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Forging A Smooth Business Transition
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If McLemore’s succession planning symbolizes a situation where things can wait to unfold and Greenland was a man prepared to make a quick change, one might say that at 60, Dennis Richards is, like many, somewhere in the middle.
Shortly after graduating college in the early 1980s, Richards and his wife started cleaning the offices of attorneys. The couple quickly realized they could make good money in cleaning and soon founded Puritan Commercial Cleaning & Services, which has been operating in Montana ever since. As Richards approaches the ends of middle age, many of he and his wife’s contemporaries that entered the industry at the same time are retiring, but many don’t have the successors lined up — the kids want to be accountants, not janitors. He’s a bit more fortunate.
Puritan Cleaning had some growing pains early on, which some of Richards’ nine kids got to experience. That didn’t scare them off though — five of their sons are in the business today. The older children were involved in the carpet cleaning and even had their own accounts when they were teens, while all nine worked for the business in some capacity when they were in high school. All this hard work has given Richards several potential successors that not only want to be in the business, but know how to work in it, too.
“I’m fascinated that my kids want to be a part of it,” says Richards. “It wasn’t my intention. I encouraged them to try different things.”
Being that he has several children that not only love the industry, but were also groomed to take on a bigger role at a moment’s notice, Richards could have maybe left the situation alone a bit thinking everything would work itself out — the business will fall into good hands no matter what, right? But he didn’t.
Though still 10 years away from his planned retirement age, Richards says he realizes that anything could happen and as such, it behooves him (and all other BSCs) to plan as much as possible. After crafting a plan to make all the their kids shareholders, the Richards made it a priority to have a new leadership team established in the event of a change — either expected or unexpected.
“If I kick the bucket, who is going to pick up the baton?” he asks.
With both mortality and retirement in mind, Richards decided to begin ironing out a plan. Given the importance of solving the leadership details the Richards’ two oldest sons are being coached and continuing their education in preparation for their takeover as CEO and CFO in the event something unplanned occurs.
“I’ve seen too many people ignore reality,” says Richards.
Planning ahead for the transition doesn’t just help a company’s current and future ownership. If the employer chooses to disclose his or her succession plan, then employees get the luxury of knowing who will lead them if something happens.
The news also serves as a peace of mind for clients, too. Puritan Cleaning just finalized a large cleaning contract, something Richards thinks might have not been struck without the assurance that the company’s leadership is in good hands.
“I would say it’s a factor. Not a huge one, but a factor,” says Richards.
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