Hill & Wilkinson’s Succession Plan

Hill & Wilkinson’s Succession Plan: A Legacy by Design


Co-founders Greg Wilkinson, LEED® AP, and Fritz McKinstry are forward-thinking business leaders who have built a great company and know the importance of succession planning. Part of their legacy is tied to the continued success and growth of the company. Both Greg and Fritz believe that it is critical to have the right people talent in the right place at the right time.

Hill & Wilkinson formalized its succession plan in 2004. As part of the plan, in early 2009, Greg and Fritz became Co-Chairmen of the Board, transitioning from daily management responsibilities to strategic advisors and leadership mentors. Paul Driscoll was appointed CEO and has assumed the company’s day-to-day management responsibilities.

Below is an update from Paul Driscoll on the firm’s planning practices:

Q:    Can you describe what is meant by Hill & Wilkinson’s “succession plan?”

Paul:    There are two elements to our succession plan. One of the elements is the ownership transition that deals with Greg and Fritz’s exit scenario regarding their ownership interests in the company. This aspect deals with the legal entities established to allow for Greg and Fritz to diminish their ownership while allowing new owners to participate in the company. This transition paves the way for us to acquire ownership interest.

The other element of our succession plan involves our talent management system which focuses on recruitment, retention and remuneration of our employees up and down the line with a particular emphasis on key positions. This talent planning applies to every employee to provide them with a satisfying career path and future growth opportunities. It also helps us identify any positions where we may have skill gaps, based on our needs, to address those requirements going forward.

Q:   How far into the future does your succession plan cover?

Paul:    Our current plan is forecasted through 2020. We review it twice a year, and adjust the plan based on key factors, such as construction trends, market demands and internal personnel evaluations.

Q:    Why is it important to communicate so openly about Hill & Wilkinson’s succession plan?

Paul:    We owe it to our employees, clients, subcontractors and other stakeholders to be open about our succession plans. The construction business is all about building relationships, and communication is the key to successful relationships.

We have a long-term plan that does not include selling the business or liquidating the company. Our plan follows the philosophy of Greg and Fritz which is to create business opportunities for our employees today and into the future.

The fact that we have a succession plan also gives us a competitive advantage. Recent industry surveys show that only about 30% of companies actually have formalized succession plans. Our commitment of time and resources to this process allows us to minimize the impact of a loss of talent or disruptions to our operations due to the loss of key personnel for any reason.

Q:   What do you consider as important elements of a smooth transition in executing your succession plan?

Paul:    First and foremost it is important to align our succession plan with our overall strategic business plan goals and objectives for growth and profitability. Secondly, we believe it is important to communicate openly about our plan. Finally, we want to preserve our core values of respect, quality, safety, commitment, training, fun and citizenship. We enjoy a culture of teamwork, hard work and fun.

Q:   How are you developing your younger management talent?

Paul:   I consistently impress upon our clients and subcontractors that we have a younger generation of leaders and encourage them to get to know them. Many of our clients and subcontractors also have generational transitions occurring among their personnel. We all need to cultivate and mentor those new relationships to empower our people and provide them with the opportunity to further their careers.

Q:   Can you describe some of the changes that have occurred over the last two years since you assumed your new role?

Paul:    We have invested heavily in technology, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and recruited a highly respected BIM manager to oversee this capability. We also implemented a commissioning process service offering and continue to improve our LEED®/sustainable building credentials. To grow, we believe you have to invest in the technology, the talent and the resources necessary to serve our client’s needs.

Our goal is to be a leader in BIM technology and to focus on continuous improvement of our lean construction practices. We believe in adapting to the changing project delivery methods in the marketplace and look forward to the industry’s promotion of integrated project delivery methods.

Promoting our younger talent is important, too. We have promoted many of our key people and continue to search for new talent. By diversifying our service offerings, project types and personnel, we have been able to win projects consistently.

Q:   What is your long-term view for the company?

Paul:   We are in a great position in terms of our growth. The Texas economy has held steady and is growing, largely because of our pro-business environment and the diversity of industries in our state -- from energy to manufacturing and healthcare to higher education. With our track record in these sectors, we are well-positioned for growth.

From a construction industry standpoint, we believe the trend in sustainable, energy efficient buildings will accelerate as new technologies and materials provide better methods and economics of construction.

We are also involved in more design-build projects which we believe represent an ongoing trend. Design-build is becoming a preferred method of project delivery for many owners because these projects can typically be fast-tracked and achieve greater cost-savings.

Of course, our talent management process and succession plan will be even more important as we, our clients and our subcontractors transition to the next generation of leaders in our respective companies.

We are fortunate to have a strategic business plan that helps us navigate the future while remaining true to our values and flexible enough to change as conditions warrant. We are being very proactive on many fronts to satisfy our clients’ needs and provide rewarding career opportunities for our employees. As one of the best places to work in the region, we are attracting quality talent to match our growth.