Succession Planning – Losing A Client

Succession planning, losing a great friend and client, and a leader’s legacy.

Duane Powell, President of Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing, died this month at the age of 68 of lung cancer. He never smoked.

Powell Fab called me back in 2000 and asked me if I could help. I suggested we spend a day together to find out more about their challenges and agreed to write a proposal if it made sense.

At the time, Powell Fab had about 45 employees. It was headquartered in a town of about 5,000 people: St. Louis, Michigan. St. Louis was the antithesis of Silicon Valley. I had to adapt my way of working with clients for them.

I ended up spending 9 months working with them implementing new operations infrastructure to bring them into the 21st century. A part numbering system, engineering change control process, an electronic document control system, a product development process for their highly-engineered products, an entire ERP system and essential business processes to run the business end-to-end.

I would travel to St. Louis for 2 weeks, return home for a long weekend and fly back to St. Louis. Every other Saturday, Duane and I would have lunch. And, we’d discuss his business. One of the things we spoke about was succession planning; having a mechanism to transfer ownership to his employees in the event of his unlikely death. He wanted his employees and customers to be secure after his passing.

Not all ideas get implemented. I’m happy to report that Duane did get a transition plan implemented; Powell Fab will survive his death. His succession planning secured his legacy with the people who depended on his business for their livelihood.

Everything a consultant does is for the client. What matters is how well change is adopted and persists. I returned to Powell Fab 5 years after my project concluded. Duane enthusiastically told me that everything I had helped them with was still in place and working well. He was very happy with our collaboration. That means the world to me.

I really enjoyed my time with Powell Fab. I’m delighted to have been able to make a difference for Duane and his team. And, I’m very sad that Duane passed too soon.

Thought for the week:

“The most precious resource on this earth is BIG DREAMERS! Dream Big and never be afraid to fail.” – @Naveen_Jain_CEO


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