Manufacturing Lunch 'n' Learn Series

Skoda Minotti

WIRE-Net's Lunch 'n' Learn series, presented by Skoda Minotti, features local successful manufacturing leaders with great lessons to share. You can learn from their stories of what it took to get where they are today, and what they are doing to continue growing toward the future.


Our Successful Succession Plan:
Celebrating Generation 3.5

Earnest Machine Products Company

Most businesses don't need a succession plan because most businesses last less than 20 years. If you are thinking about succession planning, or in less polished words, replacing yourself as the leader, it's something to celebrate. It means you have led something to a point where it can carry on with a new leader and that is both a great and uncommon thing. It's also what makes succession planning tough.

Earnest Machine Products Company was started in 1948 by Paul Zehnder and has been owned and managed by the Zehnder family ever since. Today the company is led by generation 3.5 (the .5 will be explained at lunch) and is moving towards generation 4 in the next 20 years. The transition to the second generation of two brothers was ultimately successful after a year of turmoil and one brother "working" remotely in Honolulu for a summer. The transition to the third generation was cleaner and ultimately made possible by creating a clean split in the business while keeping the family together. Today Earnest is thriving and, while still family owned, it is continually working to add professional management to the company while protecting the core values that carry over from the founder.

Kirk Zehnder
About Our Speaker

Starting his career as a filmmaker prepared Kirk for a leadership role in the family business; he learned when to say "cut" and when to call for "action." Studying history and religion prepared him with a good understanding of war and faith; also unintended preparation for the family business. Kirk joined Earnest Machine in 2002 and became the CEO in 2008 after his father retired.

Kirk is involved in the business community as a member and past-president of the Cleveland Chapter of Entrepreneur's Organization. He currently serves on the board for Employers Resource Council which is committed to creating great organizations in Northeast Ohio. As a lifelong Clevelander he recognizes the value of being a fair weather sports fan and enjoys a far more predictable and rewarding time commitment to the abundant and always successful Arts. He lives in Rocky River with his wife who is an Anthropologist at Case, and two young and spirited children.