Sellers Needed in Quebec

Sellers Needed in Quebec

by Cynthia A. Sheehan

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Quebec and Canada will soon face a shortage of entrepreneurs to take over the many businesses started by baby boomers in the 70s and 80s. Recent estimates state that, in the province of Quebec only, over 55,000 entrepreneurs will retire between now and 2018. In an effort to raise awareness and bring entrepreneurs and potential successors together, Le Journal Les Affaires is organizing conferences and workshops across the province. Their tour stopped in Quebec City and the south shore last week.

René Vézina, columnist for the paper and conference leader, is adamant: “The very survival of our province is at stake.” He argues that successful business transition planning is a major economic concern. Presenting many statistics to back his argument, he successfully convinces us that we need to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

The problem is that many aging entrepreneurs are not willing to plan their exit strategy just yet. I have spoken with many business transition specialists and although everyone agrees that there will be a shortage of potential successors, they are finding that identifying entrepreneurs willing to sell is the real challenge. As an example, the south shore workshop attracted only 7 or 8 entrepreneurs planning their succession, while over 20 potential successors were registered for the activity.

Many things may explain this counter-intuitive phenomenon. Firstly, business owners often fear the consequences of advertising the sale of their business. They are worried about how employees, suppliers and clients will react if they learn that the business will soon change hands. The other reason is that business owners are often very attached to their business and have defined their identity around it. In an interview with Le journal Les Affaires, Cora Tousiflou (of Cora Déjeuners) says that transferring her business to her son felt like “someone was ripping my heart out”.  So most owners put it off. The problem is that successful planning can take up to five years, and needs to be thought through. If owners wait until a few months before they are ready for retirement, they might jeopardise the survival of their business.

Efforts to encourage and support business owners in their succession planning are multiplying. The BDC dedicates an important part of its website to the issue and offers a guide for entrepreneurs (see Business Transition: The Entrepreneur’s Guide).  Quebec City also has a new Business Transition Center that aims to bring retiring business owners together with potential successors. Again, potential successors are more willing to voice their interest than retiring business owners.

Will we be able to bring both parties together or risk losing many of our provinces best businesses?

Upcoming entrepreneurial events:

Keep an eye out for results of the regional finals of the 13th Quebec Entrepreneurship Contest (April 27th, 2011).
Many inspiring new businesses and projects are competing for a chance to make it to the nationals (i.e. provincial).

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Cynthia A. Sheehan is an Entrepreneurship lecturer at Laval University and one of the owners of Ross & Sheehan inc.

Categories: Business, News

About Author

Cynthia A. Sheehan

Cynthia A. Sheehan grew up in a bilingual family in Quebec City. She teaches entrepreneurship and management at FSA Laval and is working on many projects including a book on entrepreneurship and the organisation of the TEDxQuébec. You can follow Cynthia on Twitter @SheehanCyn.