Internal transfer or sale? Succession experts weigh merits

SANTA ROSA – While developing an exit strategy is one of the classic issues facing all business owners, a wave of aging baby boomers has made succession planning a particularly high-profile concern for those in the North Bay and beyond.

[caption id="attachment_48813" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Jim Hurd of BKF and Tom Fraser of WRA"][/caption]

This January, the volume of that concern was made clear after a room of raised hands signaled “yes” to WRA Environmental President Tom Fraser’s question: Who here anticipates leaving their business in the next 10 years?

Moreover, asked Mr. Fraser and others at the North Bay Business Journal event titled, “Who will take over your business?,” was the question: Who among the region’s business owners have planned sufficiently for that transition?

The challenges of developing an exit strategy – especially during new economic realities – took center stage at the sixth-annual event.

Attendees heard two distinct case studies representing approaches to a leadership transition. In the first case, Mr. Fraser explained how he and others at the San Rafael-based environmental consulting firm took part in a gradual transition of ownership to employees.

“There’s a whole new energy and revitalization of the company,” Mr. Fraser said.

Contrasting that example was Greg Hurd, principal and vice president at BKF Engineers, who explained how the former Carlenzoli and Associates successfully merged with the larger firm in 2009.

“I was thinking about the employee reaction,” he said. “Did they really want to be at a small firm, or would they be OK being at a larger firm?”

[caption id="attachment_48814" align="alignright" width="315" caption="Jim Andersen, left, and Dick Abbey"][/caption]

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