Succession Planning is Success Planning – News Release

SuccessionPlanning 12ROCKFORD, IL – The future isn’t a sure thing and leaving the destiny of your company to chance isn’t the best way to ensure success. The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) hosted a succession planning event featuring subject matter expert Lisë Stewert, founder of Galliard, Inc., a consulting service for family-owned and closely-held businesses.

Stewert is a popular and nationally recognized author and speaker known for her advocacy and training for family businesses. She draws upon 30 years of experience to share practical advice in our competitive economy for ensuring the sustainability and value of family and closely held businesses as they pass from one generation to the next or from one owner to the next.

More than 95 individuals representing 69 companies from the Rockford Region listened to Stewert speak about the importance of succession planning and how to get started with this company-critical activity.

Following Stewert’s presentation was a panel discussion moderated by Stewert featuring

  • Thomas Barrett, Sr. Advanced Markets Director, MetLife Premier Client Group
  • Neal Richardson, Partner in Charge, Wipfli
  • Frank Rotello, CEO, Alpha Controls & Services
  • Jack Ward, Partner, Reno & Zahm
  • Rick Bastian, Chairman and CEO of Blackhawk Bank

“There is ample evidence to suggest that many family-owned and closely-held businesses have spent precious little time preparing the next generation for management or ownership or committed to build long- term value in the business should the exit strategy ultimately be sale.” – Rick Bastian, Chairman & CEO, Blackhawk Bank

Succession planning simply means having a plan to mitigate the risk in the event of illness, retirement or job changes. Some of the key considerations when it comes to succession planning include:

  • Make succession planning a priority, early. This should happen during the Growth Phase/Consolidation Phase of a business. The passage of time is critical to the benefit of the succession plan.
  • Find advisors and people you can trust as quickly as possible.
  • Have the financial backing to support the succession plan.
  • Build the bench. Groom and train the next generation of business leaders whether they are family members or non-family members/employees.
  • Have succession and expectation conversations with family to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes time to sell or transfer the business.

Stacy Bernardi, VP for Development with the RAEDC states, “A succession plan is a living document that provides guidance for a business throughout the life of that business; if you start planning five years prior to retirement it is already too late. “

Organizing seminars such as this provides the opportunity to align the needs and services between business owners and partners, thus increasing the long-term economic well-being of our region. In an area such as the Rockford Region that contains many family owned and closely-held businesses it is critical to the economic development and stability to ensure those businesses survive the transfer of ownership.

Succession planning isn’t a onetime event; with the many variables involved it takes time to develop a solid plan. The RAEDC recognizes the importance of this topic and as part of its strategic plan Rockforward20/20 will continue to provide ongoing opportunities for education and planning to the Rockford Region.

The RAEDC would like to thank Presenting Sponsor Blackhawk Bank, our Breakfast Sponsor First Midwest Group, and Supporting Sponsor Wipfli.

For photos from the event visit: 

Download a PDF version of the PowerPoint from Lisë’s presentation. 


The role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) is to collaborate with regional stakeholders to cultivate opportunities for primary job growth that increase the economic well-being of our region. The RAEDC markets the region to attract new capital investment, while assisting existing business with resources for sustainable growth. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to improve the competitiveness of the region by taking what it learns from the region’s employers and engaging the community in the daily work of economic development. As the economic development organization for the region, the RAEDC also serves as the area’s data collection agency on all new capital investment, retained and created quality jobs, and renovated commercial/industrial space.