After 23 years of operating her home-based business, chocolate-maker Catanna Glennen decided it was time to move on.
As a small-business owner, she’d given more thought over the years to keeping her clients happy and growing the business than selling it. At one point she had seven employees working to fulfill a contract with Rocky Mountain Railtours.
But a year ago she decided it was time to leave Kamloops and move to Alberta in order to be close to her children and grandchildren.
What’s the legacy of 23 years of hard work and goodwill worth? Not, much, as it turned out.
Personal Touch Chocolates, based out of Glennen’s home in Sahali, will sell off its commercial kitchen and equipment next month after completing several contracts.
Once the kitchen is sold off, Glennen will put her home up for sale.
She advertised the business on Internet-based Kijiji but received no viable offers.
Dan Sulz, executive director of Venture Kamloops, said the issue of successorship, as its known, is a big one for small business. And training a new generation to continue work started by retiring entrepreneurs is important.
“There’s a growing demand for people to buy small businesses. Small business will lead the province in the next 20 years.”
Often the owners of small businesses are more worried about growing their business rather than planning for the day they will retire or move on to other opportunities. Sulz said one of the best approaches is to bring prospective purchasers on as employees prior to a sale or to groom an employee to take over the firm.
City businesses looking to sell have the option of listing through ICX, the commercial side of the multiple-listing service for residential homes. Lawyers and accountants also are a venue for owners to sell businesses.
There is a new option in Kamloops. Byron McDonald, with Pacific Business Brokers, set up shop in the city this year. The company focuses on businesses where the sale price exceeds $100,000, meaning revenues upwards of $300,000 a year.
McDonald said confidentiality is key for business brokers, something many small businesses demand because putting the business up for sale may cause questions among employees.
In the Kamloops market, selling a business typically takes a year, McDonald said.
As a general rule, the broker said business owners should be planning to sell long before they have to. And he cautions that details in accounting or contracts can easily undo deals.
“Eighty per cent of businesses that receive accepted offers do not close because of due diligence… . You expose everything you do to the buyer and they can pull the pin at no risk.”
McDonald’s advice is to clean up accounting irregularities long before putting a business on the market.
Glennen said she has let some of her business lapse in the last several years, focusing on serving existing customers.
Personal Touch Chocolates focuses on custom and novelty products and was recognized as home-based business of the year in 1998.
The company is now down to a single employee, who is not able to take over the operation because she lacks the finances.
Another way for businesses to get the word out to prospective buyers is expected to arrive in the new year. Sulz said the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation will sponsor a database through regional economic development groups such as Venture Kamloops.
“We just want to post them up to keep these businesses open.”
For Glennen, the database will come too late.
“There is so much potential there,” she said of her disappointment in letting the company lapse.