National Protégé Enterprise is the multifaceted initiative focused on the looming and potentially monumental situation that exists in our nation and perhaps elsewhere in the world that involves the "Baby Boomer" generation, which is the incredible number of babies born in the United States directly following the end of World War II when the GI’s (soldiers) came home and wanted what they had fought and what many had died for; a house with a picket fence, a wife and a family, and they got just that in what became many many millions. Those "Baby Boomers" are now in their seventies and an interesting phenomenon is developing that could end up becoming a significant problem to many more millions of people beyond their own numbers if not to the country itself.
There are some 26.5 million small businesses in the US as we write this in 2018. As of 2014, when we started to develop this “initiative” that we are referring to as the National Protégé Enterprise, there were 1.5 million small businesses that were owned by “Baby Boomers” who were born in 1946, which is my age, and the average number of employees in those businesses was 20. That works out to some 30 million people who are or were working for companies whose owners are now looking at their next “big” birthday as being 75. Since 2014, there will have been a certain amount of shrinkage due to retirement or, worse, to death of some of those business owners.
If you ask the vast majority of those business owners what their “succession plan” entails, they will tell you that they plan to work until they die. Granted, some will actually retire and move to Florida and sell their business if it such a business, like a restaurant, that can be easily sold to someone who is pretty sure they can run it since they “know” restaurants having eaten in them all their lives. But, many businesses need some one who really knows the business before it can be sold. There may be a few businesses that get “sold” to the employees of the business, which are known as employee stock ownership plans or ESOPs but they are extremely rare.
What mostly happens is the small businesses owned by these old “guys” is that, for one reason or another, the business ends, everything gets sold at auction and the 17 or 34 or whatever number of employees loose their jobs. That is really not right when you think about it. You might ask why the owners kids don’t take over the business. There are, of course, instances where they do. But, it is not as common as one would think. The owner’s kids become a CPA or a podiatrist and the chance they want to go into dad’s or mom’s business is just about nil.
But, there is a way to break this downward spiral that is happening more and more frequently as the “Baby Boomers” age. The National Protégé Enterprise is designed to help small business owners do well while doing good. National Protégé Enterprise will work in the way of a “dating service” with the object being “old person with successful small business that is making money want to meet talented and willing younger person with entrepreneurial leanings – object get them to meet and then to get their own lawyers to work out the succession plan details and to support the transference with services that will save the businesses money and help facilitate the successful retirement of the now former small business owner, who leaves behind a legacy in the form of his or her business that is still extant, and helps launch the new small business owner, whose first task will hopefully be to put in place a durable succession plan for the small business so as not to allow the same situation to occur again.
There will be some businesses that will lend themselves to a special way of being continued or that will not use the services of a protégé as such. This is the beginning of another instance where a small business owner can do well by doing good. Such businesses that fit the mold where they could be run by graduate students in schools of business and by undergraduate students majoring in various fields of endeavor could be donated to the foundation that we will be establishing. The small business owners will designate their business as a “charitable remainder trust” which will be then run by the foundation that will place graduate business students in key positions such president, chief financial officer, and the like, first under the tutelage of the original owner and then, hopefully, in perpetuity, by such students. Can you imagine how wonderful it would look on the resume of a recent recipient of an MBA degree that they had served for a year or two a the CEO of a real company that has been in business for some 30 plus years? It would be absolutely amazing. Undergraduate students in accounting would have jobs that work into their school schedules that give them real life accounting experience in a real life company. A graphic arts student might work in logo development in just the right kind of company.
On the other side of the same coin, the original “Baby Boomer” owners of businesses donated to the foundation as “charitable remainder trusts” would be able to retire and be paid the profits generated by their "former" companies until the demise of the owner and of the owner’s spouse after which the profits would go to the foundation and used to foster certain good works as that of running the donated small businesses and other programs that might be offered in the schools in the neighborhood from which the students who work in the small businesses might come.
One such worthwhile program or entity that will be supported by the National Protégé Enterprise would be one created as the third part of the National Protégé Enterprise and which we are currently referring to as the "Renaissance Man Resource Center." This will be a free service provided to anyone in the community who might be referred to as a “Renaissance Man” or a “Renaissance Person,” who is an artist, musician, composer, inventor, scientist, writer, or creator of almost any type from whose creativity might well come the kind of results that benefits all of mankind.
The story we tell that motivated us to form the Renaissance Man Resource Center is of Harold Kopf, may his memory be for a blessing, who invented the Gard-Rite Window Guards and for which he was awarded the Lewis and Conger Safety Award in 1950. He was spurred to develop this invention when his son Drew Kopf at the age of 18 moths or so climbed up on some bed cloths that had been draped and piled up on a window sill by Drew’s mother Shirley Kopf, may her memory be for a blessing. He was saved from falling out of the window by Shirley who then called Harold and told him that if he did not come up with a way of installing window guards in their windows that their little Drew would kill himself by falling out of one of their windows. Landlords were not required to install window guards in apartments rented to families with young children until 1976, 30 years after little Drew had been born. The installation of window guards invariably involved drilling holes in the window frames, which would eventually require that those window elements be replaced. Harold’s Gard-Rite Window Guard did not require screws. It sold like crazy for a while in some pretty big retail stores like Bloomingdales in New York City. But, Harold was in his early twenties and was nowhere near a trained or experienced businessman. So, rapidly he became in need of help in running his business. There was nowhere to turn for such help. The Kopfs lived a few blocks away from Yeshiva University where, even in those days, there may have been someone who cold have guided him as to what to do to control his business more effectively. But, such services did not exist. He turned to hisparents who directed him to a distant cousin who apparently partnered with Harold and who in too short a time drove the fledgling business out of business.
The fact that the financial success that might have set him and his family up nicely for the rest of their lives, the lives of his children and even of their grandchildren was lost is certainly sad. But, the far more profound sadness is the tens of thousands of young children who were severely injured or who died from having fallen out of windows over the many years since Harold Kopf’s Gard-Rite Window Guard company failed because he could not find the guidance he needed to run his fledgling business effectively, which would have allowed his brilliant invention to find its way to the millions of homes of families who needed it. According to the American Medical Association there is still an average of 5,200 children who fall out of windows every year even with laws in place that require landlords to provide window guards to renters of apartments who haveyoung children. If the Renaissance Man Resource Center had been available to Harold Kopf when he needed the assistance and guidance it might have offered, untold numbers of children might have been saved form such a terrible end.