February 2015

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Page 33 of 60

February 2015 | Construction Equipment Distribution | www.cedmag.com | 31 Shilling reflects on his first AED convention in 1981. "I was in awe. I was 30 years old and meeting dealer principals twice my age, and interest- ing owners and managers." He's been to every annual Summit since, and he says, "I still enjoy the networking and rubbing elbows with some of the most interesting people in the industry." A Good Future Takes Planning Today at 63, he's all about pumping the energy and enthusiasm of young minds into the industry through workforce programs, into AED through new Future Leaders engagement, and – living proof of his future-focus – he keeps it real right at his own company with a smooth- running succession plan that has moved a group of under-40 guys into ownership, including Shilling's son Jonathan. Whereas some owners procrastinate succession planning, Shilling and his partner Jerry Kern turned their atten- tion to creating a strong plan a few years ago, knowing it would take time to enable their successors to buy them out. e two had acquired the company from its third and senior owner, Orvis Stockstad in 2000, and over the course of several years enjoyed growth that ultimately doubled the size of General Equipment & Supplies. "It became obvious to Jerry and me that if we were going to pass the busi- ness on, whether to key employees or family members, that we were going to have to start a long ways in advance – otherwise we were going to have to say, 'Forget it,' and sell to a third party conglomerate with enough cash to pay for it, " Shilling explained. "We didn't want the company to change a great deal from what we had. A lot of dealers probably have the same concerns," he added. "Aer we've grown this thing it's like your child. We don't like the idea of selling to some- body who's going to make wholesale changes, fire a bunch of people, and run it totally differently." So for two years they worked with a consultant and set in motion a 12-year buyout process whereby the senior owners have sold stock to the young team, who are making payments back to Shilling and Kern in semi-annual installments. When they do retire in a couple of years, the pair will remain on the board and basically "kind of check on things and then pick up a check and go home," said Shilling. "It's like a weight's off our shoulders now, because we know what's going to happen and everything is running pretty close to how we had hoped. It's a giant relief." Living Values Shilling's dad was a contractor who had worked in construction at the end of the Depression, then in the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II, and he was part of the post-war boom. From his model, Don says he learned the value of being conservative with resources and money, a strong work ethic, as well as an attitude that dares your competitor by doing the job faster, safer, cheaper and better. Construction is a different brand of brutal out in the Rough Riders state – with maybe seven or eight months of good weather, deadlines get intense and contractors work holidays, week- ends, and two shifts to meet promised completion dates. As a kid watching dad under pres- sure, he saw that "when something broke down, it really threw a monkey wrench into the schedule," he said. Which actually prepared Don for the (continued on next page)

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