3 Tips for Effective Succession Planning

An inside perspective on succession planning from a 4th-generation commercial painting company

As you face the daily challenges of leading and building your commercial painting company, developing a business exit strategy is probably the last thing on your mind. Keeping this longer-term perspective is crucial, however, looking down the road to the finish line so that you can make effective decisions along the way.

W.T. Kenney Co., an 80-year-old commercial painting company in New England, has navigated succession planning four times. Owner Tim Kenney (a CPIA Founding Member), was kind enough to share his perspectives on how and when to start your planning.


 3 Tips for Effective Succession Planning

Clarity Is Key

Especially as part of a large family (one of nine!), Kenney says they have had many family members involved in management over the years. Being a relative, however, does not automatically mean that the person is fit for company leadership. “Unfortunately,” Kenney says, “our succession planning has been nothing short of survival of the fittest!”

His best advice is to create a completely clear plan with “concrete timelines and expectations,” one that helps to avoid hard feelings and misunderstandings.

Kenney also recommends investing in the legal costs of preparing a formal, ironclad plan. “Spend the $10K and do it right. Hard feelings, schisms, and a boatload of misery will prevail if there are different understandings of the expectations.”

Formulate Your Timeline

As mentioned above, it’s important to build your exit strategy over time, but Kenney recommends dedicating at least 6-8 years to proactive succession planning prior to retirement.

This not only allows time for clear plans and communication, but also provides time for procuring funds to buy you out. And, he adds that “...this buyout may also include the principal left on the payroll, or having a company vehicle for years after the transition in order to afford the purchase.

Prepare Your Successor

When asked what best prepared him, Kenney said that his previous 25 years of industry experience helped equip him for the role. He also adds: “...and being keenly aware (afraid) of failure. Trying to learn from others' mistakes so I don’t make them myself. I'm also working on surrounding myself with proven leaders in our industry and others whose work ethic, knowledge of their industry, and solid work practices I respect. They say you’re a compilation of the five people you surround yourself with most often - so pick those people wisely!”

It’s never too early to start your plan, especially if yours is a family business where professional and personal relationships are intertwined.


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