From employees to owners: Ward Lumber crew feels good about big transition

May, 2021

Jay Ward, longtime president of Ward Lumber Company of Jay, has been thinking about transitioning his 130-year family business for over two decades. In consultation with his wife and daughters, and brother Jeff who runs the mill, he decided to turn over ownership to the company’s employees.

According to the United States Small Business Administration, less than 30% of small businesses have a succession plan. Many owners have in mind that they will sell their business or pass it on to their children one day. Still, as time goes by, either they don’t have children, their children decide on a different career path, or selling it, no matter how successful they may have been, is not so easy.

Selling is especially hard in a rural area like the Adirondacks. More and more young people are leaving to pursue jobs elsewhere, or those moving here are of retirement age and not looking to take on a new business. If Ward Lumber was put up for sale and a chain bought it, the company’s character would change. The business would no longer be about caring for the customers, community and employees, but the bottom line.

“Without a transition plan in place, many of our region’s businesses are in danger of closing, depriving their communities of employers as well as the vibrancy that helps our towns and villages thrive,” said Kate Fish, executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association. ANCA launched the North Country Center for Businesses in Transition in 2018 to help with this succession issue.

Read the full article in the Lake Placid News.