Most of those business owners worked elsewhere for several years, learning their craft and developing their own style before starting their own businesses. The furniture, millwork and cabinetry they created was gorgeous, and their businesses were successful. Sadly, most of them likely closed or will close after one generation. It was a rare thing when I saw the son or daughter of the owner working in the shop or office. In the five years I wrote about custom woodworking, I can only recall one instance where the son had taken over his father's business.
Fortunately, the meat industry has had much more luck when it comes to multi-generation businesses. I've spoken with many younger executives who told me how proud they are to carry on the family tradition and take the company to the next level. They also understand the practical aspect of family businesses, of course. At a time when jobs are scarce for college graduates, having a job with both security and upward mobility is a valuable thing.
Bringing on board the next generation of the family is one type of succession plan, but it is far from the only one. What if there is no next generation, or the children aren't interested in the meat industry? In that case, the owner needs to decide if the business will carry on under new, non-family ownership, or if it just closes up shop like many of the woodworkers I visited.
That was the dilemma faced by Wimmer's Meats. Located in West Point, Neb., Wimmer's is a sausage manufacturer with a family history that dates back to 1912. Earlier this year, the company was acquired by Land O'Frost.
"It related to age and interest of the family members,” CEO Dave Wimmer told the Fremont Tribune. “We've always been, as a family, proud of this business, but there aren't a lot of family members working in it anymore, or lining up to work in it, so we thought we best give some thought to succession, and this is really the end result of a succession process.”
Wimmer, 64, noted that the decision to sell was stressful for the family ownership group, but the sale allowed him to prepare for retirement knowing that his company's legacy, employees and products are in the hands of a well-respected and successful new owner. Really, whether the business is being turned over to a family member, a trusted employee or a third party, that is the goal of any good succession plan: that the business remains stable and continues to be successful under new leadership.