Succession Planning: Father, Son and the Leadership Journey
Studying the Cloud, And Earning Respect
CCB’s journey included multiple business evolutions. For instance, CCB was very familiar with Microsoft’s early cloud platform — dubbed BPOS, short for Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). It wasn’t very good, but studying the platform positioned CCB well for the cloud wave. When Microsoft launched BPOS’s successor — dubbed Office 365 — CCB was well-positioned to help customers with their buying decisions, Patrick Booth asserts.
Still, Patrick Booth also had to prove himself internally at CCB — where many of his positions didn’t report to his dad. “I had to earn the respect of colleagues,” says Patrick Booth. “I was Chris Booth’s kid and I needed to prove I wasn’t given an easy road to leadership.”
Instead of being distracted by Patrick Booth’s growing role, CCB as a company remained employee-and customer-focused. Each employee was vested into profit sharing within 90 days of hire. Instead of embracing a “sales mentality,” Chris Booth promoted a “serving” mentality.
“We tried to make our people feel valued from beginning,” recalls Chris Booth. “When everyone hit the wall in 2008 amid the U.S. financial crisis, we froze salaries, buckled up hard and we did not let anyone go. We managed to grow our business without having to let people go.”
2010 to Present: IT Services and Beyond
By about 2010, CCB pushed deep into services and grew to more than 50 employees — far more than Chris Booth ever anticipated.
“We were successful just selling product,” recalls Patrick Booth. “But when the cloud came onto the scene that’s when we knew we had to expand and add people. It was scary, sure, for my parents. Basically we were building a second company called services. And it was a startup that required people investment and tools investments.” Gradually, CCB’s services pushed into vertical markets like government, education and healthcare.
New challenges, tests and votes of confidence also surfaced from time to time. One example: Around the time Patrick Booth earned the president title in 2013, Chris Booth disappeared on an international cruise for a full month. “It allowed me to stand on my own two feet,” says Patrick Booth. “But even today he’s still CEO. That’s not my title. We’re getting closer to that point but nothing is being rushed. We have an agreement: I don’t want to show up one day to see a key and a note saying the business is mine.”
Steps for a Successful Plan
Among the succession planning tips that CEO Chris Booth offers:
1. “If you’re going to empower someone, never take the power back. I gave Patrick my office. I don’t have an office, though I still have a key to the building. I left intentionally so that he could feel in control. I had to trust he would do the right things. Even if he didn’t, that’s ok. Until you let go and have trust, it will never work.”
2. Communication style: Within the business, CEO Chris Booth only communicates with President Patrick Booth. “I funnel everything through him. That way the team knows he’s in charge.”
3. “Look out for Tripwires that essentially tell you — work on a transition plan.” They include:
- Age. At age 65, Chris Booth still had plenty of energy; he could still play 20 questions with employees and team leaders and still answer most of them. “But I knew what the right thing to do was. And Patrick was in his mid 30s. He had already succeeded as director, VP and executive VP.”
- M&A: If you get a surprise inquiry from a company that wants to buy your business and you don’t want to sell — then chances are you’re gonna need an internal succession plan to keep the business running for generations to come.
- Integrity: At some point, your successor will likely face a potential decision that could impact the business’s integrity. If the potential successor holds firm to the company’s business integrity, you know you’ve got the right candidate to potentially succeed you.
- Team: If your potential successor is smart and loyal with a healthy work ethic, intellect and integrity than you have a great candidate to lead the business.
- Commitment: Without a true commitment to your business, your employees and your customers, your potential success will be crushed by the responsibilities he or she faces.
“Business is about solving problems,” says CEO Chris Booth. “That’s all it is. Some people are afraid to solve problems. Afraid to make decisions. Patrick isn’t afraid.”
So What’s Next?
Of course, CCB Technology needs to focus on far more than succession planning. Patrick Booth continues to build and expand the company’s services and cloud businesses — which he sees as opportunities to protect his parents’ legacy.
CEO Chris Booth and President Patrick Booth have slightly different management styles. Patrick calls his dad a man with “great vision” who carried a lot of work on his shoulders. “He did really well but if we’re going to grow, his approach was too much for one person to carry,” Patrick Booth says.
With that reality in mind, Patrick Booth hires and surrounds himself with talented professionals across marketing, sales and more. The approach has allowed each team member to focus on their specific role. In addition to the executive team and multiple VPs, CCB Technology now has roughly nine or 10 directors across various departments.
And what advice does Patrick Booth offer to executives who are marching toward the CEO position as part of a succession plan? “The unknown can scare you,” he concedes. “When you encounter something you’re not sure about the first thing you should do is slow down — and don’t react. Take time to evaluate the situation and best option or strategy. People who are fearful often get paralyzed. Be ready to make decisions that are right for your company’s future.”
Speaking of the future, the leadership and potential ownership transition plan continues to unfold at CCB Technology. Chris Booth is now working with financial experts and a CPA to help shape potential ownership models for the future… He did not disclose if or when he plans to step down as CEO. And so, the father-son leadership journey — and gradual transition — continues.