Ownership Transition Challenges
The Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) are the backbone of the western economies in more ways than one. In particular, the SMEs are the biggest contributor employing almost 70% and also creating 85% of new jobs in private sector in EU. These vital companies in Finland are also in constant demand for new owners due to various reasons, one of the biggest reason being ageing entrepreneurial owners and family driven ownership structures without clear succession options.
In Finland this ownership transfer challenge has been researched and studied extensively by group of national institutions from 2012 recurring every three years [A]. The latest research in 2021 provides once again an worrying insight in the ever more challenging situation of the ageing owners of SMEs. The pandemic has deteriorated the situation especially for the smallest companies employing only a handful of people [B].
The report itself and its findings are too large to be covered here in full, but we focus on the SMEs which are of interest to provide opportunities to greater extent in the economy e.g. potential companies for next stage development through transitioning ownership to new breed of entrepreneurial owners. Based on the research 44% of entrepreneurs are likely to sell their company to external entity, representing approximately 32.000 companies in the next ten years.
Many of these companies would provide a foundation for new jobs and value creation if transitioned in an orderly fashion to new owners or entrepreneurs. One of the repeated message across the board over the years has been poor preparedness and lack of proactive planning to transition an operationally sound and solid business before it is too late, letting momentum slide and attractiveness decreasing in the eyes of potential buyers.
Several reasons have been presented and solutions proposed, but in many occasions their owners hands simply are well and deeply tied to run and manage the business, leaving no time to explore and plan for the future. However, we believe that these entrepreneurs, family owners and their companies could be supported to find solutions and execute successful business transfers with fair value for both sellers and buyers. We wish to highlight the issue further and provide actionable thoughts on how to move forward on coming insights article soon during November 2021.
[A] Forum for Ownership Transfers; a program for research, promotion and advancing ownership transfers in SME market (“Omistajanvaihdosfoorumi”), managed by Suomen Yrittäjät and partnered with many national organisations e.g., Confederation of Finnish Industries, Finnvera, companies and financial institutions, and universities. More details available in Finnish on www.ov-foorumi.fi
[B] National Ownership Transfer Survey 2021 (“Valtakunnallinen omistajanvaihdobarometri 2021”) in Finland. More details on the survey and report available in Finnish on https://ov-foorumi.fi/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/ov_barometri2021.pdf