The L’Herbier family was at a crossroads six years ago. The owners of Air Duct Maintenance, Kevin and Debbie L’Herbier, were looking to retire and had to decide what to do with the company they started back in 1996. They approached their children, Dan and Lauren L’Herbier, to see if they had interest in taking over leadership. After a brief period, the siblings decided to begin the succession process. It didn’t go as quickly as everyone had hoped.
Air Duct Maintenance was started out of necessity after Kevin and Debbie built a house but wanted the air ducts cleaned prior to moving in.
“He looked all over the city and couldn't find any company that could come and do that; so it gave him an idea,” says Dan L’Herbier, president of Air Duct Maintenance. “He decided to look up a very well-known company out in Michigan and reached out to them. And he basically went out and worked for free for two weeks.”
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The elder L’Herbier learned the trade, returned home, bought some equipment and got started. Twenty-six years later, the company has 35 employees, most of which are out in the field, and they’re looking to expand.
Lauren said their parents encouraged them to go to college and never put pressure on them to take over the business.
“That was their dream and they didn't want us to feel like it had to be our dream as well,” says Lauren, vice president of Air Duct Maintenance.
When it came time for their parents to call it a career, it was just a natural fit for the siblings.
“Dan and I had multiple discussions, the two of us, and we both decided that this is what we wanted to do,” she says. “So slowly, we started taking more and more responsibilities from our parents over those years.”
Shortly after celebrating their 25th anniversary in business, succession planning began. The parents wanted to retire at age 55, but the process took a bit longer than anticipated.
“Nobody expected it to take as long as it did,” Dan says. “I mean, obviously, you expect it to take some time, but we all thought we could come in in a year and make this happen and boy were we wrong.”
If he had to do it all over again, Dan says he would most definitely start the process sooner.
“Even just things like getting the value of the business, which is necessary for the legal side of things and the accounting side of things — getting the value of the business took way longer than I ever expected,” Dan says.
And although the process took much longer than anticipated, that’s also why the L’Herbiers believe it was such a successful transition.
“It can't be like a light switch where one day Generation One is doing everything you come in the next day and those duties are on somebody else,” Dan says. “It has to be smooth to when that day comes nothing changes. And that's really what we did.”
Dan and Lauren L’Herbier spoke on the Smart Business Podcast about taking over their family business. Hit play to catch the full conversation.