Chris Cummings thought he had all of his boxes checked when it came to succession planning. The owner of The Paint Center in Abilene, Texas, had hired two younger employees, Kinsey Brown and Anthony Martinez, with the intention of grooming them to take over the business. He took over the business himself in 2004 after the previous general manager passed away from cancer and wanted to have a plan in place for his own succession.
Fast forward several months, and Cummings had to pivot from the original plan. Brown and Martinez still wanted to take over the business, but financially the numbers didn’t work. Cummings then turned to the market to sell and is currently working on finding a new buyer. Cummings says he sold Brown and Martinez a portion of the business so they could still reap some of the financial benefits of ownership when the business does sell.
“With their company shares they still have some skin in the game and can benefit financially whether they stay on with the new owners or move to something new,” Cummings says.
For Cummings, planning for his next steps started two years ahead of when he wanted to retire. His accountant has been a key player in his business transition plans, and Cummings says he’s also done online research and other reading to learn as much as he can about business transition.
“One of the things I learned early on was that if you want to sell your business, sell it when it’s making lots of money,” he says. “Second, sell when your business can run without you.”
Even though he won’t be able to sell to them directly, Cummings says taking Brown and Martinez under his wing and teaching them everything about the business has been beneficial during the selling process.
“To have a potential buyer that comes in and sees there are one or two employees who can keep the business running and running well, that becomes a big asset,” Cummings says. “It gives them the confidence to purchase the business and then learn the business from those employees.”
Through it all, Cummings says he has also learned to be patient and trust the process. He has talked with several buyers who looked like a good fit on paper but ended up not being the right option.
“You should be patient because it is going to take longer than you thought. When God is ready for me to be done, then I’ll be done. In the meantime, I’m just moving forward and keep being happy about it,” he says. “I’m in the best place in my life ever, working with two really wonderful people. We’re having a fabulous year again and so I have the best scenario right now.”