There is a massive generational wealth transfer that will be taking place over the next decade as baby boomers transition their businesses. This is a major change for almost 13 million family-controlled businesses across our country. Paul Karofsky, executive director emeritus of Northeastern University Center for Family Business, has been quoted to say, “Fewer than one in three companies survive through a second generation of leadership, and the odds dive to one in 10 among those that reach a third generation.” Mississippi is made up of many of these type businesses that are scattered around the state. The successful transfer of these family owned businesses will have a major impact on the future of our state’s economy.
Tony Stringer, president of Stringer Industries Inc. in Tylertown, Miss., is a second-generation leader that is ahead of this curve. Stringer Industries was founded by Stringer’s parents George and Charlene Stringer in 1964, and the company manufactures equipment for sawmills and chip mills, such as wastewood chippers, wastewood hogs and component parts for the wood industry primarily in the eastern United States and Canada. Stringer has been employed at the company since he graduated from Mississippi College in 1983, and he has served as president for the past 16 years. Stringer noted, “Both my initial, and much of my continuing education as a leader, came from my father.” An active lifelong learner, Stringer shared that he also has studied leadership from many sources including programs through the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, IBM and Disney.
Stringer shared, “Without question, I have learned the most from my dad, but I have created my own style, taking bits and pieces from many different people including my wife, Carla, who has always given me supportive advice, helping me with both the good and bad, always striving to make me a better person and therefore a better leader.” One of the challenges for any new leader is following in the footsteps of a predecessor, particularly when it was your father. Stringer has effectively created his own leadership style and grown the company and his leadership influence. Stringer has served as Walthall County Chamber of Commerce president and is very active with the Mississippi Manufacturers Association where he served as chairman of the board in 2008-2009. Stringer was recognized as a Mississippi Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 in 1994 and was honored in 1999 as Mississippi College’s Young Alumnus of the Year.
One of Stringer’s core leadership principles is the value of a promise. He said, “I never promise anything that I can’t follow through with. I emphasize that I will do all that I can, but a promise is a promise and I hold ‘promise’ in the highest regard.” Keeping promises is the foundation of building trust. Stringer’s point on this front is well noted. It is too easy to over-promise and under-deliver. Stringer also advises future leaders to continue to learn. He noted, “Each and every day there is an opportunity for each of us to learn something new. No matter how large or small the amount, learning makes us better.” Stringer shared that his father always told him, “It’s a good day when you learn something new.”
I am always excited to learn more about Mississippi’s hidden resource of successful entrepreneurs in small towns scattered throughout our state who are making a difference. For those companies facing generational shift, Stringer and his family certainly provide a great model of success. Business leaders like Tony Stringer make a huge impact in our state and are the lifeblood of our state’s economy. I hope that as we strive to attract new businesses in our state that we will also try to maximize the potential of our existing businesses and entrepreneurs.
Up Close With Tony Stringer
Title: President of Stringer Industries Inc.
Recent Book: ”I just finished reading ‘EntreLeadership’ by Dave Ramsey, which I enjoyed.”
First Job: “When old enough to hold a broom, dad said go sweep up the plant floor. And thus my career at Stringer Industries began.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “When my dad announced to the employees of the company that he was naming me president of the company. I was bursting inside (with happiness) and trembling (in fear) at the same time because of the responsibility that he had just