Executive MBA program prepares family-owned business to manage leadership transition

June 15, 2011

Taylor Technologies, Inc., a water testing company located in Sparks, Md., announces the dual graduation of its father-son leadership team, Paul and Alex Wooden, in the article below (the article can also be referenced on the Taylor Technologies website). While the Executive MBA program typically recruits executives with at least eight to 10 years of management experience, a special exception was made for the duo as Paul prepares to transition Alex, now 25, into a leadership role at the company.

Here's a sobering statistic about family-owned businesses: only about 30% survive the transition to the second generation. Poor communication and inadequate preparation are chief among the reasons why, according to experts in succession planning. Paul F. Wooden Jr., 61, president and CEO of Taylor Technologies, is determined his manufacturing firm will not fail for those reasons. His son and namesake, familiarly known as Alex, has shown himself to be equally committed to the business from a very young age.
Alex, now 25, remembers many school holidays and summer vacations spent working at their plant in Sparks. From assembling test kits to packing shipping cartons to stuffing literature for mass mailings to writing articles for the employee newsletter, he's learned the business from the ground up. When he got to college his father started taking him to meet customers and represent the firm at trade shows. At The Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore, Alex undertook a bachelor's degree in general engineering with a specialty he crafted himself in water chemistry.
Upon graduation in 2008, Alex joined Taylor full time. "I gave him a portfolio of special projects. Substantive things, like a new product I had in mind and some real estate dealings for the campus we've just broken ground on. You could say I threw him in the deep end," says Paul, using a metaphor from the market niche that provides over half of Taylor's revenues—the pool/spa industry.
Alex continued building his skill set outside of work as well. He joined Toastmasters to become more at ease with public speaking. He sat for the Certified Pool Operator® exam so he could better relate to this important block of customers. He learned new software for 3D computer-aided design.
And then in September 2009 father and son embarked on an Executive MBA at Loyola University Maryland's Sellinger School of Business and Management. When Loyola introduced its Executive MBA program in 1973 it was one of the first in the country, and Sellinger today is highly rated in B-school rankings by business publications. The challenging two-year curriculum for seasoned business professionals is focused around the themes of ethics, corporate social responsibility, reflection as a way of thinking, and analysis to improve decision making and manage risk.
"Few things are scarier than going back to school after 60. Except, maybe, doing it with your kid sitting in the same classroom. Failure was not an option!" Paul jokes. But then he says seriously, "I did it for the conversations I knew the classes would stimulate. They would lead us into unique discussions where I could share my values and my vision for the business. Conversations where we could get our expectations of each other clarified in a non-threatening way. Our time at Loyola was a blessing in many aspects. We both feel much more confident about the transition in management that's going to take place at Taylor over the next five years."
Paul and Alex graduated on May 21, walking together across the stage to receive their diplomas. They are mum about who had the higher grade point average.