Micro enterprises and family businesses constitute by far the backbone of the European Economy and Society. Out of a total 20,4 million enterprises in Europe in 2012, 92% (i.e. over 18,7 million) are micro enterprises, which employ over 37 million people (≈29% of total European workforce) and create an aggregated turnover of over 1,2 trillion euros.
At the same time, family businesses are estimated to make up for more than 60% of total European companies, employing approximately 40% of the total European workforce and generating an aggregated turnover of over 1,0 trillion euros.
Apart from its pure economic dimensions, the importance of micro businesses and family businesses extends to a wide array of societal, cultural and environmental issues. A business transfer is understood as a transfer of ownership of an enterprise to another person or enterprise, resulting to the continuous existence and commercial activity of the enterprise. In most micro and many small & medium-sized companies, the transfer of ownership (or 50+% of shares) is coupled by the transfer of the management function.
Business transfers are often the result of pure economic considerations (e.g. changing markets, evolvement of competition, growth prospects, etc.). On the other hand, very small or family-owned businesses quite often change hands (or cease to exist) for more diverse reasons, such as personal decisions (retirement, change of profession, etc.) or even incidents affecting the entrepreneur.
It is estimated that each year, an average 450.000 businesses, employing over 2 million people (4,5 persons on average) change hands in Europe.
At the same time, it has been estimated that Europe is losing approximately 150,000 firms representing over 600,000 jobs each year, due exclusively to inefficiencies in business transfers.
It could be claimed that the smallest businesses are the most vulnerable to failed transfers. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as:
- they are often closely related to their owner’s skills and personality, which are not easily transferable,
- they comprise tangible assets of relatively small value, while the perceived value for the owner is much higher, since it often comprises a disproportionate emotional value,
- they are difficult to be identified and assessed by potential buyers, etc.
In this context, the need for business transfers to be supported and promoted by dedicated advisors has often been stressed.
However, the provision of adequate technical support by advisors within the context of business transfers has to meet several challenges, in particular with respect to the following issues:
- the interdisciplinary nature of business transfer issues, which require skills and expertise in various thematic areas,
- the small size of the companies to be transferred, which renders the employment of a large number of adequately trained advisors in all required thematic areas a non viable option,
- the limited visibility of such advisory services.
Taking the above into consideration, DANAE project aims at contributing to the creation of a – quantitatively and qualitatively – adequate pool of specialized advisors in business transfer issues, which will prospectively assist micro and small business transfers on a European level. DANAE project goals are expected to be achieved through a set of interconnected initiatives, namely:
- the design and development of a focused training and certification model for European business transfer advisors,
- the establishment of a European Centre of Excellence in business transfer,
- the execution of wide dissemination and awareness raising activities.