How to build a succession plan?


RCS Influencer Heidi Ellsworth says look within for a succession plan.

I come from a contracting family. My Dad was a general contractor and I grew up pouring concrete, painting and living within “in progress” renovations in many of my childhood homes.  As kids we were always working with our parents on projects. My dad was the first person I knew to have a phone in his car. Living and working in Central Oregon, meant a lot of travel to far off towns and it was the only way my dad could stay in touch.

Needless to say, there was always that thought in my dad’s head that one of his three kids would take over the business. We went off to college and slowly but surely all of us went in different directions from construction, with my siblings picking teaching as a career and myself working in the nonprofit world.

Dad was sad but went on to sell the business and take on his next career of ranching. Yes, he tried again to get us all involved in the ranch and we all checked it out but eventually, once again, we all went on with our chosen careers. Ironically, I moved from nonprofit to roofing.  Now, having worked in the roofing industry for close to 25 years, I wanted to share this story. Succession planning is not always about the kids or family. In fact, today it probably happens less than in the past. The ranch that I mentioned earlier actually was also purchased by a young couple with no relationship to us but love it.

What my dad did pass to me was the love of construction. I love architecture and the impact it has on our society. I also love working with contracting companies. So, although I did not go into my dad’s business, I did find my niche, sales and marketing in the roofing industry. I have helped my dad with his sales and marketing over the years, so we have had the joy of working together. In fact, he has been active in reading and contributing to recent books that Karen Edwards and I have written along with many articles.

From a child’s perspective, I recommend looking within yourself as a business owner and really looking at your children for where their talents lay. Do they have the same passion, talent or entrepreneurial spirit as you do? If not, the worst thing you can do is force them into the business and potentially hurt family relations. Take the time to look around at your current employees. They are there for a reason, they like roofing.  They most likely also have the passion, talent and entrepreneurial spirit that you see within yourself.

Having grown up in the trades, I was friends with many talented crafts men and women. Today, as I consult with businesses and individuals, I see within these companies a great potential for succession planning. Owners need to think about not just family but the family they have created.

On a last note, it is because of a succession minded entrepreneur that I am with Vickie Sharples looked to her roofing friends and offered me an opportunity to partner with her in 2015. It has been an amazing journey so far and although not a traditional succession plan, she took the next step to grow her business and I am so thankful that she looked at me.

Heidi Ellsworth is owner of HJE Consulting Group and a partner in See her full bio here.

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2 Responses to “How to build a succession plan?”

  1. Lefty1


    Well said very good article. I did not work with my Dad after the age 19. Started about 10. I started my own business at 25. Everything I saw him do from age 10-19 guided me in my own life and business. I do not know if he wanted us in the business. Never came up in conversations. When he was done he just closed the doors and walked home. Was not far 50 yards.


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