As the Emerging Leaders Task Force (ELTF) of the International Association of Commercial Collectors (IACC) rolls out its first series of webinars intended to educate and train the next generation of business owners and leaders, current IACC leaders discuss their own plans for succession and offer advice to business owners planning their own leadership transitions.
“We saw two things happening at IACC,” said Bob Ingold, CEO of the Commercial Collection Corp. of NY and a member of IACC’s Board of Directors, in explaining the formation of the ELTF. Ingold also chairs the ELTF committee. “We saw all the same faces and we realized those faces were getting older.”
According to Ingold, who was a panelist at the recent IACC Annual Conference in Seattle for a presentation titled Managing Management Change, the IACC Board realized that within the collections industry there needed to be opportunities for employees who want to grow in the business and for business owners to have a resource to plan for their own business succession. In fact, Ingold commented that the presentation at the conference was a direct result of one of the first meetings of the ELTF.
“We recognized we needed to help groom the future leaders of our industry so we decided to take the lead and form the ELTF,” Ingold continued. “We wanted to provide those opportunities for emerging leaders to learn and grow.”
Since June, IACC has rolled out its first series of free webinars and seminars intended to provide those opportunities with titles such as Highest and Best Use of Your Time: What You Should Do, What You Should Delegate and When You Should Collaborate; How to Prepare with the Next Generation; and How to Deal with Millenials. The next part of the Task Force’s plan is to provide a development plan for emerging leaders.
According to Ingold, there are currently 25-30 members of the Task Force who were appointed by their bosses. “Leadership identifies people in their business as potential successors and appoints them to the ELTF,” he explained.
Ingold hired an independent company specializing in succession planning, that over the course of a year assisted him with his own transition process. First, Ingold met with the consultants to identify the skills he thought a successor should possess. After identifying three potential successors within the company, the consultants worked with them on those skill sets and taught them to work together. The three were given several projects to collaborate on, including developing a new budget process.
“I wanted to see how well they could work together,” commented Ingold. And if they could put the company’s interests ahead of their own.” For Ingold, the process of identifying his successor continues. “But all three of them are now on a path to ascension that could lead any of them to leadership positions.”
Ingold also appointed his potential successors to the IACC’s ELTF. “By allowing people from my company, and other companies, to join the ELTF,” explained Ingold, “it lets them get different perspectives that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Greg Cohen, president of IACC and president and CEO of Caine & Weiner, agrees, stating that technology has allowed people to attend conferences and meetings remotely, making it less frequent that peers and colleagues are meeting and relating to each other in person.
“The ELTF is a peer group of future leaders that can collaborate through the resources provided to them by the IACC,” Cohen elaborated. “It gives people – in an open and collaborative way – the chance to share challenges and opportunities.” Cohen has appointed one person – the only senior manager of his company – to the ELTF. “He’s already in a leadership role, and this broadens his scope of experience and enables him to create relationships with people in a similar circumstance,” Cohen explained.
Cohen has been planning for his own leadership transition similarly to Ingold’s method. After taking over and purchasing his company some 10 years ago following the passing of his business partner – an arrangement that had been set in motion 20 years prior through the signing of an official succession plan – Cohen hired a consultant to help him identify who would make up his 10-person leadership team and who would be his executive team of four. With those teams selected, Cohen is continuing the process of identifying his successor(s), who will ascend on Cohen’s 55th birthday next year.
According to Cohen, the key is in identifying the people who are best suited to lead the company in alignment with the culture and values that you’ve established. “You need to find the right individuals where the stakeholders – ownership, clients and employees – will view it as a natural transition,” explained Cohen.
Cohen also believes a business owner planning his or her succession should have a professional evaluation done on the business. “It’s like an MRI,” said Cohen. “It tells you what’s working and where there are opportunities for enhancement.
“Everyone has an inflated vision of what the value of their business actually is,” he explained.
Cohen also recommends, in addition to planning a transition around your own established target date, business leaders should consider the “hit by a bus” scenario. “Any owner should have a plan in place for what happens to the leadership of the company if you are unexpectedly hit by a bus,” Cohen explained. “Otherwise it puts your stakeholders at risk because clients could leave and employees could leave.
“You need to have a clearly delineated business plan and succession plan,” he advised.
Tim Wan, of IACC member company Smith, Carroad, Levy & Wan, agrees. Wan signed an agreement 10 years ago, and when his partner passed away last April it was categorically clear that Wan would take over the business. Wan also presented as part of the Managing Management Change panel at the conference in Seattle.
“The families and our employees were not blindsided by the transition,” said Wan. “You have to have that plan in place to maintain continuity. It could’ve been chaos, but I’m happy to say we haven’t lost one client.
“It’s an ideal scenario when everyone knows who will be taking over when the time comes,” Wan continued.
According to Ingold, it’s never too early to start planning. “You need to identify as early as possible, who are the people you want to invest the time and energy in who could take over for you. Who cares about the business as much as you do? You need that commitment from them. Then it’s your responsibility to invest in them.” he commented.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he concluded.
Jessica Hartmann has more than 18 years of association and collection experience, including managing communications, membership, events, and education and credentialing. She has led the International Association of Commercial Collectors as its executive director for the past two years, and had previously served IACC in other roles for more than a decade. With members throughout the U.S and in 25 other countries, IACC is the largest organization of commercial collection specialists in the world.