By Marco Santana

Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — Khanh Tran, owner of Saigon Market in Orlando, has been slinging summer rolls, dessert-filled bread buns and jackfruit for more than 25 years.

It can be grueling work, with Tran spending hours on his feet moving merchandise and walking the floor helping customers.

So Tran, 47, says he’s ready to sell his business.

“I just think we are ready to exit,” said Tran, who expects to retire in the next few years. “I want the free time.”

According to a recent SunTrust study, just 31 percent of business owners plan to pass down their businesses to a family member within the next five years, a trend driven, in part, by a growing number of baby boomers approaching retirement age.

Tran had initially been part of the group hoping to turn over his business to his children.

But he said he will try to sell the business instead.

“Eventually, if they want to do this, great,” Tran said. “But it’s not that old traditional thought where they have to be here.”

Family transitions in businesses come with a special set of challenges and advantages, experts say.

For instance, deeply ingrained personal rivalries can sometimes get in the way.

“There are certainly times when you feel like you need to be a therapist,” said Kenn Gluckman, a business law specialist at Moran, Kidd, Lyons, Johnson & Garcia in downtown Orlando. “But it’s mostly trying to be honest and upfront and bring up uncomfortable issues.”

These can include deaths in the family, or what happens in disagreements between a sibling appointed the president and another who is in sales.

“The more planning they have had over time, the better the transition,” Gluckman said. “If they are open and honest and good at communicating, it can be a fantastic opportunity.”

George Calfo, one of the leaders of SunTrust’s business transition advisory group, said discussion of how to pass on an enterprise should be top of mind for business owners.

“We have a growing population of people looking out over their work horizon, which five years ago seemed infinite,” said Calfo, who helped create the study of 500 business owners between the ages of 54 and 72 who generate between $5 million and $250 million of annual revenue. “A growing group of them seems to be saying that there is an end near.”

That along with a perfect storm of economic optimism has kept Calfo busy.

“We get unsolicited outreach from people (considering selling their business) at least once a week,” he said.

When Khanh Tran’s son, 21-year-old Stetson University senior Arthur Tran, was young, he says the prevailing thought was that he would one day take over his parents’ store.

However, as he grew older, he was enrolled in advanced classes at University High School in Winter Park.

Now, Arthur Tran is pursuing a business and music degree, with no plans to take over the store.

“They realize how much work it is,” the younger Tran said of his parents. “They realized that my brother (and I) have the opportunity to go to college and have a different kind of successful career that will not be as taxing on us.”

Arthur Tran has become something of a staple at the store on breaks from his studies of business and music.

In return, he says the store has helped him stay connected to his family’s culture. When it leaves the family, he is not sure how his parents will react.

“It will be bittersweet,” he said. “The store has been there my whole life. But I will be happy for my parents.”

Khanh Tran has not decided how he will sell the store. Initially, he says he will seek people from the community to see if there is any interest.

Saigon Marketplace has become something of a landmark in the Vietnamese neighborhood along Colonial Drive near Mills Avenue.

“We have been here so long, and our customers love us,” he said. “It’ll be tough to leave. But let’s go a few more years, get rid of the store, then relax.”