"You don't just hand someone the keys to the car and say, 'Now it's your turn,'" CEO Ken Moeslein says of his company's transition.
Ryan Donnell "You don't just hand someone the keys to the car and say, 'Now it's your turn,'" CEO Ken Moeslein says of his company's transition.

Ken Moeslein founded Pittsburgh company Swingline Windows, now Legacy Remodeling, and though his son, Jeff, took over as president five years ago, employees still come to Ken, who is the CEO, with questions. His response? “Have you asked Jeff? What does Jeff think about this?”

It’s part of Ken’s ongoing strategy to encourage staff to view Jeff as an owner — and at times to remind himself that certain things are Jeff’s responsibility now. The transition in leadership has been gradual. “You don’t just hand someone the keys to the car and say, ‘Now it’s your turn,’” Ken says. “It’s like being a student driver where you both have the steering wheel.”

Also helping ease the transition:

  • Different schedules. Ken arrives early, ends his day at about 4 p.m., and is often out visiting jobsites. Since Jeff is the one in the office, employees are turning to him with questions.
  • Company involvement. Jeff worked at the company while in high school and college, both in the office and as a laborer, and after college started off in sales and marketing. The staff have a comfort level with him because they’ve witnessed his contribution.
  • In the loop. Ken and Jeff use smartphones and iPads to stay in touch on key issues and copy each other on any email they send so they are both aware of daily matters.

Jeff is featured in the company’s TV ads. “He is the face of Legacy now,” Ken says. Recently, Jeff started attending peer review group meetings with Ken. “I am still around and can mentor him,” Ken says, “but they will be his future mentors outside the company.”

Ken says that Jeff is taking on added responsibilities but still appreciates having Ken as a partner — especially during this recession. “That’s where the sense of experience I can offer is helpful to him,” Ken says.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.