Andy Kocemba, president of Calhoun Companies

Small business owners hold steady amid turmoil

The National Federation of Independent Businesses reported an increase in optimism among small business owners

By Kevyn Burger
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wall Street may have the jitters over the market’s recent downturn, but a check of the nation’s small businesses owners shows plenty of confidence in the economy from Main Street.

The National Federation of Independent Business takes the temperature of small business with regular surveys, and last month its optimism index measured a slight increase over the previous month. That uptick came even as stocks plunged and the Chinese economy slumped, an indication that small business owners aren’t feeling too rattled by the more dire headlines.

In Minnesota, business broker Andy Kocemba sees the value of small businesses continuing to grow. The president of Calhoun Companies, an Edina-based business brokerage, Kocemba connects buyers and sellers. He reports that his team saw a busy first half of the year, with an increase in the number of small businesses sold and a corresponding jump in the price of those local transactions.

“We had more deals, more volume,” he said. “I see business owners who are kind of indifferent to the ups and downs of the past few months. They made it through the turmoil of ’08 and ’09, the worst recession they’re likely to see in their lifetime, so this doesn’t rattle them much.”

Calhoun Companies closed deals totaling $20.5 million in the first two quarters, a significant increase over $13 million in sales in the same period in the previous year.

Kocemba anticipates that upward trend in transactions will continue with steady growth in the third quarter.

“We’re seeing more confidence this year. We’re selling more businesses and they’re larger deals,” he said. “We see businesses that are strong, they’ve come out of the recession with healthy financial statements and you can present them well. Buyers have confidence in what they’re purchasing.”

Calhoun Companies reports interest in health care companies, and business and professional services.

“We sold a translation service, a staffing company, a business that works corporations on wellness,” he says. “There’s a lot of interest in home health care and businesses that help with assisted living.”

Kocemba says most business owners who are selling are Baby Boomers, and the number one reason they give for getting out is to  retire. But Kocemba sees those retirements coming in a trickle, not a flood.   

“Some Baby Boomers lost money in the recession, so they’re not really ready to sell yet,” he said. “But we still see lots of  Boomers who are buying businesses. It’s not a rare occurrence to work with someone who took some time off and has gotten tired of playing golf.  They’ve been productive all their lives and they find out they’re not ready to slow down.”