Brian McCoy’s first personal experience with a leadership transition at family-owned McCoy’s Building Supply was uncomfortably abrupt: When his father told him one Saturday that Brian would take over effective on Monday.
Brian has taken a much different path with regard to the next transition: When his daughter, Meagan McCoy Jones, will move next May into Brian’s CEO role, leaving Brian only the title of Chairman of McCoy’s Board of Directors. It’s a changeover that you could say goes back nearly 30 years, when a 10-year-old Meagan worked at McCoy’s as a receptionist. She and Brian have learned much about the process along the way, and on Sept. 14 they shared some of their discoveries during a session at the Lumbermen’s Association of Texas annual convention and expo. Here are their suggestions.
Practice “Courageous Communication”
Brian recalled a time before his father Emmett McCoy retired, when Brian proposed a workshop for managers. Emmett agreed, but said managers would have to use a vacation day to attend the workshop. Brian pushed back, eventually relenting because his father was still boss. But he added: “I told him I’ll be asking for the same thing next year.”
The key, Meagan and Brian said, is for family members engaged in a transition to speak openly and often to each other—just as one would want to see at any well-run business.
Engage the Executive Team
In 2012, Meagan joined McCoy’s executive team. Despite careful planning and the use of prepared remarks, Meagan says that she now sees the initial meeting didn’t go well. “I think we underestimated the succession journey,” she said, in part because while she clearly had a future as an executive, some non-McCoy members of the team became uncertain about their role in the coming years.
At any company, “You have people who identify with the company and with their job,” Brian said. “They need to be involved in the succession process. In succession, we think a lot about it being in the family, but it also affects others.”
Identify Your Lane
A multi-year transition often features a gradual shift in responsibilities over time. As this occurs, incoming and outgoing leaders need to identify who manages what and then stick to those duties. For instance, during Meagan’s time as chief operating officer, she managed the operating budget while Brian controlled capital expenditures.
Put It in Writing
“Making the time to get your paperwork squared away is never at the top of our list,” Meagan conceded. However, “You’ve got to spend the time to make sure the agreements say what you want them to say.”
And think years ahead, she added. Meagan and her brother are making decisions now that will affect their children. Brian credited his father with setting an ownership structure involving Brian, his brother, and sister that ultimately forced he and his brother to have lengthy discussions when challenges arose and the siblings disagreed about the company’s future. Ultimately, the family settled its differences and McCoy’s became a billion-dollar company.
“You cannot hurry family issues,” Brian said. “If you have to slow down something, then slow down with the ones who matter most.”
Stand Up and Cheer
While McCoy’s is just six years away from celebrating its 100th birthday, “success for my daughter is not the perpetuation of McCoy Corp.,” Brian said. And while there were lots of jokes about Brian becoming a babysitter to his grandchildren and the room full of books Brian wanted to read, he said that once he leaves the CEO’s office, he won’t stop helping. “One of the things I want to do until I breathe my last is to be an encourager,” he said.