Smart Succession Strategy Works for Southland Industries

Smart Succession Strategy Works for Southland Industries

Southland Industries, Irvine, CA, has named Ted Lynch, an 18-year veteran of the firm, to serve as the new president of the Design/Build/Maintain mechanical engineering company, effective immediately. Within the next two years, Lynch will take over the reins as chief executive officer from retiring President/CEO, Andy Fimiano.

Fimiano said the planned, two-year transition period will provide for a seamless leadership succession that allows him and Lynch to work closely together to move the company forward. The timing of the transition is not immediate. This was done purposely to ensure that Southland's business partners are comfortable with Ted's transition to the CEO position.

"This is a true milestone event for Southland, with Ted's selection as the future CEO marking only the fourth change in leadership in the company's 61-year history," Fimiano says. "Ted has practically grown up with Southland, and he is, without a doubt, the right man for this job."

Lynch began as an intern with Southland in 1993 while completing his Ph.D. requirements in Architectural Engineering at Penn State. He has served in numerous positions within the firm over the years, serving most recently as Regional President of the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic Divisions. During his tenure, Lynch turned a struggling Mid-Atlantic Division into a success.

The buyout of Fimiano's equity stake in Southland, and the search for a successor were both started at an early stage in the process. Fimiano had the foresight to start this process while he was the largest shareholder. A gradual purchasing of Fimiano's stock was initiated eight years ago, and the search for his replacement was launched in 2006. With help from the board of directors and the board of advisors, Fimiano narrowed the search to three internal candidates. After a careful evaluation of the candidates, which included learning their plans to grow Southland in the future, Lynch emerged the victor.

"I grew up in this company, and have worked in every division, and in the field, including ductwork installation. I feel as if I know the company inside and out," Lynch said, during an exclusive interview with editors.

"For my part, as I assume this new leadership role, I expect there will be more that stays the same than changes at Southland," Lynch said. "Our core purpose and our core values remain intact, and we'll continue to operate the company with the goal of becoming 100% Design/Build/Maintain."

Lynch said one major change the company will embrace is a more focused approach to business development.

"We recognize the challenges ahead and are taking steps to improve sales and business development capabilities," he said. "One step of this process is to fully dedicate a top Southland executive who will be responsible for identifying and developing business opportunities at a national level, and to ensure that Southland has the staff and capabilities to grow."

Lynch said some initial changes have already been undertaken, which will provide immediate benefits. These include improving the business development and sales processes.

"We've got great people and great processes in place, and we're capable of completing any project. But I think our ability to perform the work has outpaced our ability to sell it. We have to become better at telling our story and selling ourselves. I think we've got a lot to say, and a lot to sell," he said.

"Southland has always been an exciting place to work and right now, we are poised to take on new opportunities and challenges in the months ahead. I welcome the chance to lead this great company and I’m eager to take on this new role."

Lynch added that Southland's success starts with the solid relationships the company has established with its commercial HVAC customers. "You can't be 100% Design/Build without having strong relationships and doing good work for customers. A lot of that is negotiated, and is based on trust," he said.

Southland Industries — named the 2001 Contracting Commercial HVAC Contractor of the Year — has experienced very little downturn during the current recession. Its California market and Mid-Atlantic divisions are thriving in projects related to government, health care, and education.

"It's a testament to our investment in the Design/Build/Maintain model, and to our customers' vision in recognizing the value of this approach," Fimiano said.

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