Gage made smooth transition to second generation but third unlikely

In the late 1990s, Gage Telephone Services founder Greg Wood Sr. looked around at all the technological advances taking place and decided it was time to get out.

“I couldn’t keep up,” he said.

Gage was always intended to be a one-generation business. Wood wasn’t going to tell his kids they had to do what he did: take on a a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day job. But his children had different ideas.

“The timing was right. We all kind of made it a career choice at about the same time,” said Greg Wood Jr., vice president of operations.

Greg Jr. had worked at the company since high school. He had some technical background and a degree in marketing. Anne W. Hebert, chief financial officer, had worked for a financial services firm. Brother-in-law Jason Landry, vice president of sales, had experience on that end. Laura W. Pearce became office manager.

“I said, ‘If you do it, there’s hours you’ve got to put in. There’s technology you got to keep up with,’” Greg Sr. said. “And they agreed to do it. They made the decision.”

The Woods family is the exception, not the rule.

According to the Family Business Institute, 88 percent of current family business owners believe the same family or families will control the company in five years. But only 30 percent survive into the second generation, and just 12 percent remain viable ino the third generation.

Devin Lemoine, president of Baton Rouge-based Success Labs, said some of the major impediments to a family business’s sustainability include:

Not starting early enough with succession planning

Leaving the business to the surviving spouse who is not prepared to run the company

First-generation owners’ reluctance to pass the baton early enough to let the next generation prepare

Lack of preparation of emerging leaders

Sibling rivalry

The challenge of treating children equitably

Greg Wood Jr. said the second generation got together and figured out the roles each would handle, without too much difficulty.

But he doesn’t see a third generation of the family working at Gage.

“They’re all going to go on and do other things. We’ve still got a long time left in this,” Greg Wood Jr. said.

Trying to work in a third generation would make running the business even more challenging. he said.