Planning for my future- Taking over the biz

Discussion in 'Professional Discussions' started by mitchgo, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. mitchgo

    mitchgo LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,491

    To make the point across- I want to pitch to my boss over this winter that I take over his position.. When he's ready to step down

    So as some of you may know.. I'm just a Tech.. @ 32 years old . I started out 12 years ago with basically not even knowing irrigation systems existed. I fell in love with this kind of work because of the sheer day to day randomness that comes with it along with and also a privatized business that opened my eyes to the freedom of the working world. Although every job I had before had was some type of leadership/small management position , the corporate world is a lie to our personalities and you are essentially forced to be this fake robot person. With my Job I love being my own person without fear of getting in trouble
    My determination , confidence, and enjoyment of the job has placed me in the position I have today. Through learning through others, trail and error.. classes ..certifications I've learned soo much .. Even today .. I reflect back often to Kiril's years worth of posts to his insane understanding of water hydraulics and plants and also Jim ( 1idejim) to his insane understanding of electricity and water . You two guys have helped me more then I can express... !

    I am essentially the forefront of the company and handle many responsibilities for large aspects of the company. With a client list of over 12k customers (7k concurrent year to year) and only about 10 employee's .. We are very busy. So we are talking now probably coming close to a multi million dollar business. For me.. At Age 32.. making over $80k a year fixing sprinkler heads with very little college and life experience before hand I'm very proud of myself. I am comfortable with my wage even though I still know I sell my self short.. There are 2 gentleman that have been working here for 5-7 years longer then me and both are a good 15 years older.. Yet I'm still the forefront and have much larger responsibilities them then. As good as they are.. They don't have the drive that I do.

    My boss is 56 (Maybe 57) .. I Really don't see him doing this longer then.. 5 years.. 10 years max. Currently he oversee's the office and the tech's -. With 3 office people (4 including him) and all of the tech's... along with every other nightmare aspect of being a business owner. He hasn't touched a shovel in years.. From time to time he has made subtle hints.. " We need to clone you.. eventually I want you in the office .. " By the time he likely retires I will be Late 30's or Early 40's .. PRIME AGE.

    Understandably running a business is completely different then to being a foreman and fixing sprinkler heads. I know this won't be a easy task

    Basically I want to provide the perfect pitch to him that really locks him in without doubt or uncertainty and that I am committed to doing this. I want him to think without any extra thought that I am the guy to do this.

    A few factors - along with my boss at some point retiring - our front running office lady is due to go soon too as she is 61. My Wife is HR/ Payroll/ Accountant for 400 people with about 1/4 Union, 1/4 on prevailing wage and the rest regular.. So basically she does a crazier version of our front running office lady except deal with less customers front end . Although my wife likes her job.. because of a few higher woman up in the chain and the drama that they provide ( CEO AND CONTROLLER) .. She will never climb up in the company even though she could easily do their positions. . I would like to consider her as a pitch to take over our front running office lady . Also we have our own proprietary software using SQL server with Visual Basic programming- we have our own programmer that is the same age of 56-57. Obviously he doesn't want to do this much longer... Who takes over? ….. My boss has a family... with a Straight A 19 year daughter in college and a funny 13 year old boy .. The wife is now out of the picture ( She took all his cash on hand the other year but luckily not a portion of the company!) As far as business wise - there are no other family members that are close to the company. I don't believe my boss has any intention passing the torch for his family to run the show.. Yet I believe he wants the ability to provide for them all.

    Luckily I have a few years here to get my ducks in a row. At the time of this pitch I don't believe I want to ask to buy out the company- not only do I not have the assets/cash to do so, I know my boss enough that he won't be willing. This pitch would be a position takeover with a large transitional period of time of me running the show entirely until I do take over fully ( meaning buy out .. many years later)... Items I am considering in the pitch to help solidify this idea .. 1) A Business Management Degree ( Easy...!!!!except for taxes but thank god I have my wife) 2) Basic certification of VB programming ( Annoying.. but easy enough) 3) Wife taking over main office responsibilities

    Anything else you think I should do? Any suggestions ? Sprinklers I am not concerned about. It's running a business.. That's a totally different job..

    I'm working on my speel . I'm still in the beginning works of it. Other then pitches I will have a lot of other things I will want to say about it too.
    hort101 likes this.
  2. ArTurf

    ArTurf LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Ark
    Messages: 5,972

    The next time he brings the subject up take the conversation further on a more serious note. Since this will be a gradual transition don't push too much too soon. Running a business is the hard part to me, doing the work is easier part. You seem confident, which is fine and good but don't be brash. What you learn and do will speak more than what you say.

    Seems as though this may be a huge company. Maybe a total buyout when the time comes may not be feasible but maybe a partnership with you gradually taking on more responsibility as he wants to spend less time at the biz
  3. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    That's a big irrigation company. As a small business owner reading your story I have two things that come to mind. You have 12 years of working experience in irrigation, you are basically a master installer, master tech and master foreman based on field experience and your level of expertise compared to 95% of people in the irrigation industry.

    The 1st thing I would tell you, if you were my employee, I would have been secretly sweating a little bit for a while. I would have long been anticipating the day where you came to me and said " Im going out on my own now." My point being, you have more leverage than you are probably even aware of. Your boss has a LOT of money & time invested in training and molding you into his ideal right hand man. The problem is, he is also probably well aware that his time is running out with you.

    Secondly, you don't have to stay with him or take over his company to keep a good relationship. You could always offer to start your own operation, carry all the insurances, licenses, etc and offer to be a sub for him allowing him to mark up your work and then you can start picking up your own base of customers outside of the work he is subbing to you. Granted, all referrals from him get billed through him so he gets his mark up and you aren't stealing his customers. In that process he could unload a lot of his burden and you could find your own business footing fairly quickly. I only mention starting your own operation because the transitional phase of taking over a business can be a nightmare and often times you could start your own operation and be booming by years end, while keeping a solid relationship with the existing company.
    hort101 likes this.
  4. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 24,064

    When I was about done with employee issues, I decided to sell, not because I was burned out on the biz, but I had NO ONE to take over my hand-built company. I offered my lead (who I trained) a chance to take over. He passed, saying, "I've built the finest irrigation systems in the world, but watching what you have had to go though for twenty years, I want NO part of it; you have no life other than sprinklers, and I want a life." He was right; something for Mitch to think about.
    GreenLight likes this.
  5. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,566

    Mitch, I’m also 32. I’ve only been doing irrigation since 2011, but I’ve owned my own business since 2000. It’s definitely difficult. It does take a certain kind of person to own their own, especially a large business. I’ve had people tell me they would never want to be a business owner because they see what I go through. But it has its perks, so it’s not all bad. My business partner and I bought out a company in 2014. Best move we ever made, but it only worked out as well as it did because the owner stayed on. He didn’t want to sell to a large company where his customers just become another number. He’s actually still with us today, just not full time.

    It’s crucial that your boss would stay on and make sure the transition goes smoothly. He knows the business. And I’m not talking months, I’d say at least a year, if not two or three. You are the best person to take it over. You’re young, you’re the lead tech, and you know all the accounts. That’s 80% of it. In my opinion this is the most important part.

    The conversation must be had. Who knows, maybe it will go smoothly, or maybe he already has other plans. I would prepare yourself to bring it up, but do not overdue it, feel him out and see where it goes.

    Financing it is the other question. It can be done. If I was you, I would structure it as a 5-7 year buyout with a company that large, a certain amount each year.
    mitchgo and hort101 like this.
  6. OP

    mitchgo LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,491

    Yes I agree. I would expect this to be a transitional period of time and working together for sometime. Infact that's how it's always been . When I first started bidding jobs we would do it together, after sometime I would do them and he would review the job on the install, after sometime he stopped all together and now I do it all. And the same thing for every other responsibility I have
  7. LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,687

    You don't need a sales pitch or a well thought out line.
    You and your Boss know each other pretty well after that many yrs.
    Just straight up ask him.
    "Hey Bob, if you ever decide to sell or retire, I am 100% interested in this business."
    He won't be offended, but it will make him start thinking about it.
  8. Mitty87

    Mitty87 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,374

    How much is this company which most likely profits a good amount above 6 figures actually going to be worth? It's gotta be worth well above a few hundred k if with all of the equipment etc. Do you really want to be jumping in to own such a big company? Why not start your own from nothing?
  9. OP

    mitchgo LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,491

    First off thank you for your insight

    For your first part I definitely agree. Over the years as helpers and Techs come and go it's obvious as a business owner to find a good loyal dedicated employee to rely on. I have personally seen multiple people start their own businesses in the midst of working for us and then leaving. Many would disagree with this- but I use to do side job installs by myself- There were times I would work 80+ hours a week and work 60 days straight between the real job and mixed side installs. Everyone would always ask- Why don't you run your own business? My answer has always been - ' I don't want to have that kind of responsibility ' . Well now as the years have passed by I am ready for that endeavor .

    For your second part - I probably wouldn't go that route for couple reasons. When I started there was just over 3k customer base( Not sure on concurrent customers) so since Ive been here the company size essentially has quadrupled. I have been a large role in that work. I could actually write up a couple pages on reasons but the biggest reasons : First I have been just so damn loyal to the company - As GOOD as I am with work - it took just as many BADS to get this far and he gave me the opportunity to do so- It's a level of respect for me. Second the personal work I have put into the company .. I just don't see starting new . Lastly is our software - as much as I wish I could share it with you guys.. It's freaking awesome . A personal program dedicated solely for irrigation, scheduling and running the internal side of the business- Our programmer recently told me there's over 250000 ines of code- and all this guy does all day is smoke pot and watch star trek . litteraly.. I'm not sure I could sidestep or backtrack from this program.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
    hort101 likes this.
  10. OP

    mitchgo LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,491

    If you read my response from greenlee I think that should answer most.

    Honestly If it's 100 people, 1,000 people and 10,000 people I truly don't feel differently or intimated by the numbers. To me that just sounds like delegation and proper management to the guys doing the actual jobs.

    You ask- why not start my own from nothing. I ask back- Why start with nothing when everything could be handed to me. I'm seizing the opportunity and taking advantage of the capabilities in front of me
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018

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