Helping local businesses make a change

By Jacob Wiegand, @JacobWiegand_DE

Changing ownership of a business can be a very difficult process.

However, there are a number of steps business owners can take to help make the process a smoother one, one of those being a transition workshop Aug. 11.

The Transition Planning Workshop, sponsored by the Office of Economic and Regional Development and its Small Business Development Center and International Trade Canter, will offer tools and resources to help family-owned businesses and other enterprises with transitioning management to a new generation.


Steve Barnhart, business transition adviser for the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, will be a guest speaker at the workshop. Barnhart was a general manager for a food processor for eight years, where he received assistance from the center on several projects that helped advance the business. After seeing how beneficial outside assistance can be, Barnhart was inspired to do the same for others in his current role, according to a university press release.

“Historically, there has been the understanding that when a family member doesn’t retire from their company that usually their children or next generation will take over the company.” said Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade at the Office of Economic and Regional Development. “But, with our younger generations right now we’re finding that it’s not true.”

Laur Russell said many people who would be in line to succeed their parents are not interested in running the family business and may already have jobs or interests taking them elsewhere.

“From an economic development point-of-view, that really worries us,” Laur Russell said.

She said people who are unable to find someone trustworthy enough to take over their company are instead wanting to sell it, but often valuing the company at more than it is worth. And in cases where these companies do not sell, they are closing. Too much of this over time will dramatically affect the local economy.

“Give yourself enough time to start the planning process soon enough,” Barnhart said.

He said the sooner you start the planning process before there is to be a transition, the more likely you are to be successful with the transition.


Aspects of the process such as a buy and sell agreement, succession planning, insurance and other pieces to the puzzle are very important when it comes to transitions, Barnhart said.

He said the process can often involve difficult and uncomfortable conversations and, therefore, getting a third party involved to help navigate those conversations is a good idea.

“In general terms, small business in Carbondale is doing quite well,” Les O’Dell, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, said.

He said Carbondale continues to be the retail capital of southern Illinois, especially during the academic year when students provide a big boost to retailers.

“These transition workshops are a great resource for business owners and for you folks that will be taking the reins of those businesses,” O’Dell said.

The transition workshop is at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at 1740 Innovation Drive in Carbondale. The event is free, but registration is required by Aug. 5. To register for the event, call 618-453-4042 or go to

Attendees can also schedule a 15 minute consultation with a Family Business Advisor following the workshop. However, consultations must be scheduled in advance by calling 618-453-4042.

Other resources are available through the Illinois Small Business Development Center such as the Starting a Business in Illinois class, which is offered once a month and covers how to operate a business in a generic sense. 

The next class will be 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 13 also at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Center. Pre-registration is required in order to attend. To sign up, visit, call 618-536-2424 or email [email protected]