This is the third of four features honoring winners of Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence Awards. Special thanks to Title Sponsor MPS and WestRock for supporting Greenhouse Grower’sMedal of Excellence Awards.
Janeen Wright (Editor, Greenhouse Grower): What are two to three tips you can share with other growers for making the succession planning process smoother and preparing for the transition in leadership?
Bill Swanekamp, Owner, Kube-Pak: First, start training early. Consistent and constant training is the foundation of a successful business. The acquired knowledge of one generation is not transferred by mental telepathy to the next. It has to be conveyed by words and actions over a considerable period of time. If it is the goal of the current owners to pass the business to the next generation of family, the process has to start when the children are young.
Our children have so many other career opportunities that remaining in the greenhouse business can be relegated to a low priority. This is partly due to how difficult it is to be successful in our industry. One of our goals has to be to show the next generation that running a greenhouse business can be fun and rewarding. Yes, we have challenges that we cannot control, such as the weather and the shortage of labor, but learning to cope with these issues is part of the mental training we need to pass along.
Second, think through inheritance carefully. One major mistake I have seen other greenhouse businesses make is when one generation passes the family business to the next family generation, and the children that chose not to be in the business are given an inheritance in the next generation’s operation even though they do not work in the greenhouse. Typically, when the previous generation dies the children not in the business demand their inherited share in the business. This can be catastrophic to the family members that have worked for decades in the business as they try to settle the estate. Arrange for the previous generation to pass an inheritance to the children not in the business from their personal estate, separate from the greenhouse business.
Finally, hire a good lawyer. Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but it will be well worth it in the long run.