|Rod Sutton's Editorial Archives|
Remodelers, as with most entrepreneurs, often have children interested in the business. Some children have no interest, although that may change later in their lives. In either case, owners with children never stop thinking about succession.
For Jim Brielmaier, CGR, succession thinking started as a young man. He’s the second-generation owner of Michigan Building Specialties Inc. in Adrian, Mich. His father sold the company in 1978. "I have seven siblings," Brielmaier says, "and my dad wanted his four sons to take over. Three were involved [in the business.]" One brother moved to Florida, leaving Jim and his older brother. In 1981, after the two of them determined that their business philosophies were too different, Jim bought him out.
Brielmaier, in turn, has three children: Jasen, 26; Jamie, 24; and Dominic, 22. Jasen’s been interested from the beginning, Jim says. "It’s been part of his day-to-day life," he says. "He’s helped me even when he was young. Jamie’s desires were other places. Just recently she’s decided she loves working here.
"Dom really doesn’t want anything to do with it," Jim says. "He’s in Denver studying hi-tech."
The time for Jim to start thinking seriously about succession came five years ago, after his wife died of cancer. He began then to take himself out of the day-to-day operations.
"As I looked to prepare [to pass along the company], I started to take myself apart from the day-to-day." Jasen had worked during high school doing the typical jobs around the company: summer labor, roofing. In college, he took construction management courses, both on the building side and the business management side. For almost two years, Jasen served as the business manager for the company, handling all the software. Recently, Jim has moved Jasen "away from computers to the people," Jim says. He’s now selling, having trained his replacement in the business office. Jasen also serves as the company’s community liaison, serving as the vice president of the Humane Society, on civic boards, and becoming active in the local Home Builders Association.
Jasen continues to take courses, and he and Jim attend meetings at The Center for Family Business at the University of Toledo.
"Jasen’s been preparing to take over the company for a few years," Jim says. "Jasen was involved four years before Jamie."
Her goals centered around social work, Jim says, but during college she decided she liked the business. She worked in the office during the summers doing accounting data entry, and held similar jobs in other companies. For the past year she’s been working at the office manager.
Jim admits that it’s tough for siblings to work together, but says that Jamie’s comfortable with the two roles.
"One of the toughest things in a family business is to have siblings work together," Jim says. "Jamie knows that Jasen’s good and qualified."
For Jim, the preparation continues. But at this point, two of his children are poised and ready for taking over the reins when the time comes to hand them over.