Is Your Business Planning (ahead) For A Successful Transition?

Michael Besaw

Across the north country region, family business owners are debating their future, and determining how the business they’ve worked diligently to create, will transition after they retire – is it letting a younger family member take the reins, or having a business valuation to prepare for an open market sell, or maybe moving to an employee-owned model; these are the complicated decisions that business owners in the north country are trying to navigate.

The ‘Need for a Transition Strategy’ estimates that more than 10,000 businesses in the Adirondack north country are owned and operated by Baby Boomers, who are planning to retire in the next few years in what has been referred to as the “silver tsunami”. Closure of these businesses means loss of services and tremendous loss of employment. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of businesses nationally have an exit strategy planned. This is where the inspiration came from for the Adirondack North Country Association’s “Center For Businesses In Transition” (CBIT) — a collection of public, private and nonprofit partners working together to provide the training, resources, and connection to existing services to support a business in creating their transition strategy, as well as matchmaking services, in an effort to match the newer generation of aspiring entrepreneurs with a business already established in the north country.

How Community Liaisons for the CBIT are helping
Transition planning isn’t often mentioned when passing a business down to the next generation, whether it’s family members or exploring less traditional transition options such as employee ownership models. In the north country region, there are community liaisons in Ticonderoga County, Franklin County, Hamilton County, Lewis County, and St. Lawrence County who are making the effort to connect with transitioning businesses to help them understand the process and how to plan for it. These individuals have been chosen for their understanding of area business and involvement in their communities are part of their county Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Agency, or the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); ensuring the sharing of resources, information and objectives.

Workshops Planned for Transitioning Businesses and Entrepreneurs
A top priority of the CBIT is helping businesses connect the dots to the resources available for transitioning. To accomplish this goal, the CBIT is holding monthly workshops across the north country from April to August. Each workshop covers an element of transitioning planning or the process of purchasing a business, including “Business Transitions Overview: Where do you start?”, “Preparing to Sell Your Business”, “Transitioning to Worker Ownership”, “Intergenerational Family Transitions, Creative Solutions & Alternative Structures”, and “Entrepreneurs: Taking over an existing business”. Registration and the date/time for the workshops are available online at Series, or on the St. Lawrence County Chamber’s website

Using the latest technology, the workshops will also be live streamed at “Viewing Parties” to offer a level of convenience to both businesses and entrepreneurs who are unable to travel to workshops out of their county. Workshops will also be recorded so that interested business owners can view them at their convenience and as needed in the future.

The Real Deal
Transition planning can take up to five years, and it’s never too early to get started. North Country business owners looking to transition their operations to new owners or a new ownership model, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs looking to take over an existing business, can contact the Center at or 518-891-6200 for more information or to be connected with a community liaison in your county.

Let’s work together to keep businesses in the north country and continue to grow the beautiful region that we all love to live, work and play in!

Michael Besaw is a native of Massena, and the Assistant Director/CBIT Liaison of the St. Lawrence County Chamber.

20 Questions: Riding a high note

Michael ‘Scruffy’ Scriminger, left, percussionist for the Waydown Wailers, and David ‘Dave’ Parker, lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist, talk about the band’s growing success last month in Canton.

Michael ‘Scruffy’ Scriminger, left, percussionist for the Waydown Wailers, and David ‘Dave’ Parker, lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist, talk about the band’s growing success last month in Canton.

Waydown Wailers meld genres, chart a new course in music industry

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Small Business Startup: Polar Bear Hockey

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Don’t let a home base limit growth

Brooke James

Brooke James

Many north country entrepreneurs start a business in their home, whether it’s a hobby, a professional service or a mobile business that does not require Main Street or production space. Just because you are home-based, does not mean that your growth has to be limited.

Expand your distribution channels. If you are selling directly to customers, consider setting up intermediaries to resell your goods or services. Is there a gift shop, mechanic, restaurant, spa or florist that might be interested in selling your product or promoting your service? Can you partner with any of these businesses to create a package or an integrated referral system? Identify these potential clients (they may purchase directly or set up a consignment agreement), then craft your sales pitch and marketing materials to sell in bulk, deliver or ship. [Read more…]

Seeing Double: Twin brothers continue lifelong bond in business

Identical twins Eric J., left, and Ryan J. Vanderlan take a break from a job off Deer Run in the town of Watertown last month. The Lewis County twins launched their landscaping firm together while in college. In 2007, they incorporated as an LLC as N.V. Landscaping. Norm Johnston/NNY Business

Identical twin brothers Eric J. and Ryan J. Vanderlan graduated from the same high school, the same college and started a landscaping business together, complete with two dump trucks and two trailers.

Even more impressive, they’re still talking to each other.

“We’re pretty laid back,” said Eric, the “older” brother born 10 minutes before Ryan. “We even hang out sometimes on the weekends.” [Read more…]

Small Biz Startup – Old Garage Deli

Jaime Short, owner of Old Garage Deli on Route 11, holds the Thunderbird, a sandwich with turkey, ham, provolone, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. Photo by Justin Sorensen/NNY Business


Jaime L. Short, owner of Watertown’s newest though maybe most unexpected lunch spot, knew when it was time to go out on her own.

After working in kitchens and offices for local businesses for 20 years or more, it was time to start her own business. She’d worked for Dry Hill Ski Area for 16 years and spent last summer in the kitchen at the Crescent Bay Yacht Club, Chaumont. But when the former Ames Bros. Service Center left its longtime home on outer Washington Street vacant, her vision came to life. [Read more…]

Champion boxer starts club

Gordon N. Griffith paints the inside of the old Balmat school Tuesday at Route 812 and County Route 24. Mr. Griffith is turning the old school into a boxing and wrestling club. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago/Watertown Daily Times.

BALMAT — A two-time New York State Golden Gloves heavyweight champion is starting a boxing club in the former Balmat school.

“For a boxing gym, it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Gordon N. Griffith. “We’re close to being ready to open the club up.”

The club will be for anyone who wants to learn how to box or train. [Read more…]

Kingston entrepreneur shuttles Canadians to malls, airports

Shuttling Canadians across the border to malls and airports is a Kingston businessman’s ambition.

Shuttle Kingston, hatched by Dilip K. Ranchod three weeks ago, offers daily charter trips to the Salmon Run Mall and Destiny USA in Syracuse. The shuttle also offers trips to Hancock International Airport, Syracuse, and will soon make stops at Watertown International Airport. Northern New York residents may also use the service to travel to Kingston. [Read more…]

Reh Center honors Waddington businessman

Mark Scott, Waddington town supervisor and owner of Artworks Creperie, 2 Main St., Waddington, will receive Clarkson University’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award April 19 at the annual Entrepreneur Recognition Dinner. Photo by Jason Hunter/Watertown Daily Times.

WADDINGTON — From its walls peppered with paintings and watercolors by local artists, to its Black Forest crepe topped with chocolate mousse and maraschino cherries, Artworks Creperie, 2 Main St., has become a unique stop for travelers along Route 37.

Although owner Mark Scott is not an artist, he does recognize the importance of investing in local talent — be it the three employees who craft his crepes or the dozens of artists whose works line the walls of his restaurant and gallery. [Read more…]

Small Biz Startup: Massey Ranch

Shawn Massey holds jugs of his Massey Ranch maple syrup at his property in the town of Watertown. Photo by Amanda Morrison/NNY Business.


When Shawn E. Massey purchased approximately 220 acres on the Combs Road in the town of Watertown in 2009, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he turned it into something.

Given that he’s had entrepreneurial blood in his veins since birth, Mr. Massey, president of Massey’s Furniture Barn, Arsenal Street, Watertown, has a hard time sitting still.

After his house was built in 2009 on the property, Mr. Massey founded Massey Ranch, a hobby farm, you-pick pumpkin patch and maple syrup making operation, last year.

“It was humble beginnings and it’s all a labor of love,” Mr. Massey said about Massey Ranch. “I have all this land and I knew I wanted to do something with it to keep me busy but that would also be to the benefit of the community. The ranch does that.”


“Families and children, most definitely,” Mr. Massey said about his target customer.

Massey Ranch offers you-pick pumpkins in the late summer and fall months and tractor rides around the property, including a visit to the pond, which are aimed at bringing together families and getting them outdoors. A giant sand pile near the parking lot ensures that kids will go home just a little dirty from their day on the ranch.

“Another major customer is the soldiers and their families from Fort Drum,” Mr. Massey said. “They don’t always get to see the country and go for wagon rides. They are always overwhelmed by how much fun it is and they don’t have to go that far, or even pay a lot of money.”


As if running one of Watertown’s longest-standing locally owned furniture stores for more than 15 years wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Mr. Massey decided to fill his free time at Massey Ranch by constantly adding to it.

“When I bought the property I had a vision to do something there, but I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do was,” he said.So he built a hay barn and began a hay baling operation. Last year he baled more than 5,000 bales of horse hay, which he sold to local farmers. During last year’s maple syrup season he decided to tap 200 trees and see where it led him.

“My dad tapped trees when I was younger,” he said of his experience with maple syrup production. “I was small at the time but I remember there being a sugar shack and a turkey fryer that he’d use to try and make syrup.”

This year, Mr. Massey tapped more than 500 maple trees and built a sugar shanty on the property, opening just in time for Maple Weekend in March. In the future, he hopes to tap more than 700 trees.

“We sell the maple syrup in a little cottage we have on the property,” he said. During the maple season he also is offering Amish baked goods and other treats for sale, including honey harvested from his own bees on the ranch.

Continuing with the ranch’s evolution, Mr. Massey will turn his property into a year-round destination. He said he does it for the love of being outdoors and seeing families enjoying themselves.

“[The ranch] is my hobby, it’s what I enjoy doing,” he said. “I’m not in it for the money really, I charge for pumpkins during the you-pick season, but it’s nothing meant to make me rich. The Furniture Barn pays my bills and with [the ranch] I try to give back a little.”


Though one may think that Mr. Massey is content with his you-pick pumpkins, tractor tours, honey and maple syrup production and hay baling operations, he’s not.

“I planted grapes three years ago and should get my first harvest this year,” he said. “They take time to get established and grow. We will see how they mature, whether we turn them into wine or just sell a grape crop.”

This spring, Mr. Massey is planting 10 acres of raspberry plants as well, in hopes of having an offering of locally-grown fruits in coming years.

All of the excitement doesn’t reside only at Mr. Massey’s newest venture; there are some interesting plans in the works for his furniture business as well.

“[Massey’s Furniture Barn] is not going anywhere,” he said. “It’s been in business for more than 50 years and we’ve got some big plans coming up in the near future in terms of expansion. But I can’t talk about any of that yet.”

Kyle R. Hayes is associate editor of NNY Business. Contact him at 661-2381 or