Exit Strategies make sure your dream continues.
Editor’s Note: Too many business owners, including those in the material handling industry, simply prepare a will and think that their business succession planning efforts are completed. In reality, the will is a small part of what is required. A well-planned strategy will provide for not only your family’s security, but the security of your company as well.
MHEDA Member Edward Kossoy passed away on October 1, 2001. As President of Hodge Manufacturing Co., Inc. in Springfield, Massachusetts and Metal Made Manufacturing, Inc. in Reno, Nevada, he left his wife, Priscilla, not only grieving but responsible for the well-being of the companies that he had established.
Ed Kossoy took great pride in being a member of MHEDA. A year after his death, his wife shares with us a reality that all individually held companies can encounter.
If you are a typical owner of a closely held business, you probably do not have a formalized business plan should you die unexpectedly. Many business owners avoid planning for the day when they will not be able to manage their businesses. If your plan is to leave your business to your spouse, the question becomes: “How capable is he or she of picking up your dreams and continuing them?” We are not invincible. Life can, indeed, be fleeting. Few business owners have experienced the after-effect of a sudden departure from their company. From my experience, I can tell you about those after-effects.
My husband loved what he did for a living. Like many in business, his companies consumed all facets of his life. It was in his veins and in his blood. Often I’d find scraps of paper near his bedside, evidence of ideas for new product introductions occurring to him in the middle of the night. I learned to carry extra paper and pencils in order for him to capture a potential new product at a moment’s notice.
The custom manufacturing of work platforms, carts and trucks would never have interested me prior to our meeting and our marriage in September 1998. Like many wives, I became involved with his business without planning to be. It was a part of our lives. We traveled together to visit customers throughout the United States. I learned to appreciate and be amazed by the product manufactured by a team dedicated to creating product that met the needs of our customers. Still, during the past year I have regretted that I didn’t know more about the business.
Ed thought he was invincible. He was a strong man. We all thought he would bounce back from any illness. Still, he had (at least partially) laid the groundwork in preparation for leaving me with the companies he had devoted his life to. Soon after our relationship became serious, he introduced me to his accountant and attorney. Both fabulous individuals, he made it a point for me to get to know them, and they to know me. Ed knew that eventually they could become important to me. I never realized the extent of the roles they would play in my life today.
Fortunately, I came into my marriage with some understanding of business and how it works. The daughter of a steel company owner, I often worked in the office and later worked as an office manager. I also operated my own business as a licensed interior designer, routinely serving the needs of high-end residential and commercial clients. Still, I had never managed a factory.
During the past year, I have had to jump in with both feet, landing firmly on the ground and looking towards the future. I’ve leaned heavily on the company’s accountant and attorney, both trustees. I have grieved. I am still grieving.
My husband loved his company and his employees. As a result of his passing, I was left the company. I also inherited his dream and his love for both the business and his employees. During the past year, I have come to rely on the qualities that my husband and I both shared. He was, and I am today, determined and strong-willed.
During the past year, I have liquidated our company interests in Nevada, enabling me to focus on our operations in Springfield, Massachusetts. I’ve gained the in-depth knowledge required to successfully manage the company’s present and future. I can call each employee by name. I’ve also earned the trust of an experienced team that has made the company so successful for so many years.
When I first met Ed, he talked about the importance of dreams. I am living those dreams as I see the company he established prepare to launch a new product line. I am living those dreams as I see the bottom line of our material handling equipment business enhanced, benefiting from newly introduced operational efficiencies.
And I know that my husband is cheering us on.