Business succession: Who will run the business when the boomers leave?

Business succession: Who will run the business when the boomers leave?


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Claudia and Christoph Schommer ran a successful country brewery and restaurant in Körprich, Saarland, for fifteen years. For health reasons they now want to slow down. They have a renowned cuisine, regular customers and a very nice restaurant.

For two years they searched for successors, but in vain. Neither her daughters nor her long-time employees, who have been friends of hers for a long time, want to take on so much responsibility and accept the long work hours, especially on weekends. There is no other option but to close the beautiful place.

There is a risk of many closures

In fact, the problem of finding a successor is increasing throughout the country. According to current figures from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), 28 percent of companies seeking advice are considering closing. The main reason is the lack of a successor, far ahead of other problems such as high energy costs, bureaucracy or lack of qualified personnel.

For DIHK board member Ilja Nothnagel, this is a trend that has been going on for years and ultimately affects the entire society. “Every company that works well and that does not reach new hands is missing in the market, missing as an offer for consumers and clients and, if in doubt, also in the city center. If in doubt, it is also missing in an outlet weekend.” Consumers would feel this too.

Disadvantages for the Location of the company

Darius Nadery, who advises companies from the most diverse sectors on behalf of the Saarland Chamber of Crafts, believes the same based on his practical experience and fears that real bottlenecks will soon emerge. Because companies in the electrical engineering and plumbing, heating and air conditioning sectors support the energy transition. “Imagine that in the next few years half of the companies will not be transferred, that no successor will be found and that, in the worst case, jobs will be lost,” says Nadery. Of course, this has huge disadvantages for Germany as a business location.

At an independent car repair shop in Spiesen-Elversberg in the Saarland, things should not come to this point. It was for a younger employee on our own staff. It took the old and new bosses a full ten years to achieve a seamless transition. But the battle with the bank was long and hard. Because significantly increased interest rates have a huge impact on larger investment sums. Banks are also cautious as long as the economy appears shaky.

The search for a successor should begin on time

Günther Sprunck has been advising companies in Germany and Austria for decades. He often experiences internal reasons for a difficult or unsuccessful transition: investments are postponed, it is difficult to let go, or false hopes are placed on the next generation. Not all daughters and sons were born to be entrepreneurs just because their parents were self-employed. Even perfectly healthy companies could stumble, says the consultant. That’s why Günther Sprunck advises: The search for a qualified successor should begin no later than when the head of the company turns 55.

By contrast, the chances of interested young talent joining a perfectly functioning company rather than laboriously building a startup have rarely been as good as they are today. Government funding, for example through the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), has improved significantly in recent decades.

“There is a lack of recognition”

Sarna Rösser, former federal president of Young Entrepreneurs, thinks the same. The 36-year-old will take over her father’s concrete pipe factory and she has also invested in several startups. She calls for more education in schools and more support for personal initiative.

“On many levels, there is a lack of recognition towards employers, towards hard-working people, towards those who roll up their sleeves and take responsibility in these difficult times,” says Rösser. That is why he would like to see a change in the “mentality” of society: “That the businessman is not always the bad guy, not the villain of the crime scene, but that businessmen really do a lot for society and also for our country.” . “

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