All in the Family: JETZ SERVICE CO.
MAKING A CLEAN TRANSITION: JETZ SERVICE CO.
However, for Noel Etzel, taking over the business that his parents started in 1966 was extremely logical. Like most engineers, Noel’s attention to detail and rational decisionmaking played a critical role in his decision to take the helm at Jetz Service Co. in Topeka.
Tim and his wife, Carole, started Jetz Service Co. in response to a laundry crisis created by the devastation from the 1966 F-5 tornado that ripped through Topeka. As apartment buildings began to spring up to meet the housing needs of people who had lost their homes, the need for centralized laundry facilities in those buildings became readily apparent. Seeing a way to meet those demands, Jetz Service Co. quickly grew into a thriving business.
Now, 51 years later, Noel and a cadre of younger generation leaders are ready to step in and evolve the company to adapt to changing trends and technology. This transition of leadership didn’t just happen overnight. It actually began five years ago, while Tim was spending some time in California.
“I had some time to think while I was out of town,” Tim said. “I started thinking about what the business would be like when I was ready to step away, and began right then putting the pieces into place to ensure a seamless transition.”
The transition plan involved discussions with key personnel in the business. Not only would Tim be stepping away, but Ron Sommers, the company president who had been in the business from the very start, was also planning to retire. As the succession picture began to unfold, the pieces started to fall into place.
Noel took over as CEO when his father retired in January. Ron’s nephew, Chris Sommers, will replace him as president when Ron retires this summer. Steve Cowsert will take over for Chris as operations manager, and a relatively new hire, Ryan Hembree, will serve as vice president of sales and marketing.
“We have such high-quality young people in our company,” Tim said. “I am fully confident that we will continue to grow and expand the company.”
For this father and son duo, the transition from one generation to the next has been pretty seamless. With the help of some long-term planning, expert advice from attorneys and accountants, and a well-communicated succession plan, nothing was left to chance. The ‘transition team’ has spent the past few years meeting monthly to make sure all the details are going according to plan.
Now that the “Fantastic Four” are taking over the helm, they are putting their own mark on the business. Even though the company has a stellar reputation for taking care of its employees, Noel and his team have embarked on a re-engagement process with their employees to discover what they want and need from the company.
“I personally shook hands with every single one of our 170 employees this past year,” Noel said. “It was the first time I had done that. It was pretty awesome.”
Noel says he recognizes that their industry is changing and that the company will have to adapt to stay relevant. While the majority of their business growth has been through acquisition, they are exploring new avenues that will embrace emerging trends.
Even as they push forward with their new agendas, the younger generation still appreciates where they have come from. They also look forward to seeing Tim’s familiar face in the office every day as he lends his support and advice, accompanied by his faithful companion, Pitzl, a friendly ball of fur (Colan breed). “She runs the Eastern Division,” Tim said.