The Lesson From Simmons (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 12:00 am  

Matt Olney, the bank analyst over at Stephens Inc., says he wasn't surprised to see George Makris Jr. named to succeed Tommy May as CEO of Simmons First National Corp., and he undoubtedly knows banking much better than any editorial writer who might have expected one of the longtime executives to be elevated rather than a board member.

Makris is sharp - no doubt about that - and has plenty of management experience and a lifelong attachment to Simmons. And Simmons is a well-run organization with a deep bench of executive talent and experience. No doubt about that either.

The most important thing about last week's announcement was that it came months before Makris plans to ease into full-time employment at Simmons and more than a year before May eases out the door and into his well-deserved retirement. May has been planning to retire at the end of 2013 for more than two years. No sudden moves, no shocks to the system of the type that we have seen from other public companies - even some in Arkansas.

May has faced a debilitating disease with more grace than most of us could muster in a lifetime, and part of that grace has been a humble regard for the future of his company and its shareholders. No person should be indispensible to any company - not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or even Tommy May. Any company that wants to survive and thrive beyond its current management needs to have a succession plan.

This is important for publicly traded companies like Simmons, but maybe even more important for privately held companies. The news out of Pine Bluff presents an excellent opportunity - an altar call of sorts - to consider the succession plan at your own company, gentle reader.



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