I kept my ears open and, to my delight, never heard anything bad about what Dan was doing with and for the company in New England. As important, I learned that Dan seemed to like the work, and that his colleagues and clients seemed to like him.
Three years later, Dan agreed to move to our New York offices at 666 Fifth Avenue, and to begin in earnest working up the ladder, eventually reaching the point at which I became confident that he could and should replace me as the firm’s leader. He worked almost exclusively in the Construction Management side of the business, leaving the real estate side to the stewardship of my long-time associate, John Vickers.
Once the appropriate successor has come into the company, many family-owned businesses have difficulty in managing the transition between one generation and the next—the older one is reluctant to let go, the younger is overeager to take charge. Fortunately, that did not happen with us. Two sources, I believe, helped ease the transition. The first was the nature of our multifaceted businesses, which enables us rather readily to give ever-larger shares of responsibility to employees on successive jobs.
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The second source was my plan for how to transfer my ownership in the company. I felt that so long as I continued to own a controlling interest in the company, even though Dan might have taken the title as CEO he would not really be the company’s leader. So, well before I was ready to retire, I transferred the controlling block of stock to him over the course of five years, and the remainder of my stock to Vickers, until I had completely divested myself of any financial interest in the Construction Management company. I made the stock transfers, and have never regretted doing so. I became an employee of my son.
Over the past decade, Dan and his chief associates have surpassed anything I could have imagined for the Tishman firm, aggressively courting and satisfying old and new clients to the point where Tish-man Construction became number one in the field in terms of projects and dollar volumes of construction per year. Dan became “Mr. New York City,” as the leader of the firm responsible for building the largest and greenest skyscrapers in recent years, and for most of the construction on the various World Trade Center sites, both the publicly and the privately owned. He is the chairman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national leader in environmental affairs. Moreover, with his wife, Sheryl, Dan has accepted a role that I could not fill during the many long years of my wife’s illness: as a couple they have become an important part of New York’s social, charitable, and civic scene.
I believe it is a plus for a client to be able to telephone the man whose name is on the company door. I have been very pleased that at a moment in time when there are no more Fullers in the Fuller Construction firm, or Turners in Turner Construction, that my son Dan, a fourth-generation Tishman, leads the Tishman Construction Company, and that the company continues to be a leader in the field that I pioneered, Construction Management.