Lehrer’s reluctance to depart made for some complicated workplace dynamics along with his designated successor, Art Grutt, who had come on board in 2006 with the understanding that he would take over 15 years later, when Lehrer turned 75.
“There was this uncertainty because Rick would still come into the office and be present, but what [was] his role … as founder and as figurehead without still being the owner?” Grutt mentioned.
Office employees would usually go to Lehrer with questions when in reality it was Grutt who was in cost.
More than a yr after his failed try, the pandemic introduced Lehrer’s journeys to the Manhattan workplace to a halt. Like many companies, Cambridge Life shifted to distant work and Lehrer needed to settle for his retirement.
“I don’t want to say he was hanging on, that sounds negative,” Grutt mentioned. “But the pandemic forced him to transition.”
Baby boomers, a bunch now between the ages of 57 and 76, make up a big share of entrepreneurs. While there are not any exact numbers, 30 % of enterprise house owners are between the ages of 55 and 64 and one other 20 % are over 65, in line with the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey — that’s greater than 2 million companies in complete.
Like Lehrer, many of those entrepreneurs have chosen to make exits previously yr, their choice to take action maybe accelerated by pandemic-related causes: dissatisfaction with distant work, fears of contracting the coronavirus and a larger appreciation for simply how fragile and valuable life is.
Overall, 50.3 % of U.S. adults 55 and older mentioned they had been out of the labor drive attributable to retirement within the third quarter of final yr, in line with a Pew Research Center evaluation of the newest official labor drive information. In the third quarter of 2019, earlier than the onset of the pandemic, 48.1 % of these adults had been retired.
“For the first time in well over 25 years, we see a marked decline in labor force participation of older Americans and a marked rise in the share of them that are retired,” mentioned Richard Fry, a labor economist with the Pew Research Center.
Lehrer was so tied to his job — one which over time typically saved him away from household due to lengthy hours — that he wanted exterior counsel to assist him grapple with retirement. He reached out to the U.S. Small Business Administration-supported nonprofit SCORE for recommendation. Through SCORE, Lehrer was assigned to a mentor named Norman Sherman, himself a retired baby boomer entrepreneur.
“He couldn’t pull the trigger,” Sherman mentioned of Lehrer. It’s a battle lots of Sherman’s boomer mentees face.
“The concept of giving up their business and giving up their identity is a very difficult thing to do,” Sherman mentioned.
Lehrer agreed. “I just was not prepared to cut it off,” he mentioned. “It felt very uncomfortable.”
The two labored collectively to develop a plan, and it appears to be working. Lehrer spent a fourth of the yr in Florida in 2020 and in 2021. He has picked up pickleball. When Sherman and Lehrer final met on-line for a mentor-mentee assembly in December 2021, Lehrer mentioned he had lastly come to phrases along with his retirement.
“We celebrated,” Sherman mentioned. “Then I said, ‘The first thing you need to do is give up your business email address, email account, because I need you to cut off all vestiges.’”
That last cutoff was not the toughest half, Lehrer mentioned. That’s partly as a result of, in opposition to Sherman’s recommendation, Lehrer has saved his Cambridge Life e mail tackle, which he now makes use of to do professional bono insurance coverage consulting.
The hardest half was giving up the 45-minute drive he made every day from Westchester, N.Y., to his workplace close to Madison Square Garden, Lehrer mentioned.
“What’s difficult is giving up leaving the home and going to work,” he mentioned. “That whole process of thinking about work on the way to work, of planning mentally your day.”
The new era of leaders stepping in is altering enterprise practices to go well with their very own work kinds and ethic, incorporating extra expertise and delegating duties quite than shouldering all of the workload the best way some baby boomers, identified for the lengthy hours they put in on the workplace, as soon as did.
Grutt has expanded the corporate and unfold the workload. When he joined Cambridge Life in 2006, the corporate introduced in about $500,000 in income per yr and had a employees of 4. Today the corporate brings in about $4 million in income and has a employees of 16. Grutt additionally introduced on a 3rd accomplice to assist with development.
“The reality for me was that it was not going to be a business where a solo entrepreneur could scale and succeed,” Grutt mentioned. He’s additionally upgraded the corporate’s expertise and IT system.
Once every week, Rick Lehrer and Art Grutt converse on the cellphone. For probably the most half, Grutt doesn’t ask Lehrer for recommendation.
“I kind of feel left out,” Lehrer says. “When I was 41 and was running my own business, I really didn’t want help from other people. I understand it intellectually.”
But Grutt says that by means of his calls with Lehrer, he will get one thing greater than recommendation. It’s a reminder of an ethos.
“It’s the passion that Rick had for the business. It’s an amazing energy and passion,” Grutt mentioned. “It’s something hard to replicate and yet it’s critical to replicate as the next owner takes the reins.”
In Lehrer’s case, his two youngsters weren’t considering taking on his enterprise, however boomers passing their household companies on to descendants face struggles much like that of Grutt and Lehrer.
Sarah Grossman joined her father’s enterprise, BayState Business Brokers in suburban Boston,13 years in the past with the information that sooner or later he would retire and he or she would take over. Her solely sibling, a brother, was not within the enterprise.
Five years in the past, she and her father, Marc Gudema, employed a household enterprise marketing consultant to assist develop a succession plan. The marketing consultant helped Gudema see how a lot worth Grossman was including and satisfied Gudema that she must be made co-owner. Still, when it got here to really retiring, Gudema, 73, didn’t set a date. This precipitated some rigidity between father and daughter.
“We struggled for several years,” Grossman mentioned. “I kind of knew the path I wanted, but he was not sure when his exit was going to be.”
When the pandemic hit, Grossman mentioned, Gudema stopped coming to the workplace as a result of his age put him at excessive threat for the virus. Months later, Gudema realized that he wished to retire and spend extra time touring and visiting household.
With lower than two months’ discover, Gudema introduced in November that he could be retiring on the finish of 2021. Grossman, an heir-in-waiting for years, discovered herself abruptly on the helm of BayState.
“At first I was nervous. We had six weeks to figure this out,” Grossman mentioned. “But he had set me up to be successful and we had been working together for a long time.”
Even now, father and daughter don’t see eye-to-eye on the explanations behind Gudema’s retirement.
“Was it covid? I don’t know, maybe,” Gudema mentioned. “Certainly the timing looks coincidental.”
Gudema says that retirement was imminent, pandemic or not. He wished to journey in his leisure car along with his spouse and take lengthy journeys, and spend extra time along with his son and grandchildren in Florida. Regardless of the place he’s, he makes himself accessible to Grossman when she wants him.
“I know he’s always a phone call away,” Grossman mentioned.
And Gudema nonetheless takes on purchasers at times, and works as a part-time worker for his daughter.