First-person perspective on the mechanics of succession planning

My son, Eric, joined me in my business last April after being away from the business for five years, a development which has led to a change in the company’s succession plans. Eric is now on a 10-year management trainee program and I decided to interview him to see what it’s been like eight months into the experience.

What have you learned the past eight months? Just learning the ropes. Participating in strategic planning has been a great education. Market research and vendor relationship development has been eye opening. Our industry is always developing technologies to either improve quality or efficiency. Likewise, new markets are constantly emerging. It’s important to keep an eye on what others are doing in order to keep a competitive edge.

What has been the worst part? Prioritization. It becomes difficult to balance your day-to-day responsibilities, strategic goals and value-added side projects. I jumped in head first and found myself spread a mile wide and an inch deep. However, I realized that this doesn’t help the company. I needed to pull back and focus on my specific silos. I have plenty of time to learn the entire business as my career progresses. I need to take my time, so that I become a mile wide and a mile deep.

How have you been received by management? I’ve known many of our managers for more than a decade. I was worried that they would treat me as the kid they once knew. I quickly gained their trust when they saw what I could bring to the table. It took a few months to prove my passion, knowledge and work ethic.

How have you been received overall? I was afraid most people might be intimidated to work with me, specifically because I’m the boss’ son. However, the people that work with me every day look to me as a resource. I’m able to work with them as peers. I focus on practicing servant leadership and it’s helped me create strong relationships with my co-workers.

Where do you see the next step in training? I’m focused on design for manufacturing and accounting. With the direction that our estimating department is going, we will be able to automate steps needed for production control. I really do not want to leave this silo for a while. I am currently learning Visual Basic for Applications in my spare time. However, I need to work on sales. Ultimately, it’s our customers that put food on our tables. In the long run, sales training will be instrumental in growing our company.

My conclusion after eight months? Eric is making this a success because of his passion for the business. It’s not a job, it’s a career and fun. What is my biggest revelation at this point? Eric’s fresh approach to our business in 2018 is teaching me something new every day.

This is the third column in a series on building an effective succession planning strategy as a family business owner. Read the previous two at www.sbnonline.com and search Dolf Kahle.