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Succession Planning Can Be Emotional

Succession planning sounds simple, but is it? When it comes to selling, transferring, handing down to family or transitioning to an employee-owned company, the decisions on which direction to head can be filled with emotion.


Selling has its own hurdles: how to find a buyer and whether to use a broker or not to get fair market value is a start. And do you stay involved? Often it is a requirement of the sale from the buyer. Will the new owners carry on your business strategies and practices, or do you care once you sell? It is likely the emotions we feel at sale will surprise us, regardless of our reasons for selling.


I believe if you choose to keep it in the family, picking the best person(s) to drive the train can be by far the most emotional choice of any succession planning endeavor. We always hope the new leader will do as good or better a job than we did at advancing the company. (See the related article on page 24.)


Many owners choose Employee Stock Ownership Plans to ensure that vested employees with a common goal take the helm. Most of the time, this option entails reorganizing operating policies and stock options. For some who have counted on devoted employees as part of their success, the emotional decision to proceed with this route can be very satisfying—a feel-good moment. As good as it may feel, there will still be a shift in control and most likely a phase-out for the current owner until a buyout can be completed. It takes time.


No matter how you arrive at your decision regarding succession planning, you have chosen to start a new chapter in your life, and that in itself is how I believe one should start this process. Embrace where you have been, take what you have learned from it and carry on to live your best life!


The last few weeks (months, for some) have been a test for all of us trying to live our best lives as the coronavirus shut down businesses and changed the way we interact with each other. Those in charge have had to make difficult business decisions, and one that we made last month was to cancel AWCI’s Convention & Intex Expo in Las Vegas at the end of March.


In the weeks leading up to the convention, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic, several exhibitors changed to more restrictive travel policies for their employees, and attendees were weighing their options. In the end, we had no choice but to cancel the event. It was the right, safe, healthy thing to do.


Since then, AWCI has been in the process of refunding registrations to attendees and transferring exhibitors who plan to attend the 2021 convention and expo in New Orleans. We are also holding committee meetings remotely and have turned some of the education sessions that would have been presented at the convention into webinars. It’s not business as usual, but the staff at AWCI headquarters is following the rules set forth by medical experts and continuing to help AWCI members run successful businesses.

In addition to being 2019–2020 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Nancy Brinkerhoff is CEO and president of Ironwood Commercial Builders in Northern California.



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