Most of us do a lot of complaining about the unemployment rate and the lack of job growth, but few of us have the power or inclination to do the one thing most likely to solve our problems: create new jobs. John Loewen, president and CEO of BatonUSA, Inc., however, actually acted on a brainstorm to save and create thousands of jobs -- and they have nothing to do with majorettes.
The "baton" in his business name refers to passing, not twirling. Back in April 2008, Loewen says that he read in Inc. magazine that nearly 10 million baby boomers will be inclined to sell their businesses in the next seven years -- he says that he saw that as "both an economic problem, and a solution."
He believes that the vast majority of baby boomers who plan on retiring will not be able to find buyers for their businesses. He sees them as having to simply liquidate their assets and close shop. Any remaining employees will just be out of luck, and have to look for new jobs. This could be a major problem, leaving millions out of work -- unless those retiring boomers set up an apprentice program.
That way, employees can learn the ropes, keep the company running, and provide additional funds for the retiree, eventually buying the company.
Loewen actually contacted a few state representatives in Washington about helping to set up mentorship programs with young people matched to Boomers, but they were strapped for funds and time. He complained to his wife, Diane, "If something isn't done soon to find buyers for these retiring boomers, tax revenues will be decreasing, increasing the deficits."
Her response? "Why don't you do something about it?"
So he did. Since he is an entrepreneur with expertise in the Merger and Acquisition industry, he came up with the idea of BatonUSA, with the tagline of "Passing the Baton ... One Generation to the Next." Its website describes his service as a "job site career placement for business ownership apprentice," and he says it helps both job seekers and business owners with "matching, mentoring, monitoring, mediating and managing service."
For the job seeker or potential business buyer, there's a fee of $50. It's a bit steeper for the business owner -- up to $2,250. For that, BatonUSA reviews company finances, does a business assessment of assets, sets up a buyout plan and finds potential and qualified purchasers.
"This is a great concept," says Valerie Bindell, a 62-year-old bakery owner who wants to retire in five years, but doesn't believe that she can get nearly as much for her business as she put into it. She was thinking about closing the place down and selling off her equipment, but she's worried about the employees who have been with her for years, some of them with families to support.
Loewen's site can help her find someone who's qualified and interested to learn the ropes, and eventually take her place and buy her out, if that's what she wants. Job seekers who would eventually like to own their own businesses can find an apprenticeship in a business that the owner is attempting to leave.
Of course, everything depends on competency, chemistry and trust between the business owner and the apprentice, and no one can predict that. But at least BatonUSA can bring two parties together who are interested in the same thing.
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