Baby Boomer founders: searching for ways to combine value with values
We can't put the case for an ESOP exit any better than did Russ Hart, founder/CEO of Assay Arbor, profiled in the following Detroit Free Press article (https://www.freep.com/story/money/business/john-gallagher/2017/11/12/retirements-put-baby-boomer-owned-firms-risk-but-worker-ownership-can-help/844881001/).
As Hart said, “I am 67, pushing 68, and about a year ago I was sitting with my wife in a bar in Boston drinking Harpoon Ale and looked at the label and it said an ‘employee-owned’ brewery.“
Taking that as a hint, Hart found his way to the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE), a Detroit-based nonprofit that offers guidance to firms exploring employee ownership. With help from C2BE staffers, Hart set up a new entity for 14 of his workers to take ownership of Arbor Assays as of Jan. 1 of this year.
“My son is a pilot, my daughter is an attorney, and neither one of them wanted to take over this business,” Hart said. “The other typical option for a company like this is to sell it. And in almost all of the sales of companies like that, we’ve seen the employees tend to get laid off and the whole atmosphere of the company changes dramatically. We didn’t want to see that happen. So the idea of employee ownership seemed like a leap forward.”