Robert Criner and his son, Paul.
I started Criner Remodeling in 1977, and today we have about a dozen employees, including my son Paul. Our 2019 revenue was close to $2 million, which is pretty typical for us.
When I was younger, I saw other family-owned companies hand the reins over to their children, who then ran the business into the ground. When I started thinking about retirement, I wanted to be very intentional in the way I passed the company over to Paul. It’s a different business today when I started, and how I learned things is not the way he needed to learn things. Here are a few tips for a successful transfer to family members.
1. Don’t turn the company over prematurely.
I don’t think the maturity is there for someone to run a business of this type in their early, or even mid, 20s. Anyone that age will also have trouble getting the respect of clients, and most homeowners don’t want to commit $100,000 to someone that young. I don’t believe people gain enough perspective until their late 20s or early 30s.
Spending time in the field working with subs was crucial to his development.
2. The future owner should move up through the ranks.
Paul started working for me ten years ago as a helper. He then became a carpenter, lead carpenter, and production manager. Spending time in the field working with subs was crucial to his development. After a few years he transitioned to sales and design, and did some estimating as well. Paul’s experience in a variety of roles will help him immeasurably.
3. Gaining the respect of colleagues is critical.
There are several people in the company who have been with us longer than Paul. Because he handled it well, and wasn’t just given things, Paul earned the respect of his colleagues. He needed to prove himself, and fight any perception that he was just being handed the company.
4. Allow the future owner to make mistakes.
By letting Paul take over day-to-day tasks, he was able to learn from any missteps. Paul has also been involved in the hiring process so he can build his own team. When we brought on a new production manager, Paul’s insight was critical. We wanted someone he could work with successfully, and so far, so good.
5. Plan for succession years in advance.
Preparing for our ownership transfer is a decade in the making. We are about two months away, and the process still isn’t done. Paul is doing a great on the sales side, our pipeline looks good, and he’s become an effective, trusted manager. But I’m still overseeing some aspects, including a majority of the financial stuff. It’s a process.
NAHB Remodelers represents the nearly 50,000 members of NAHB who are involved in the remodeling industry. Go to https://www.nahb.org/NAHB-Community/Councils/Remodelers.