Venture Connect launched in Hope

New service assists businesses with ownership transitions

Over the next 20 years, there will be unparalleled shortages of both business owners and employees resulting in the potential closures of large numbers of small businesses.  Hope is already experiencing the thin edge of this wedge – the recent Retail Market Study for Hope clearly outlined market gaps that remain unfilled in our area, despite attractive potential for new businesses.

Data from Community Futures indicates that one quarter of businesses in Hope plan to exit the business world in the next five years. This is not a surprising statistic, given the aging population of our province, and rural B.C. in general. However, ability for these businesses to transition to a new owner remains a concern:  provincially only six per cent of business owners have a written plan and 65 per cent of owners indicate they have no plan at all.

To help meet this challenge, Venture Connect, a new service available to Hope businesses, operates as an independent corporation to prepare business owners for transition in order to keep businesses in the community. A subsidiary of six Community Futures Corporations, Venture Connect also helps create transition and marketing documents, and works both independently and with real estate agents to provide exposure to attract potential buyers. It is supported by the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and BC’s Small Business Roundtable.

Hope is the only community in the Fraser Valley where this service is currently available.  Originally the program was designed to cover the Thompson Nicola and Okanagan regions, however due to Hope’s affiliation with Community Futures Sun Country, Venture Connect now includes Hope and the Fraser Canyon.

Our community, like all others, is in a symbiotic relationship with its local businesses – we need the services local ventures provide while those ventures in turn require the market our population affords. As a result, we celebrate with entrepreneurs when they succeed and share their worry when they struggle.

In a similar relationship, our community needs our local businesses to continue to provide the goods and services they offer, and existing business owners need a return on their investment as they plan to exit the market. Though the current buyers market has no end in sight, and the average time to sell a business continues to grow from 7.9 months in 2006 to over a year today, the selling price of a business often determines the health of the current owner’s retirement plan; a smooth transition is therefore critical to the community, the existing owner, and the new businessperson.

Venturematch is one of the innovative services that Venture Connect offers – think of it as eHarmony for business. Short quizzes work to best match available opportunities with potential buyers.

To learn more about the Venture Connect program, visit www.ventureconnect.ca.

The B.C. government will announce more details about the project shortly.

Related links will also appear on the AdvantageHOPE blog at www.AdvantageHOPE.ca.

Tyler Mattheis is executive director of AdvantageHOPE. He can be reached 604-860-0930 or tyler@advantagehope.ca.

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