8 million Baby Boomers own businesses — What happens when they retire?


By Holly Riddle

As employers adjust to a post-pandemic workforce, buzzwords seemingly spring up every quarter to refer to some perceived talent trend. In 2021, there was the turnover tsunami and, in 2023, according to Forbes, employers were gearing up to address the “silver tsunami,” or the mass exit of Baby Boomers from the workplace. Forbes reported that, as of the latter half of last year, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers were retiring every day, with 4 million Baby Boomers retiring every year.

Some of these Baby Boomers leaving the workforce are, of course, entrepreneurs. Rather than simply cashing out their 401(k)s and saying ‘goodbye’ to the suit and tie lifestyle for good, they’re thinking about other elements of their transition. Where does their business go, if they’re not planning on shuttering it for good once they’re gone?

Luckily for Happy Valley entrepreneurs in the latter stages of their careers, there are local companies who can help answer this question.

Helping local businesses and the local economy

Happy Valley Business Brokers in State College services businesses nationwide, helping business owners execute their exit strategies, while helping potential business buyers make the best decisions for their goals.

According to business broker Terri Breindel, “When business owners want to implement their exit strategy and sell their businesses, they can turn to our company. We meet with them, calculate an opinion of list price, list their business, market the listing and assist in every aspect of the transfer.”

Breindel has first-hand experience with the need to sell or exit a business, having made this unique career move herself.

She said, “I owned several State College businesses and there was not a local business brokerage for me to turn to. I ended up selling my last business through a firm in Chicago that never even visited my business.”

Now, she steps in to offer the service and attention she wished she had in years past, using her understanding of the local economy to help local businesses. (Plus, Breindel is also a licensed realtor, so can help a business owner sell their property, along with their business.)

“Many business owners that I talk to say that they thought their only option was to close,” she said. “I feel like our business will continue to grow. I get inquiries every week to sell someone's business. I just added a business specialist to my team to assist in bringing these businesses to market.”

Only 10% of business owners have an exit strategy

Found in 2015 in Williamsport, Evergreen Exits is based on the idea that “Exits aren’t endings. You’re just getting started.” The company educates business owners on the five possible types of business transfers, helping business owners develop a strategy that fits their goals.

“With 8 million businesses owned by Baby Boomers, we are extremely busy,” said Ed Barone, business wealth advisor at Evergreen Exits.

Specializing in businesses with $250k-plus of EBITDA, across all industries, Evergreen Exits has assisted thousands of successful entrepreneurs across central Pennsylvania.

Barone described the importance behind what the company does: “One in ten business owners has a succession plan or exit strategy. I have met with spouses of the deceased business owner who did not have a plan. The financial burdens on top of the emotions are overwhelming. Having a business transfer successfully to the new owner is good for the exiting and new owners, employees and community.”

What does this mean for the rest of us?

Thanks to companies such as Happy Valley Business Brokers and Evergreen Exits, Baby Boomers can happily retire with confidence, and spend their golden years pursuing non-entrepreneurial goals — but what does their exit mean for the rest of us?

While the Forbes article above remains fearful of extended labor shortages and the fact that many Baby Boomers are quitting the workforce without passing on their industry knowledge to younger generations (saying “only 57% of the aging workforce has transferred less than half of their knowledge to the incoming one, with 21% yet to do so), others are more optimistic.

Last year, The Well News noted that as Baby Boomer small business owners exit the workforce, it could open more opportunities for minority business owners. The publication cited studies that showed many younger generations are not interested in taking over their parents’ or grandparents’ businesses. If minority entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to purchase these businesses, it could mean great things for the economy and equity.

Forbes likewise noted that many Millennials aren’t interested in inheriting a business, especially if that business is less-than-exciting, even if it is profitable (like, say, a plumbing company). This opens up opportunities for those who don’t mind, or even want, what Forbes calls an “unsexy but thriving business.”

In short, as Inc. observes, the next few years could just become a golden age for business acquisitions.

What do you think about “the silver tsunami”? Are you a Baby Boomer getting ready to leave the entrepreneurial landscape? Or are you hoping to take over a Baby Boomer’s business? Let us know about your experience, at [INSERT EMAIL LINK].


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