Eric Wiechart, President Chairman of the family-owned All Service Glass company in Lima, Ohio, became part of the Aileron community almost 10 years ago when he attended Course for Presidents. At the end of the session, he took the opportunity to ask Aileron Founder Clay Mathile a question — and Clay’s response, he said, shook him to the core.
“I said, ‘My daughter is in the business, and she’s considering buying it. I just want to know your perspective and what you think I need to be working on,’” Eric explained. “And Clay literally takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes, puts his glasses back on, and says, ‘It’ll be the toughest thing you’ve ever done. Hire the best lawyer, the best accountant, and the best psychologist you can.”
It was the first time Eric realized how purposeful and intentional he had to be while transitioning ownership of All Service Glass to his daughter Ann Welly. Both Eric and Ann said they had seen transitions like this happen before in their community: The transition was handled poorly, the company failed to evolve, and the business stopped thriving.
They agreed that to keep that from happening to their family and their company, they needed to manage the transition the right way. So Eric engaged with Aileron, and this time he brought Ann with him. They both gained skills and insights from Becoming a More Conscious Leader, an immersive leadership program that helps business owners and managers maximize their self-awareness and growth.
Balancing family with business
All Service Glass started in 1975 as an automotive glass company. The Wiechart family bought All Service Glass in 2000. In the 22 years since then, they’ve diversified their operations and residential services, expanded further into the commercial marketplace, and acquired other companies and businesses.
It was essential for Eric and Ann to approach the company’s transition with professional responsibility and personal care for their familial relationships. They felt strongly about never missing a Sunday family dinner together, and that their time together outside of the business was never adversely affected. What’s more, immediate members of the Wiechart family have played, and continue to play, key roles in their staff of 64.
Ann explained there’s an “unwritten Wiechart fairness doctrine: If one of us gets something then the rest of us get it.” To ensure they stay true to the doctrine’s word, the Wiecharts prioritize having open conversations, and meeting annually to discuss their plans going forward, where they’re headed, and how the business is performing.
That sense of responsibility extends beyond family, too, especially when they started to approach transitioning Eric’s ownership of the company to Ann.
“It was bigger than our relationship, too,” Ann said. “We have a lot of long-term employees. How do we transition them through this also? How do we transition my sisters, their spouses, significant others? How do we make this as successful as possible?”
How conscious leadership helped
Two years after Eric’s pivotal CFP experience, Ann and the All Service Glass leadership team came to Aileron to develop a strategic plan. They worked closely with their Business Advisor to embrace the difference between working in the business and working on the business. Almost right away, Ann said she felt influenced by that shift in thinking — particularly because of the nature of their business.
“The first homework assignment we were given was, ‘What do you want to be new, better, or different in 30 days, six months, or 12 months? I think that was the first time we thought that we could do something different than just survive today. We’re a next-day business. So, everything is, ‘get done what we can today because there’s going to be more coming tomorrow. I think it was the first time as a group we talked about what we could do differently.”
Together, they developed communication skills that posed healthy challenges in the office.
“It gave us all the same language to challenge each other and hold each other responsible for showing up how we wanted to show up, not just to be here,” Ann said. “You can sit in your seat and do your job, but to actively choose to show up differently, it’s hard, day in and day out. But when you have five other people holding you accountable, it makes it a little bit easier.”
Likewise, Eric put his conscious leadership skills to work by encouraging Ann to think about how she would design ownership, rather than repeat what he had done. How would she evolve the company? How would she do it so that everyone involved is taken care of? He also took into consideration the realities of their industry: He’s raised three daughters, and All Service Glass operates within a male-dominated industry. That comes with a unique set of difficulties and insecurities.
Said Eric, “I think that’s why conscious leadership helped — for everybody involved to be able to name what’s going on and to be able to say, ‘I am reacting this way because I’ve developed a definition of what’s true here, and that’s different from theirs.’ Or, ‘Why am I acting this way? I can choose to approach this differently.’”
Turning towards the Aileron community
Eric and Ann have both completed CFP and engaged actively in Aileron’s CFP Peer Group, which include CFP alumni and other like-minded presidents, owners, and CEOs. The value, Eric said, lies in the many different connections the community facilitates. Though everybody’s business is different, they’re all after running the best business they can.
The CFP Peer Group also continues to deliver the challenge necessary for continuous growth and lifelong learning. “You challenge yourself. It gives you the opportunity to engage differently and gets you out of your day-to-day.”
Similarly, Ann said without Aileron’s influence and resources, they would have turned inward and worked on a transition plan that focused more on herself and her father. “I think that turning inward would have been a mistake because I don’t think we would have brought the leadership team along. It would have been just an Eric and Ann plan, not an All Service Glass plan.”
She added, “People say leadership is lonely, and I think if we would have turned inward, it would not have allowed for us to challenge our thoughts and assumptions. Aileron does a good job of challenging you, and what you think you know.”
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