ultimately want to run,” Braun said. “It’s perfect to have somebody to ask questions to, who’s already figured out a lot of a lot of the really hard things to figure out.”

Braun said he started the partnership with McDonnell about a year-and-a-half ago, with the intention of transitioning in two or so years.

“It gives just enough freedom to do those entrepreneurial-type things, and try new things and get out there and expand but there’s a little bit of a safety net — ‘Here’s what’s always worked; here’s what will work,'” Braun said.

Christopher Beebe and Jennifer Lorenzo took over The Pines restaurant and bar in Malone from owners Cheryl and Steve Fitzpatrick in January. Beebe said the transition has been difficult and that one of his biggest worries was the pub’s clientele. It’s been in business for more than 31 years, Beebe said he didn’t want to upset the pub’s lifetime customers who knew and loved the establishment.

“For the most part, things have been working out, and people are open and accepting,” Beebe said.

His strategy for balancing the new with the old?

“Not doing anything too quickly,” Beebe said. “One of the main things I did was they had a lunch menu in place … so I took probably 60% of that lunch menu, and I kept it for my first menu.”

If you’re looking to transition an existing business or looking for a North Country small business ownership opportunity, contact the Center for Businesses in Transition at transitions@adirondack.org or visit the website at Adirondack.org/businesses-in-transition.

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