The Story Goes On: A Look at Succession Planning

For the family-owned company, passing the torch from one generation to the next is the ultimate achievement. It signifies both a beginning and an end. More importantly, it represents continuity, for the legacy endures. The stark reality, however, is that only 30 percent of family-owned companies will get to the second generation. Reaching the third generation is even less likely (only 12 percent do) while a mere four percent will make it to a fourth (Family Business Review, 2012). Today, Vermeer Corporation embarks on a third generation of family leadership, and getting to this point took careful planning.

A humble beginning: In 1948, Gary Vermeer founded a small manufacturing company in Pella, Iowa. Hard work, persistence and a few early successes helped the young company gain a footing. Over the next few decades, Gary’s leadership and innovation spurred the company’s growth, as Vermeer continued to gain market share in the hay and forage industry. Gary’s philosophy was simple yet powerful: Find a need. Fill that need with a product built to last. And simply, build the best.

In 1989, a new generation of Vermeer management took over. Gary’s son Robert L. (Bob) Vermeer and daughter Mary (Vermeer) Andringa put in place a succession plan that paved the way for the two of them to carry on their father’s legacy and lead Vermeer Corporation into the 21st century. Today, Bob serves an honorary role as Chair Emeritus and Mary is Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board.

As CEO and President, Mary Andringa was hands on in day-to-day operations.

The change in leadership did not change the culture that had put Vermeer at the forefront of the hay and forage industry. In fact, Bob and Mary doubled down, putting more emphasis than ever before on the company’s strengths: namely a commitment to continuous improvement – always searching for a better way. Under their leadership, Vermeer integrated strategies to accelerate product development, streamline the manufacturing process, expand the Vermeer global presence, and recruit, train and engage a rapidly growing workforce.

Vermeer continues to focus on the future. This includes developing new products, enhancing a global distribution network that reaches customers in numerous industries and more than 60 nations, and preparing for the next generation of company leadership. Just as Bob and Mary once took the reins from their father, it’s now time for a new generation of leadership to step forward.

As mentioned previously, only 12 percent of family-owned businesses make it to the third generation. Thus, it would surely make Gary proud to know his grandchildren are now ready to lead the family company. On November 1, 2014, Jason Andringa assumed the role of President and Chief Operating Officer. In 2015, he will transition to the role of President and Chief Executive Officer.

Jason joined Vermeer in 2005 as an Environmental Segment Manager. He would later become President of Forage and Environmental Solutions.

“My grandfather was very influential for me personally and professionally,” Jason Andringa said. “Since a young age, I had a passion to follow in his footsteps. In the mid 1990s, I traveled on a business trip overseas with my mother, Mary, and saw firsthand the global demand for Vermeer equipment and the impact it was making on local communities across the world. That trip solidified my path to Vermeer. As part of the third generation, I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our family-owned and operated, global company into a prosperous future.”

"We are confident that this next generation has the education and experience that have prepared them exceptionally to lead the company."

The Vermeer family and Board of Directors have worked diligently for more than two decades to establish a robust and extensive family employment policy and succession planning process.

“We are confident that this next generation has the education and experience that have prepared them exceptionally to lead the company,” said Mary Andringa.

Where Vermeer Corporation goes from here, only time will tell. What matters most as of this moment, is that the story goes on.

Read More: Tips for Family Farm Succession Planning.