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Taking over business from retiring baby boomers

Kevin88660

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In Singapore here there are a lot of profitable small business in the traditional industries. They are owned by baby boomers who cannot find successors. Their children are not interested in the business.

I believe that this applies in U.S. as well.

These business typical generates 10-20k monthly profit on average with moderate efforts in management. These are the business that are too small to be interesting to be sold to private equity/professional business investors but it is too big a money to be thrown away for retirement since it has a steady customer base and a reputation built over decades.

I was speaking it from some personal experience because I was being pitched to run a company selling boat engines. The owner has a common friend with my parents. They don’t even know me or my parents. I did not take it because I cant imagine myself selling boat engines.

I have another high school friend who took over his family business and quit his slow lane job. He felt obliged to take over because no sibling of his is interested. It is a raw material provider for construction and engineering companies. Gross margin is around 5 percent. Could make 200k-500k a year depending on the business environment. He is very optimistic on the business. “Within the next 2 years 30 business of my competitors are closing their shops because they have no successor. It is an old men’s business and I am the only 30 years old here”.

I am in a self-employed financial sales role. As of now I am working with a baby boomer who is passing his clients base to me. This is a common scenario for real estate agents/insurance agents/stoke brokers.

I see a huge opportunity for young people to network with such baby boomers to work out a collaboration plan. There are two strong reasons for doing so.

1) It makes your life a lot easier compared to yourself starting from scratch. A hell lot easier.

2) You do not to be excellent. You just need to be not lazy, stupid or unreliable. Most people here can do it

3) A lot of other young people are not interested. They rather do drop-shipping or MLM. That is crazy. This makes the successorship deal bargain in a market situation very favorable to young people looking to take over a business. The current market dynamic here is actually the old people who are actively hunting for young people to take over their business.
 

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becks22

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Yes! They don't want to close down because it's their legacy but they can't physically keep up with the work if they are aging not so gracefully. The business I have now, I bought from a boomer and I know other boomers in similar spots.
 
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Kevin88660

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Yes! They don't want to close down because it's their legacy but they can't physically keep up with the work if they are aging not so gracefully. The business I have now, I bought from a boomer and I know other boomers in similar spots.
Absolutely. They cannot keep up with the work. Just having another young person who knows excel, calls people and drives the Van can increase their revenue by 50 percent instantly.

Through my observation they are rather desperate that many of then do not expect young people to have money to buy their business. You will be given a salary and a management position. Once you have learnt the rope and can execute without the need of having the elder to guide you full time they are very happy to retire with a profit sharing agreement.

A lot of them are happy and nice people. They have more than enough money and they do not need the business to survive.
 

becks22

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True and you may not be able to get a loan to buy an existing business straight away but if you work there and approach the owner later on about buying it, they may even offer seller financing. There are a lot of businesses out there where the owner hasn't adapted or improved their systems in the last 10, 20 or even 30+ years. Just buy looking at things objectively you could easily see where systems can be improved and start from there. I know businesses that have crappy websites circa 2000 with no SEO or minimization, no social media or worse awful social media, no formal organization or processes for things and are still raking in the $$. Now imagine being 25, full of life, and not afraid of hard work. Makes me giddy (did I really just use the word giddy?!) just thinking about that.

My first job out of college was with a company selling on Amazon mostly. The owner was in his mid 60s then. He's easily 70 now. The business is still in existence, still doing well with their sales & reviews but I have noticed that not much is extra is being done. Their website is still crap, the social media hasn't been updated since basically I left and their listings need work. I always thought I would end up buying this company before I bought my current business. I still have this little hope that if I get my current business to a point where I am not working as much as I do, I would go in and make him an offer. I know his kids were in law school so they are probably not interested. Just got to work with @LightHouse some more on with my current business.
 
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Kevin88660

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I feel that I have to start a thread on this.

Basically if someone offers you a paid management position for you to learn the business as fast as possible so that you can eventually own the business, I feel that it is an offer that you cannot ignore.

No more worrying about start-up failure. No more worrying about customer acquisition cost. No more worrying about learning it on your own. No more worrying about keeping a slowlane job and working on the side hustle to survive.

It is a cheat code to start the game at mid end levels.

Right now the biggest opportunity here is in the funeral business due to aging population and absolute zero interest in having anything to do with the business. No one even wants to be a highly paid employee for that business forget about taking over one. It is a business with insane margin and ever growing demand. The entry barrier is cultural stigma and emotional cost I think. People in my place (Chinese dominated) thinks it brings bad luck to be in that business. It is also emotionally uneasy to be dealing with sad and heartbroken clients on a daily basis. People are scared to carry coffin (with someone inside) and doing make up for dead people also.
 

Bekit

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There's also a business opportunity here -

Offer a "succession planning" service where you connect retiring boomers with entrepreneurs who are willing to work, in exchange for a finder's fee.

This is a fabulous idea for how to get into a "real" business rather than just trying whatever fad is current at the moment.

And I bet a lot of them are unsexy businesses that most people can't imagine doing (like the one selling boat engines).

While everyone else is out looking to "follow their passion," a few people who are willing to say, "It's about providing value, not following my passion," and they're the ones who will make a killing.

I'm going to keep my eyes open for something like this.
 

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No more worrying about start-up failure. No more worrying about customer acquisition cost. No more worrying about learning it on your own. No more worrying about keeping a slowlane job and working on the side hustle to survive.
Perhaps, but there are different worries. Here are some I have seen with my own eyes:

1. The owner never actually turns the business over to the "employee".
2. The owner dies and the family sells the biz out from under you.
3. The owner overprices the biz and you get stuck having to pay it or throw your time away.
4. Owner starts making bad decisions or goes senile.

Contracts can help but the deal isn't done until it's done.
 
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Kevin88660

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Perhaps, but there are different worries. Here are some I have seen with my own eyes:

1. The owner never actually turns the business over to the "employee".
2. The owner dies and the family sells the biz out from under you.
3. The owner overprices the biz and you get stuck having to pay it or throw your time away.
4. Owner starts making bad decisions or goes senile.

Contracts can help but the deal isn't done until it's done.
I agree.

There is control issue when its dependent on someone else.

If you learn the rope six months while being paid, and then renegotiate the contract to own the business and enter a profit sharing agreement, I would say downside risk has been limited.

If he back out after six months you can go offer the same deal to someone else in the same industry. As I am typing this now, maybe it is a good idea to start in an industry with a lot of boomers.
 
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Kevin88660

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Yes! They don't want to close down because it's their legacy but they can't physically keep up with the work if they are aging not so gracefully. The business I have now, I bought from a boomer and I know other boomers in similar spots.
Hi Becks could you elaborate more since you have personally done the deal before?

What is the buyer seller dynamics in the market?

What are the potential pitfalls?

What is a reasonable valuation for buying the business? Reasonable agreement for profit sharing? Relevant legal and financing paper works?

What is the coaching and apprenticeship package provided? A lot of the business relies on personal branding and relationship of the owner. A lot of the running of the business has to be taught by the owner.

Thanks!
 

Monkeycom

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In Singapore here there are a lot of profitable small business in the traditional industries. They are owned by baby boomers who cannot find successors. Their children are not interested in the business.

I believe that this applies in U.S. as well.

These business typical generates 10-20k monthly profit on average with moderate efforts in management. These are the business that are too small to be interesting to be sold to private equity/professional business investors but it is too big a money to be thrown away for retirement since it has a steady customer base and a reputation built over decades.

I was speaking it from some personal experience because I was being pitched to run a company selling boat engines. The owner has a common friend with my parents. They don’t even know me or my parents. I did not take it because I cant imagine myself selling boat engines.

I have another high school friend who took over his family business and quit his slow lane job. He felt obliged to take over because no sibling of his is interested. It is a raw material provider for construction and engineering companies. Gross margin is around 5 percent. Could make 200k-500k a year depending on the business environment. He is very optimistic on the business. “Within the next 2 years 30 business of my competitors are closing their shops because they have no successor. It is an old men’s business and I am the only 30 years old here”.

I am in a self-employed financial sales role. As of now I am working with a baby boomer who is passing his clients base to me. This is a common scenario for real estate agents/insurance agents/stoke brokers.

I see a huge opportunity for young people to network with such baby boomers to work out a collaboration plan. There are two strong reasons for doing so.

1) It makes your life a lot easier compared to yourself starting from scratch. A hell lot easier.

2) You do not to be excellent. You just need to be not lazy, stupid or unreliable. Most people here can do it

3) A lot of other young people are not interested. They rather do drop-shipping or MLM. That is crazy. This makes the successorship deal bargain in a market situation very favorable to young people looking to take over a business. The current market dynamic here is actually the old people who are actively hunting for young people to take over their business.
I cannot agree more. I think it's the biggest opportunity of our generation. Plus, the young generation can usually add value to the business via digitalisation.
 

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becks22

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Hi Becks could you elaborate more since you have personally done the deal before?

What is the buyer seller dynamics in the market?

What are the potential pitfalls?

What is a reasonable valuation for buying the business? Reasonable agreement for profit sharing? Relevant legal and financing paper works?

What is the coaching and apprenticeship package provided? A lot of the business relies on personal branding and relationship of the owner. A lot of the running of the business has to be taught by the owner.

Valuation depends on the industry. You could check online to see what is common for any business you're looking at. It could be 1x or 10x-- it really just depends.

Thanks!
You need to find a business where the owner is open minded to not only selling but also open minded to sharing all of the tricks and trade secrets. This can be scary for businesses so if you approach anyone, always offer a contract and a NDA. Luckily the business I bought is in an industry where security & due diligence is part of our service offerings so that was very standard. You should also have an attorney that is separate from the sellers attorney. You want to make sure things like non-competetes, NDAs, etc are in all the documents from the very beginning.

I worked with the prior owner as a 50/50 partner for about 1 year before the sale was actually in play. It was a 3 year process agreement that we worked out between the two of us. This way, I started taking more responsibility but he got most of the $$ for the first 2 years. It also gave me 3 years to learn about the business, services, clients, etc.
 

spreng

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what's the best way to find a business like this?
 

Rwill

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This is a great idea. I'm in construction and partnered with a older contractor that just couldn't get it over the line. He was very knowledgeable and hands on, but lacked the people skills, digital skills and business skills. I provided the business side and he made sure we delivered on the project. I got half the new company, and he got his investment bought out by the new company from the profits of the new. We trippled in size in the first two years.
Fast forward 5 years and we profit 200k a year with solid plans for growth.
 

NMdad

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I believe a lot of boomers who are mom-n-pop businesses basically have no retirement plan besides "someday we'll sell the business"--especially since their kids (if any) don't want to run the business. Thus, mom-n-pop are chained to the business. This is common with family farms, family restaurants, etc.

Seems like--with a well-structured agreement--it'd be possible to arrange a buy-out to both allow mom-n-pop to cash out & get unchained, where you acquire their biz (and learn the ropes & optimize along the way). Then, rinse & repeat with another mom-n-pop business, or expand/franchise the one you've acquired.
 

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We bought a bunch of vending routes from an older owner that was having health issues. He spent a lot of time helping us, showing my boys how to do things, and really just wanted to make sure that his customers were taken care of once he was out of the picture.

This is a HUGE untapped resource. Find a market with a lot of boomers. Buy or start one business. Slowly buy up / out the rest.

Engineering / consulting businesses are ripe. Older owners want to make sure their customers are covered. Many are more than happy to just pass them along in many cases. Just show you do good work.
 

G. Wellthy

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Many of these smaller businesses are dangerously tied to personal goodwill. So working for the business (and after you buy the business, the previous owner working for you) are great strategies.

3X normalized profit is a pretty standard metric for boring, mature businesses. I’ve seen as little as 1X though. It’s a negotiation.

“Normalized” is important; how must the financials be adjusted for a professional investor to run the company. Often, management is underpaid, there aren’t enough staff, capital improvements have been delayed, etc etc. So you need to figure out what the normalized Earnings number is.

There are private equity funds springing up to tackle this same issue. There is a huge market need! But friends that tried this caution that trying to buy a business from a family that has never sold something before can be quite difficult. The hustle is worth it IMO!
 

LittleWolfie

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We bought a bunch of vending routes from an older owner that was having health issues. He spent a lot of time helping us, showing my boys how to do things, and really just wanted to make sure that his customers were taken care of once he was out of the picture.

This is a HUGE untapped resource. Find a market with a lot of boomers.

Hmm I wodner what else there might be beside vending routes.
 

becks22

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I think the biggest takeaway you can get from this thread is if you're going to approach baby boomers; show you actually care about the business. They want to sell it to someone who isn't going to divide it into pieces and sell it for parts. They want someone to actually 'take care' of it.
 

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