By Dani Delaini, ANCA Entrepreneurial Economy Program Director
On the first morning of the Small Communities. Big Opportunities. Conference, I braced myself.
I knew that my team and I would be speaking, making connections and moving from room to room — trying to ensure that all the materials and all the people would be in all the right places at all the right times. The mental and emotional energy needed — event logistics to unexpected hiccups to keeping names straight for over 180 conference attendees — is somewhere over and in between a rainbow of both terror and excitement.
I braced myself. I took deep breaths and centered myself in the fact that whatever nervousness I felt was likely mild compared to how some sellers showcasing their businesses that day must be feeling.
All of the community liaisons and partners who make up the Center for Businesses in Transition (CBIT) continually try to temper the expectations of owners looking to sell their businesses with the realities of transition timelines, buyers’ needs and current economic conditions. We know that they are unlikely to come away from any one event or program with a fully formed succession plan or even one viable successor. I, for one, do not like to be a purveyor of false hopes.
I could only imagine the pressure of wanting to make their businesses shine — businesses they have worked tirelessly to grow and maintain for years — in some cases, a lifetime. I thought about how that pressure is magnified at an event like this.
I also imagined some of the anxieties that folks looking to take over a business might have, showing up vulnerably and wholly to the event — putting themselves out there to say, “Hey, I think I could take over someone else’s legacy.”
I reminded myself that these people — business owners and aspiring business buyers — are the heart of this work. While I want the best possible outcomes for every single client with whom we work — all I (and the entire CBIT and event team) could do on that particular day is our best to be calm and supportive.
Little by little throughout the conference, I stopped worrying about whether there were enough pens on tables or whether speakers were close enough to the mic. Instead, I watched folks make meaningful connections during coffee and lunch breaks. I watched people laugh and commiserate during the matchmaking event. I watched them toast one another over a bad joke at Happy Hour. I watched people share pictures of their dogs with folks they had just met.
Sure, valuable information and tools are important and helpful as individuals make their way through a business transition. I believe the conference offered attendees lots of useful knowledge and resources. But I witnessed something even more valuable emerge at the Hotel Saranac over the course of three information-rich days: a kind of collective sigh of relief as business owners and those aspiring to be business owners — people who have been immersed in the details, stress and solitude of an important life transition — were able to share their experiences and feel less alone in the journey.
Watching people connect in this way throughout the conference, I stopped “bracing” myself for what needed to be done and what I hoped others would take away from the event. I was able to let go and embrace the humanity of it all.
Business ownership (like all of life) is a series of transitions. When we embrace opportunities that encourage mutual respect, open-minded learning, shared experiences and we center change as the constant it is — we step closer to realizing businesses and communities that are welcoming, supportive and full of hope for the future.
Want to learn about current business transition opportunities in the North Country? Check out the businesses that showcased at the 2023 Small Communities. Big Opportunities. Conference at ownanorthcountrybusiness.com.
Questions about the conference, CBIT or business transition opportunities can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to the 2023 Small Communities. Big Opportunities. Conference Sponsors:
And thank you to our CBIT Partners: