Don’t put off succession planning

This week’s column is about succession planning — both at your company and in your personal life. It’s a very important subject.

What sparked this was the Plastics Academy’s announcement that Dennis Tully, the president and owner of MTD Micro Molding, is getting inducted posthumously into the Plastics Hall of Fame.

Dennis was just 58 when he passed away. I’m about that same age. So is Don Loepp, editor of Plastics News.

MTD won the 2018 Plastics News Processor of the Year award, which we announced last year at our Executive Forum.

Don and I visit all the Processor of the Year Award finalists. And we knew MTD well, since the Charlton, Mass., company was a finalist twice before it won. Micromolding is endlessly fascinating, and MTD is one of the best. Many of its teeny medical parts go into your body and are absorbed — just thinking about it is amazing. It’s remarkable that any plastics company could do that.

Don and I spend an entire day at each finalist, and we ask tons of questions. Don always asks if the company has a succession plan. Does the owner have any kids who want to take over? Would you look to sell the company? That type of thing.

Well, Don asked Dennis Tully that question in our finalist visit to MTD on Feb. 13, 2019. And I joked, something along the lines of: “Don, Dennis is our age! Does he really need a succession plan?”

We ended up picking MTD as the Processor of the Year Award winner. Just two weeks after our visit, Dennis Tully died of a massive heart attack on Feb. 28. It was a week before we named MTD a winner at the Executive Forum in Naples, Fla. The MTD team canceled their travel plans, of course.

So yes, you do need a succession plan. Everyone should have one.

The other part of the story is this: My wife, Nancy, passed away on Feb. 22 of last year, just six days before Dennis. It was unexpected. She was 57. I woke up that Friday morning and she was dead.

Nancy was a wonderful woman. We both worked at our home in Ashtabula, Ohio. She was a well-known seamstress. It was the second marriage for both of us, and we were only married for two and a half years.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the Executive Forum last year, either. Nancy had been to the event before, and she was supposed to travel with me again to Naples. She loved the beach and dancing at our awards dinner. What a great time we had! It was just way too short.

The passing of a loved one certainly makes you think in whole new ways. It makes clear what we already know: that everyone will die, but you don’t know when and you don’t know how.

After Nancy was buried, I realized that I didn’t have a will. I never thought of that before. Then I saw Nancy’s gravestone for the first time, with my own name engraved next to hers in red granite: my date of birth listed, the date of death left blank.

I had my lawyer write up a will. I gave copies to my college-age son and daughter and read through it with them. Succession planning, after we had a nice lunch.

And so, this week’s column is written with a heavy heart. February will be a tough month, both for me and for everybody at MTD.

Life and death are profound experiences. Nobody knows what each day will bring. Just make sure you do some succession planning. Do it today.

This column first appeared in Bill Bregar’s blog, Heavy Metal. Follow him on Twitter @MachineryBeat25.

Plastics News editorial cartoon by Rich Williams. Cartoons are available for purchase at

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