No company’s succession plan is complete without life insurance, a will, a living will, and an estate plan, said Kevin Kennedy, the executive vice president of Evans Roofing Co., Elmira, N.Y.
Kennedy looked back at his company’s history and offered keys to implementing a successful succession plan. He said Evans Roofing started its current succession plan in 1986, but the company has undergone four major successions since 1946. “It’s not a single event,” Kennedy said of succession planning. “It’s part of our culture.”
Kennedy said training, coaching, identifying leadership potential, promoting, mentoring and awarding stock ownership are some of the essential details to be aware of in any succession plan. “The key is to focus on the company’s people,” he said.
“Remember, all the money comes from the company,” Kennedy said. “As a team, leave egos at the door. The success of the company is more important than the individual. It’s all about the future of the company, not the sellers.”
Kennedy said a succession plan starts early, and it must be legal and flexible. “Legal documents define the plan and the dollars,” he said. “It protects the individuals and company.” Kennedy said to expect emotion to be a factor when planning the succession of a company. “Owners will have an emotional withdrawal,” he said. “You move from owner-managers to owner-investors. It’s tough to give up control.”
In the case of Evans Roofing, four presidents have led the company. In 1946, Charles F. Evans was president, and in 1964, Richard H. Evans took the helm. In 1995, Phillip McKinney became president, and in 2007, William Fischer was named to the position.
Kennedy, who was hired in 1980 with no hands-on roofing experience, was a teacher, coach and community volunteer prior to joining Evans Roofing. By 1986, Kennedy was part of a succession team consisting of three new stockholders and two seasoned managers. The company established its three pillars of concentration: safety, quality and customer satisfaction, and this renewed focus helped drive the company and paved the way for the next group of leaders to take charge of the company as executives prepared for retirement.
Kennedy is planning to retire in 2008. “My job is to coach and mentor, not to tell them what to do,” said of his current role. “Before becoming a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.”