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University of Minnesota Extension

Supporting business succession and transition

Communities, get ready for a wave of retirements

A silver tsunami of baby boomer retirements is sweeping the nation. Baby boomers are commonly defined as those born between 1946 and 1964.  By 2030, most of them will likely will be retired or considering when to take that step.

Rural, urban and suburban communities are especially concerned about retiring baby boomers who may or may not have a plan to sell their businesses. The health of small businesses is critical to local economies. They provide not only jobs but also important goods and services needed for quality of life. Of course, this issue is not only about baby boomers. Whether your exit is three years or three decades away, every business owner needs an exit strategy.

Beyond economic contributions, small businesses also play a crucial role in the civic and philanthropic life of communities. For small business owners in rural, urban and suburban areas, the community is not just where they conduct business, it may also be their home. The economic and civic structure of the community benefits from their success.

How can communities and business owners prepare?

Having a business succession and transition plan is important. To help you create a plan or move through the process, below are Extension courses, online educational resources, and some critical ways communities can support businesses.

Learn from Extension

Are you a business owner or co-owner, manager, key employee or family member? We offer an online course to prepare you for business transition and succession. View the available options below.


Find videos from our playlist grouped based on your potential business type, role or community need.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Virtual workshop for community leaders

Take Extension's virtual workshop to learn how your community can support business succession planning.  When done, you'll better understand business succession, what business owners need to know, and actions community leaders can take. Find materials — such as videos, slides and worksheets — to help you create a community business transition plan.

We offer this workshop free of charge. Choose to take it all at once or over time.

Start the workshop

Communities can offer critical support to businesses

In 2016, Extension studied how small rural communities will keep businesses as a massive generational transfer of ownership and leadership occurs. We conducted our research to help communities understand what they can do to help business transfer succeed.

Our research indicates communities can offer critical support to businesses before and after a transition.


Rural business ownership transitions study

To examine rural business transfers, compile lessons learned, and hear what businesses recommend to communities that want to support them, Extension identified 690 Greater Minnesota cities with a population under 7,500. Then, the study team identified 358 businesses in those cities that had transitioned to new owners between 2008 and 2012.

A total of 176 businesses (49 percent) responded to a survey that was designed to learn about the business transfer experience – the struggles, the most helpful resources and the current status of the business in rural communities. Seven businesses were selected for in-depth interviews.

The team also conducted a literature review and interviewed the leaders of rural business succession initiatives in four rural Minnesota and two North Dakota communities.

Read a summary of findings.

Consult with us

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Extension educators work in communities with partners throughout Minnesota. Contact us for consultation, guidance and conversation about your community.

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Reviewed in 2023

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