Ownership Transition

Ownership Transition

Thinking of retirement? Here are some considerations for transferring ownership to the next generation.

By Cramer Soebbing

It is no secret that the American workforce is in a time of transition. Most estimates state that roughly 10,000 Americans are retiring per day. That number is largely driven by the baby boomer generation, which accounts for just under 25 percent of the American population and roughly the same percentage of the American workforce. 

Though the baby boomer generation held a long reign as the largest demographic in the United States, as of 2015 they were surpassed by millennials (generally regarded as those born between 1981-1996). As the general workforce undergoes this transition, franchise owners in the United States are looking at some of the same challenges. For many franchisees, that means they have big decisions to make about their retirement and the future of their business. 

We have found three common concerns in our conversations with franchisees:

  • What is the best course of action for my retirement?
  • What will happen to my business if I retire?
  • How will my family be affected by these decisions?

For most franchisees, their business is the largest asset of their net worth, so these are heavy questions. Their business has provided for their family and helped created the wealth they plan to utilize to fund their retirement goals. But all too often, the wealth conceived and passed down by the first generation tends to be depleted by the third generation. Before making any decisions, we find it prudent for franchisees to take a step back from the business and think about wealth at a high level. 

Think Long Term

One of the best ways to sustain family wealth is to be open with the family about monetary plans and institute family values for generations to follow. What does that mean for franchisees? They need to consider not only their retirement, but what their decisions could mean for future generations of their family as well. Trusted wealth managers, attorneys, accountants, friends and family should be consulted for not only the financial, but the emotional variables inherent in transferring a business.

Often the retirement plan includes passing down the franchise to the next generation of the family. If this is the case, it is crucial that the next generation family members have experience in the business and are actively involved. If not, it is best to get them involved as soon as possible to gain familiarity and ensure they actually want to run the franchise for their career. 

Some franchisors also offer next-generation training programs, which we highly recommend. However, the family member, or members, taking over need to not only understand the operational components of the company, but also the financial aspects. For every operational business lesson, we recommend that clients spend just as much time teaching the next generation about the monetary business and personal financial decisions they will have to make. 

We also find that personal transitions lead to positive business growth. Current owners should express the heart and soul behind their businesses to nurture the values that helped get them to where they are today.

Next Gen’s Role

The next generation of owners can also play a part in ensuring a smooth transition. Children looking to step into the ownership role should display a clear commitment to the opportunity at-hand. It is crucial to sit down with the existing owner to set goals and map out the plan for achieving them. The knowledge they will be able to share is invaluable. 

Many current franchise owners are first-generation business owners and had to navigate uncharted entrepreneurial waters to become successful. Soon-to-be owners are not able to rest on the sacrifices made by the first generation, but must continue the tradition of hard work and innovative thinking. While next-gen owners have easier access to the opportunity of owning the business, they will have to win over existing employees who question what their roles look like under new leadership, and must continue to earn existing customer satisfaction. 

It is important to be cognizant of key relationships the first generation has sustained to help them build their franchise to its current level of success. Successful franchisees will not stop there, but go a step further and network with other franchisees who may be able to share valuable insights into operating successfully.

A change in franchise ownership is a very significant event for multiple parties. A generational transfer adds many additional layers of complexity to that event. It is important that all facets of the transition are communicated with the necessary parties – especially the franchisor – to ensure the smoothest and most efficient transition. 

Cramer Soebbing is a wealth advisor at Mariner Wealth Advisors’ Chicago office.

This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Mariner Wealth Advisors (MWA) LLC investment advisory services and general economic market conditions. The information contained herein is not intended to be personal legal, investment or tax advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment strategy.



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