time's up

figuring out who should buy your business

The Kids

Thanks, Mom and Dad… But No Thanks

Kids these days. Do they know the value of a buck? Do they understand loyalty the way that you do?

We all want what’s best for our kids and for them to have more than we ever did. But there’s a reason why that may no longer be a reality. We live in a culture where student loans and credit card debt have hit absurd levels, each near or in excess of $1 trillion. This has also clearly become a self-centered world with a near-constant stream of updates of questionable importance. So you have kids today who embody the dangerous combination of misunderstanding – or mismanaging – money and hopping from around the career pond looking for the dream job, the one that fulfills them in every way and gives them all the flexibility in the world. Is this grounded in any reality? Perhaps not.

What stumps some business owners is why their children don’t want to enter and operate the family business. “It’s a good business,” they say, “one that has fed many mouths for many years.” True as that may be, the next generation is restless, itching to make its own mark. The kids may appreciate what Mom and Dad built and they perhaps even know how the family benefited financially from those efforts. But in many cases, it matters not. The kids are off to conquer new lands and with a bit of gumption admit as much to their parents. The polite ones even say, “Thank you for affording me the education and experiences that have led me to conclude my calling is elsewhere.” Or something like that!

So Mom or Dad sits at the desk and wonders. What’s the business worth? Is it worth anything at all? If so, who would want it? It’s hard to be objective about such matters when you’ve had your head down for decades, cranking out work at a consistently high level. And it’s nerve-wracking to think about the exposure one could suffer in asking vendors, suppliers, competitors or customers if they’d have any interest in taking over. Many owners feel stuck at this point.

So what’s an honest owner to do? The next logical option is to discuss the sale of the business to the employees. One problem: if staff members are roughly the same age as the kids or even a bit older, are they likely to have any money, not to mention the nerve to take the reins?