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KC Business Journal // InStore Design's succession plan arms new owner with powerful offering: mentorship

When Randy Edge bought InStore Design Display in 2016, a succession plan was already on his mind.

The former bank CEO didn’t want to replicate the experience of his dad, who owned an architecture firm in Ohio. When trying to sell the firm, “he went through multiple stops and starts and hits and misses. He had a hard time building his succession plan,” Edge said.

Since buying the North Kansas City-based custom retail display and environment solution provider, Edge has received ample interest from potential buyers.

“I get calls all the time,” he said.

But he’s not interested in the private equity route, which typically buys a company to flip it and sell it again. He’s interested in IDD’s longevity.

He started looking internally and tapped Trevor Lewis to succeed him. Lewis, who previously was the company’s sales manager, joined in 2017. Edge recently promoted him to chief revenue officer, which comes with a minority stake. Succession plan discussions started with Lewis in 2021 and started to take effect last year, Edge said.

Instead of a quick handoff, the two executives have mapped out a transition that spans the next eight to 10 years, where Lewis will gradually increase responsibilities and his ownership stake. Edge will be there to mentor him.

“I want to set him up for success,” Edge said. “I want him to have as much experience as he can when the keys get turned over.”

For Lewis, the opportunity fulfills a “life goal” he set for himself early in his career.

“I knew that it was always leading people and being able to influence and impact them in a positive way,” Lewis said. “Having a piece of this organization allows me to do that.”

And it fulfills his vision of becoming a business owner.

Edge described Lewis as a visionary who thinks outside the box and pushes the envelope. His customer-facing and sales experience brings an energy that keeps a company healthy in the long run.

Lewis also played an instrumental role during the Covid-19 pandemic, helping the company quickly pivot to making personal protective equipment and other needed offerings, which helped the company thrive. Edge and Lewis complement one another’s skill sets, Edge said.

Choosing an internal leader to take over ownership brings several advantages. Lewis understands the business, and the employees know and trust him. It creates a seamless transition.

“One of the challenges I had when I bought this business is I didn’t know it, and because of that, the learning curve was pretty steep,” Edge said.

During the multiyear transition, Edge will expose Lewis to all facets of the business, helping Lewis harness skill sets outside of his sales background and understand how those facets affect the big picture.

“It gives me the ability to progress at the right rate and be exposed to things that I don’t have a depth of experience in,” Lewis said. “I’m very fortunate around that. … I can have my hand held to a certain extent in areas that I’m just not sufficient in yet.”

Lewis, who’s 36, wants to build a sustainable business that adapts to evolving consumer trends and client needs; it means increasing capabilities and thinking about the future skill sets IDD will need in new hires.

More important than top line revenue, he said, will be keeping a pipeline of cool projects, livable wages and a positive culture that makes employees want to come to work.

“Culture is so important to Trevor and me,” Edge said. “We’re laser focused on preserving what we’ve created in terms of culture. It’s very different than it was when I bought the company. … I think if you take care of the employees and you bring in the right people, everything else kind of takes care of itself.”

As Edge looks to the future, he takes solace in the fact that he and Lewis share the same vision.

“We want to create a sustainable business that can hopefully continue to operate for another 100-plus years,” Lewis said.

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