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Baby Boomer Business Owners: Will There Be A Mass Sell-Off?
By Carey McMann, SME Research LLC – September 2012
The Baby ...
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businesses, and that number rose to 33.1% in 2007. In 2002 32% of the owners were 55 and
older and that rate rose to 37%...
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number of boomer owned businesses that will be available for sale (their owners are 57 years old
and older right now) in...
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Baby Boomer Business Owners: Will There Be A Mass Sell-Off? By Carey McMann, SME Research LLC – September 2012

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The Baby Boomer generation has been identified as one of the most entrepreneurial generations in the history of our country. There are more than 75 million Baby Boomers and it is estimated that about 7 million of them are privately held business owners1 (BIG Research). According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation aging Baby Boomers are continuing to start new businesses, growing from 14.3% of total in 1996 to 20.9% share of new entrepreneurs in 20112. In 2010 13% of Americans were aged 65 and older. But, by 2030 when all the Baby Boomers have turned 65, fully 18% of the population will be aged 65 and older3

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Baby Boomer Business Owners: Will There Be A Mass Sell-Off? By Carey McMann, SME Research LLC – September 2012

  1. 1. 1 Baby Boomer Business Owners: Will There Be A Mass Sell-Off? By Carey McMann, SME Research LLC – September 2012 The Baby Boomer generation has been identified as one of the most entrepreneurial generations in the history of our country. There are more than 75 million Baby Boomers and it is estimated that about 7 million of them are privately held business owners 1 (BIG Research). According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation aging Baby Boomers are continuing to start new businesses, growing from 14.3% of total in 1996 to 20.9% share of new entrepreneurs in 2011 2 . In 2010 13% of Americans were aged 65 and older. But, by 2030 when all the Baby Boomers have turned 65, fully 18% of the population will be aged 65 and older 3 (Pew Research Center). The popular press has taken note of boomer business owners and has been predicting a tsunami of wealth transfer as boomers retire. One popular book on the topic is even titled The $10 Trillion Opportunity 4 . But there is no agreement across these news reports regarding how many boomer businesses might actually be for sale over the next decade or so, with a variety of articles projecting anywhere from 700,000 to over 10 million 5 firms on the market. The Census Bureau reported there were about 28.5 million firms in the US in 2009 6 . Importantly, most of these firms (21.1 million) are self-employed persons operating unincorporated businesses which, in total, only account for ~4% of business receipts. Therefore, most government business summaries are based on the enterprises that have paid employees. In June 2012 County Business Patterns released updated numbers and reported there were 7.4 million businesses with paid employees in 2010 7 . Using government data SME Research LLC developed a forecast for the number of boomer owned businesses that might reasonably be marketed for sale over the next 5 to 20 years. Data from the United States Census, American Fact Finder and Survey of Business Owners (SBO) were used to construct the forecast. A major problem in generating a reliable number of retiring boomer business owners is that so many of the government reports have different dates and different units of analysis. So, in order to have a common metric we used a Census report from June 26, 2012 and “computed” numbers for the most likely base of boomer owned companies with that American FactFinder report as the base of the computations 8 . First we looked at the age distribution of the owner of the business. This information is collected by the Census Bureau in their Survey of Business Owners (SBO) research which is conducted in years ending in 2 and 7. This chart only includes firms with paid employees, and consistent with the graying of America, the business owners were older in 2007 than in 2002. In 2002 45 to 54 year olds owned 29.6% of the 20-34 35% 35-44 27% 45-54 24% 55-64 14% Start-Up Owner Age 1996 20-34 29% 35-44 22% 45-54 28% 55-64 21% Start-Up Owner Age 2011 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% <25 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+ Owner Age 2002 Owner Age 2007
  2. 2. 2 businesses, and that number rose to 33.1% in 2007. In 2002 32% of the owners were 55 and older and that rate rose to 37% in 2007. Next we plotted the total number of establishments (for firms with paid employees) in the 2010 FactFinder research by the age of the owner that was identified in the 2007 SBO, and again we see older persons own more businesses. The total number of establishments (for firms with paid employees) in 2002 was 7,248,695; followed by 5,997,675 in 2007; and 7,396,628 in 2010. Since we want to forecast the number of businesses that might be on the market over the next 5 to 20 years we pulled out the businesses with paid employees that have owners who are 45 years old or older, as this is the age group that will be thinking about retiring. In 2010 the number of firms with employees that were owned by someone 45 or older was 5,177,640 (70% of the firms). And the number of businesses that were owned by someone 55 or older was 2,736,752 (37% of the firms). Several companies have tried to quantify how many business owners will want to sell their companies. We have seen several references to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers Trendsetter Barometer Survey of Business Owners that 51% were planning to sell their companies to other companies, 18% were planning on passing on the business to a family member, and 14% were planning on selling to their employees – a total of 83% of the owners that wanted to see their firms continue in business 9 . Grant Thornton predicted in 2010 that 29% of all businesses in the US would change hands over the next 10 years 10 . ROCG predicted in 2008 that between 34% and 55% of all US privately held companies would change hands between 2006 and 2016 11 . Seventy two percent of family business owners reported in 2007 they intended to pass their business on to the next generation, but that number fell to 55% in 2011 in the PwC Family Business Survey 12 . In order to generate a number that would be both defensible and traceable, SME Research LLC utilized behaviorial data (businesses currently in operation according to governmental data) over attitudinal data collected in surveys to forecast a reasonable number of businesses that might be for sale in the future. Considering the firms that are owned by someone 55 or older we have identified 2,736,752 firms. That number is adjusted by the percent that will likely want to sell their firm, either to another company or a new owner or family members. We estimated that at least half the owners would want to sell their business, and calculated at the three-fourths level as well in consideration of additional sellers that may enter the market in response to the impact of the recession. Using this algorithm we forecasted that the conservative 0 500,000 1,000,000 1,500,000 2,000,000 2,500,000 3,000,000 <25 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 # of Establishments 2002 # of Establishments 2007 # of Establishments 2010 1.3M to 2.0M For Sale = 50% to 75% 55+ 2,736,752 Total = 7,396,628
  3. 3. 3 number of boomer owned businesses that will be available for sale (their owners are 57 years old and older right now) in the next five to ten years to be between 1.36 and 2 million firms. If we expand the time horizon to 10 to 20 years the numbers are even more dramatic. For this analysis we identified the current business owners who were 45 or older in the 2010 American FactFinder Survey of Business Owners study and applied the same algorithm of 50% to 75% who will want to sell their business, which results in 2.5 to 3.8 million firms that could hit the market over the next 20 years. With such a large supply on the market there will surely be downward pressure on pricing and a potential consolidation in some industry sectors as existing businesses take advantage of the glut to grow by acquisition at very favorable prices. 1 http://blog.corporations4sale.com/2011/buying-a-business/more-businesses-for-sale-as-baby- boomers-retire/ 2 http://www.kauffman.org/research-and-policy/kiea-2012-infographic.aspx 3 http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/85.pdf 4 http://www.amazon.com/The-Trillion-Opportunity-Successful-Strategies/dp/0977602303 5 http://www.murphyfranchise.com/opportunity/industry 6 http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html 7 http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/county_business_patterns/cb12-115.html 8 http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/county_business_patterns/cb12-115.html 9 http://blog.globalbx.com/2008/09/23/baby-boomer-business-sellers-the-rush-to-the-exits-could- erode-company-valuations/ 10 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10658349 11 http://business-transition.com/article/time-running-out-boomers 12 http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/private-company-services/assets/pwc-family-business-survey- us-report-2010-11.pdf 2.5M to 3.8M For Sale = 50% to 75% 45+ 5,177,640 Total = 7,396,628

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