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Small Business Digest


Succession Planning Requires Thought, Consensus, Incumbent Approval

What happens when a company’s founder, the person for whom the company is named, passes away?  Does the company spiral out of control and disappear? Whether or not the company survives has a lot do to with the team in place and their preparedness.  Do they have good plan to help the company rebrand itself and continue to thrive?  It's a question that companies both large and small face.

Art Ginsburg, aka Mr. Food, passed away in November 2012, leaving a successful franchise of nationally syndicated TV segments, a continuing series of cookbooks, and a vibrant, growing recipe website.  Howard Rosenthal, now “Chief Food Officer”, says “that the company had begun to transition in the year prior to Ginsburg’s passing, and today, has rebranded itself as the Mr. Food Test Kitchen. “

Rosenthal says, that “He feels the strength behind our succession plan was making sure everyone in the company understood our core values. This was critical as we transitioned from our founder running the company to a second generation of management.”

The company had a real challenge since their brand’s image was so tied into one familiar face, Art Ginsburg aka Mr. Food.  The company spent about 2 years demonstrating to customers that although Mr. Food was the face of the company he was not the entire brand and that became one of the company’s biggest assets.

Rosenthal says that, “We look at our transition in a similar fashion to that of Disney World today. Although Walt Disney was the face of the brand for years, it later became understood that Disney was a brand, not simply the founder’s name. As Walt's visions will be the foundation of their company, our Quick & Easy philosophy is the building block of the Mr. Food Test Kitchen brand today.”

 He says that one area that Art felt strongly about was giving people choices. Let them eat desserts if they choose to cook from the company’s Dessert book or maintain a more diabetic friendly diet and cook from their latest cookbook “Hello Taste, Goodbye Guilt!” for which they partnered with the American Diabetes Association. Give people what they want and need. There is no "one size that fits all".

Rosenthal says that “One key point that our company built themselves on was to know who your customers are. Our content is not about what I like but rather was our customers have asked for. These days they vote with their mouse.”

 He concludes by saying that, “Just like when you get a new job, you may want to show off and change everything for what you think is the better. That does not usually work, rather you need to totally understand how to do what your predecessor did and stick to that for a bit before changing everything to a whole new way.”

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