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Selling Your Business? Be Inclusive!


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Generational diversity is alive and well in the workplace today. Though baby boomers and Gen-X employees may struggle to understand millennials, and vice versa, the number of generations in the workplace continues to grow as Gen-Z joins its older cohorts.

Many baby boomers, however, are on their way out.

They’re preparing for retirement and their next phase in life. For some, this simply means letting their supervisors know that they’re planning to retire. Some boomers, though, are business owners, and this adds an extra step in the retirement process—finding someone to buy the company.

This can be a stressful, and even an emotional, process. After all, most of these companies were start-ups or family-run businesses. Letting go of something that’s been yours for so many years is difficult. As difficult and exhausting as the process may be, it’s a necessary transition for many. In fact, due to the growing number of retirements and an improving economy, this has become a very popular time to sell a business. In Stacy Cowley’s New York Times article “Baby Boomers Ready to Sell Businesses to the Next Generation,” she says data reveals that “the number of small businesses listed for sale nationwide is at a six-year high.”

While many of those baby boomers selling businesses today are white men, when they do they’re often selling them to a wide array of individuals from diverse backgrounds. As Cowley tells us, 30-percent of business buyers are black, Asian or Hispanic. Additionally, “women are also more heavily represented in the younger generation. Nine percent of the buyers over 65 in the study were women, compared with more than 20 percent of those under 49.”

In other words, it’s time for us to recognize a new paradigm of business ownership—one that spans a wide range of ages, races and cultures. As business owners who may be on the verge of retiring, this is a call to be inclusive of all who might be interested in carrying on the legacy of their companies—and also a time to be alert to any potential unconscious biases they may have.

When selling a business, it may be tempting to choose a buyer who closely resembles your own background. In this increasingly heterogeneous economy, though, that may not be the best choice for the future success of the business. Keep an open mind to the opportunity to pass the torch to someone with a different background and frame of reference, potentially someone who most resembles the market they will be serving.

The workforce, and the marketplace, are far more diverse than they used to be, and that means it’s time to embrace diversity in business ownership. If you’re looking to sell your business, don’t fall into the trap of unconscious bias when considering bids—be inclusive!

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