A study has been published outlining a generational opportunity to expand the number of employee owned businesses in the UK. The report, ‘Generation EO: The Great Employee Ownership Succession Opportunity’, quantifies the scale and impact of a potential ‘large wave’ of Baby Boomer business owners exiting their companies over the next decade. Centred on a survey of 500, retirement age small and medium sized enterprise (SME) owners, the study outlines how this scenario may unfold and in whose hand that shareholding might end up.

Led by Ownership at Work (OAW) in partnership with DJS Research, and supported by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the findings identify a risk to the UK economy of an unprecedented number of retirement age business owners looking to sell or divest their stakes, equating to 30,000 financially viable SMEs likely to close in the next 10 years. However the report outlines how this risk can be turned into an opportunity that could drive up national productivity, protect jobs, boost local economies and address inequality, by supporting business owners to choose employee ownership as a productive, sustainable succession option. Additionally, the study seeks to better understand levels of awareness of employee ownership compared to more typical exit routes, and how far this approach aligns with the priorities of owners looking to sell.

Part 2 of the report seeks to better understand the experience of an owner selling their business to their employees, via interviews with nine vendors who have done just that. Covering a range of businesses from a variety of sizes, sectors, employee ownership models, selling circumstances and regions across the UK, the report outlines the common learnings and observations from these interviews, as well as a full case study for each business.

OAW are grateful to the following funding contributors for supporting this research: