ASA Education Foundation Director of Professional Development Doug Dillon told attendees of the recent 2014 Wholesalers Association of the North East Executive Leadership Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Mass., that succession planning spans beyond simply preparing for who will take over as the leader of a particular company.

“With a mid-level manager, is there someone ready to take over that seat when that person is promoted?” he said in an interview with Supply House Times during the conference.

Dillon added having qualified individuals ready to take over for positions where a promotion has occurred is of key importance to a company’s health.

“Most people who get promoted are really good at their jobs and have developed a high level of proficiency,” he said. “A lot of times there isn’t someone to back-fill that position right away when someone gets promoted.”

Dillon suggests preparing for those promotion situations through internal training. “Look for opportunities for stretch assignments and other mentoring situations,” he said. “Let people experience what you are doing so you can tell if people have the qualifications to do what you do. Don’t be afraid to delegate and give someone else opportunities.”

Dillon said the sooner a comprehensive succession plan of attack is in place, the better. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” he said. “The second-best time is today. Start planning for the future today.”

Dillon was one of several guest speakers at the WANE event, which also featured a well-attended mid-morning vendor showcase.

After lunch, Associated General Contractors of America’s Ken Simonson provided his comprehensive economic outlook. Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, noted a recent construction outlook survey shows two-thirds of respondents feel the overall construction market will improve the rest of the year and into 2015.

Simonson said the explosion of shale plays in the energy sector, expansion of the Panama Canal and a revival in the residential market are three positive trends being seen in the construction industry. Conversely, he noted government pullback on schools and infrastructure construction, consumer migration from brick-and-mortar to online buying and shrinking employer office space are three trends holding down construction growth.

Simonson also noted changes in consumers’ feelings about continuing education (resulting in lower college/university enrollments) and the emergence of non-traditional health-care facilities will affect education and health-care construction going forward.

Simonson added single-family home growth will continue to slow down by the end of the year, while multifamily construction’s positive momentum will go into 2015. “A preference for urban living adds to the demand,” Simonson said.

Simonson added the best construction prospects for 2014 include multifamily, manufacturing, oil and gas, pipelines, warehouses, lodging, rail and data centers. He also cautioned to keep an eye on the labor situation.

“Widespread labor supply shortages are possible due to retirements, competition from other sectors and fewer veterans in the workforce,” he said.

Author and television host/producer Louis Ferrante was the event’s featured speaker. Ferrante was a one-time mobster who spent eight years in prison and was able to successfully appeal his conviction. He talked about how the code of the mob and the values of that community can be a model for legitimate businesses.

For more on Ferrante’s talk, read Editor Mike Miazga’s July column.

See below for our exclusive interview with Doug Dillon talking about succession planning.