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in San Francisco, CA


As business owners retire, we help keep these businesses

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San Francisco, CA

Employee ownership as a strategy for business retention

The city of San Francisco has a population of 884,000 and comprises the entire San Francisco County, CA. As the commercial, financial and cultural capital of Northern California, San Francisco is a critical city for the region’s small business economy.

San Francisco seeks to curb the effects of the Silver Tsunami

Small, locally owned businesses are essential to San Francisco’s local economy and community vitality. Among the challenges the city faces is keeping small businesses and the jobs they provide rooted in the community, as the Silver Tsunami – the retirement of baby boomer business owners – impacts San Francisco.

The city, with the support of San Francisco’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development and the San Francisco Small Business Development Center, is taking a proactive approach to assist locally owned businesses that are at risk of retention by partnering with Project Equity to help them learn about the option of employee ownership succession. The San Francisco Bay Area is already the home of many successful employee-owned businesses and California has, by far, the highest number of employee-owned businesses of any state in the US. 


The silent risk of the Silver Tsunami

Baby boomers (those born between 1946-1964) own nearly half of all businesses with employees in the San Francisco metro area. Cities and regions need to understand the risk of the so-called Silver Tsunami as these business owners retire. The risk is that these legacy businesses won’t be retained locally — either because they quietly close down, are sold to out of area buyers, or simply don’t have a succession plan as the owner marches into retirement.

San Francisco’s proactive approach

The city of San Francisco, CA is taking a very proactive look at this issue and is supporting local and employee ownership succession. The city has partnered with Project Equity to shine a light on the need for smart succession planning and to develop an effective strategy to engage with their legacy businesses.

Project Equity performed an analysis for San Francisco to quantify the number of privately-held companies with employees that are 20 years or older — a good indication that they need succession planning — and the impact if these businesses are not retained.

Companies that are 20 years old and over in San Francisco:
  • Represent almost 8,000 of the city’s businesses
  • Employ an estimated 100,000 individuals
  • Generate over $65B in revenue

Local ownership over the long-term

Keeping companies locally owned over the long term is a critical economic development strategy. Only 15 percent of businesses get passed onto the next generation because the kids aren’t interested in taking over their parent’s business. According to BizBuySell, the largest online marketplace for businesses, only 20 percent of businesses listed for sale ever sell. We clearly need more strategies for local business succession to avoid businesses inadvertently closing their doors due to lack of planning. The good news is employee ownership is viable for many companies, and it provides similar benefits to family ownership.

Employee ownership may be unfamiliar to many, but it keeps companies rooted in place, provides quality jobs and strengthens businesses for the long-term. It also offers a ready solution to the retiring business owner: there’s a buyer right there under your nose — the very employees who helped you build the company.

Local ownership is important to our region’s future. Let’s make sure the Silver Tsunami doesn’t put us at risk.

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