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New program to help local businesses plan for ownership transition

November 5, 2017
Reinbeck Courier

"Every community has a business that they would hate see close, but often that happens in rural Iowa because succession planning was not part of the process," comments Dan Beenken from University of Northern Iowa Advance Iowa. "Owners are so busy taking care of the daily demands that the time to think about the long term transition of the business never happens or the owner doesn't want to face the realities of what that may look like," continues Beenken.

One of the roles UNI Advance Iowa plays is to bring information and resources to businesses as they grow and mature. "Life happens and illness or death can change business ownership quickly. Succession planning really should be a process and helps in times when unexpected life situations play a role. Options are more readily available when planning has started sooner vs. later," adds Beenken.

Studies show that 79% of business owners want to exit their business in the next 10 years, and 83% have not created a plan for their exit, whether it is to sell the business or transition to new owners, like family or longtime employees. These figures are exacerbated by the fact so many adult children have moved from Iowa's rural areas, where their parents may operate a business and do not have plans to return.

Recently Butler and Grundy counties received a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with businesses on succession planning. Butler-Grundy Development Alliance and University of Northern Iowa Advance Iowa will be working one-on-one with businesses looking to make a plan and hosting informational meetings.

Jeff Kolb, Director of Butler Grundy Development Alliance comments, "This is a great opportunity for any business, whether the next owner of the business will be the next generation in the family, or someone else, there is planning that needs to be started years in advance."

Dennis Hobson, owner of American Tool & Engineering Inc. in Greene for 25 years is an example of how business transition can happen between family with advance planning and conversation. Hobson initially gathered information from a variety of business seminars. Hobson comments, "I think everybody is unique, so they're going to have a different picture on how they want to see transition." The succession planning process involves gathering information along the way and developing a plan. The UNI Advance Iowa and Butler-Grundy Development Alliance informational meetings are designed to provide key information to start the process, ask questions, understand different scenarios and provide resources along the planning spectrum. Any business, no matter how large or small, at any stage is encouraged to attend and the goal is to take the mystique out of the succession planning process.

Kolb concludes that, "many communities have examples of integral businesses that have been lost to ownership retirement or life circumstance where there was not a succession plan. Now the business is gone, and we now wish that a conversation would have started seven to 10 years ago with those folks. There were options and ideas that may have helped them retire and the community keep the business. It is all about starting the conversation early so that all options can be explored."

There are no cost to attend the informational dinners, or for the assistance that is being provided. Advance registration for the session is appreciated, to accommodate the light meal that will be provided. Contact Jeff Kolb at (319) 267-2858 to register or for more information.

November, 5:30 PM to 7:15 PM

Community Center

Grundy Center

RSVP deadline Nov. 7

November 16, 5:30 PM to 7:15 PM

Community Center


RSVP deadline Nov. 14



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