SunTrust: One in Three Boomer-Owned Businesses Expect to Transition Ownership in Next Five Years

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

As Baby Boomers increasingly reach retirement age, a third expect to transition the ownership of their business in the next five years, according to a SunTrust survey. More than a third (36 percent) do not have a specific plan for how to transition their business, and 21 percent admit that they are not financially prepared for retirement.

"Baby Boomer business owners are approaching retirement at a moment when the economy is growing and a high number of private equity firms are seeking investments," said Jason Cagle, head of Commercial Banking for SunTrust. "This makes it a very attractive time for them to explore a sale of their business. No matter what, 100 percent of privately held businesses will face a transition at some point. Three key elements to achieving financial confidence through a successful transition are: a comprehensive plan for transition, smooth execution of the transition, and proactive management of life after the transition."

Business owners are concerned not only about their preparedness for retirement, but also the future of their company after they depart. In fact, 40 percent said that excessive operational disruption would prevent them from accepting an offer to purchase their company. However, as they consider various paths to transition, Baby Boomers are open to selling. SunTrust found that more than two in five (42 percent) of surveyed business owners have considered a purchase by a private equity firm or a third-party investor, followed by passing the company down to the next generation of their family (38 percent), and employees buying ownership (18 percent) as the next phase of the ownership of their business.

"This is a critical moment for Baby Boomer business owners as they face two significant financial decisions – legacy, for the company and themselves personally, and beginning their retirement," said David Neubert, managing director, SunTrust Business Transition Advisory Group. "Many of the business owners we advise want to remain engaged in their business or their community. Developing a thorough plan well in advance of a transition – ideally, three to five years in advance – can help ensure business owners have a plan for the next phase of their lives."

Although Baby Boomer business owners are focusing on the next phase of their lives, that does not mean they are done with business or leadership. Forty percent of those surveyed do not plan to fully retire, 26 percent would serve in an advisory capacity for their former company, and 15 percent would pursue a philanthropic opportunity in their retirement years.