Help wanted

Help wanted

How providing a little tutoring helped a Christmas shop owner succeed with a succession plan

As small business owners in Atlantic Canada age, having a formal succession plan in place so they can hand off their businesses and ease into retirement might not be at the top of their daily to-do lists.

A 2011 TD Waterhouse succession poll determined that was the case. The poll surveyed 609 small business owners in Canada and found only 24 per cent said they had a succession plan worked out for retirement. If you are one of those owners who never gets around to planning for succession, one way to entice someone to buy your business is to teach them how to run it before you head for the exit door.

That’s what happened to Dillon Carter (above right) when he bought the Glad Tidings Christmas Shoppe in St. Peter’s, Nova Scotia from founder Marion MacLeod-Stone in January of 2017. MacLeod-Stone had been trying to sell the business, which sells specialty Christmas decorations, without success. So on the last day of 2016, she finally closed the store after 24 years in business.

But Carter owns and operates a cafĂ© in the Cape Breton village and he loves Christmas. He decided Glad Tidings would be a good fit for his entrepreneurial streak. It didn’t hurt that MacLeod-Stone helped show him the ropes of running Glad Tidings after he bought it. “Marion helped with everything, from ordering to setting up the store,” Carter says. “There was not one aspect of the business she didn’t support me with. For someone willing to buy a business, I think that helps convince them if the current owner is willing to teach you how to run it.”

This situation is not unique to St. Peter’s. Carter says small businesses across Cape Breton are closing as Baby Boomers age and can’t find anyone to take over their companies. Glad Tidings has carved out a reputation as a go-to destination for Christmascrazed shoppers. Carter says people come from as far away as Toronto and Edmonton to shop at the store, and it would have been a blow to the village’s tourism industry if it had closed for good.

Carter’s decision to buy the business has prevented that from happening. He thinks if more owners are willing to tutor prospective buyers on the intricacies of how to run their businesses, it could go a long way to convincing buyers to take the plunge. “That way young people will step up and start taking over existing businesses,” he says.

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