In this week’s Executive Corner, industry veteran Bill Weigel, founder and chairman of the company, shares his insights into Weigel’s succession plan. Of all the responsibilities convenience owners and operators share, preparing for the future is perhaps the most daunting.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Of all the responsibilities convenience owners and operators share, preparing for the future is perhaps the most daunting. Industry veteran Bill Weigel, founder and chairman of Weigel Stores Inc., explains how succession planning can be integrated into the company’s operational agenda.
Convenience Store Decisions (CSD): Why is succession planning important to ensure a business is well-placed to continue its goals and strategies?
Bill Weigel (BW): The family business is generally the largest asset in a senior family member’s estate. It can be the legacy of the senior family member. It is the asset that enables families to achieve their family mission statement and meet their family core values. The family business often employs younger generation family members who are dependent on the family business for the income needed to support their families. These younger generation family members have expectations of being able to continue to work in the business for many years.
At Weigel’s, we employ more than 900 non-family members. These employees and their families are counting on the continued success of Weigel’s to enable them to provide for their families’ needs.
CSD: Why is it important that succession planning be driven from the top down?
BW: The senior family member leaders usually are the most instrumental in creating or continuing the success of their company. They likely are the longest tenured employees. They have great knowledge of the c-store industry and its future.
They also have strong relationships with key vendors and suppliers and other industry members. In addition, they have earned the trust and respect of the employees of their company. They should be the ones mentoring future leaders, preparing them for new roles and responsibilities.
CSD: What are some steps that current leadership should take when identifying and developing high-potential employees to eventually assume key leadership roles?
BW: Every family business has its own unique culture. Successful family businesses have an employee workforce that embraces the company culture and its core values. The company culture and its core values will undergo changes over time. The future leaders of the company should embrace the company’s current culture and core values and not seek to make radical changes to them.
Current leadership should share their knowledge and experiences with these future leaders. Over time, the future leaders of the company should earn the trust and respect of its employees, key vendors, suppliers and other members of the c-store industry.
CSD: Skill gaps can derail even the most promising young executives. How does Weigel’s determine the training and development required to prepare members for advancement?
BW: Teamwork is key at Weigel’s. A regular topic of discussion among our senior management team is the leadership team of the future and the skill sets that will be needed for each leadership position. We have an organization chart for the future (next three-five years) that’s updated at least quarterly. The chart seeks to identify both new positions that will need to be filled in the future and the timeline to fill each, as well as positions that are expected to open up due to events such as retirement and the timeline to begin training someone to fill each position.
Weigel’s also has a strong outside board of advisors with diverse skill sets. At the quarterly board meetings, members of the management team—including future leaders—interact with the board on various topics. Weigel’s believes in promoting from within whenever possible. Promoting from within allows Weigel’s to train and develop its future leaders.
CSD: In closing, when establishing an effective succession plan, what is an important consideration convenience companies tend to overlook?
BW: Some c-store companies underestimate the breadth of a successful succession plan, its many component parts and the time it takes to implement it. Succession planning is an ongoing process. Great communication is essential for its success.
The three next-generation Weigel family members attend the quarterly board of advisors meetings. The Weigel family has semi-annual meetings in January and July where we work on our succession plan. The three next generation family members live in three different states. They also have a monthly conference call in those months without a board or family meeting.