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Published on June 19, 2006

Succession plans are critical



AKRON (June 19, 2006) — Edouard Michelin's untimely death May 26 as a result of a boating accident was a tragedy for the company he led, his family and the tire industry.

But his death also serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of having a succession plan should the owner or leader of a business die unexpectedly or become incapacitated.

Many independent tire dealers, we suspect, have not given much thought to what would happen to their dealerships in the event they suddenly were not around to manage them. But they should.

Group Michelin had a succession plan in place. Within days of Mr. Michelin's death, Michel Rollier, co-managing partner of the firm, was installed as CEO in accordance with the company's bylaws—“ensuring,” as Michelin said in a statement, “continuity of the group's management.”

The result is that the company's operation has continued on seamlessly, even though the firm was rocked by the loss of its young CEO.

This continuity was evident at the Challenge Bibendum event near Paris, hosted by Michelin only two weeks after Mr. Michelin's death. The program, a pet project of Mr. Michelin's, went on as scheduled, dedicated to his memory.

The smoothness of the leadership transition at Michelin also provided its 130,000 employees worldwide a needed level of comfort, assuring them that their em-ployment will continue, the company remains viable and the leadership is in capable hands.

Mr. Michelin's death at age 42 also raises another point: No matter how young or old a company's chief executive is, a succession plan is essential.

At many dealerships the next generation is taking over, but sometimes family members don't have any interest in operating the business and carrying on the owner's legacy. This is another reason to develop a succession plan.

No one wants to think that something might happen to him or her prior to old age. But tragedies do occur, and it's crucial, even for a business with only a few employees, to have a plan in place.

That was the case late last year at Craft Tire Inc. in Uniontown, Pa., after owner Allen Craft died at age 55 when a large off-the-road tire accidentally fell on him.

Mr. Craft had a succession plan, which called for the establishment of a board of directors to oversee the business, with ownership going to his wife.

“We never missed a second with operations, and we continued working the day after (the accident),” said General Manager Glenn Heller.

A perfect example of why a succession plan is so important.


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