Time for a change in plans

For the past couple of years I have had this gnawing feeling that I really needed to set up some sort of succession plan for the business that Don and I have built and owned together since its inception in 1998. I?m not getting any younger and, as majority owner, I wanted to make sure the Free Press continues after us.

This past August, I discovered a program at the KU School of Business called RedTire. Its mission is to assist older business owners find a successor so businesses on Main Street throughout Kansas will continue and even grow after the owner is ready to leave.

The official name of the program is ?Redefine Your Retirement.? And here is the best part, as reported on redtire.org website: ?All of the RedTire functions and activities are free of any charge and there is no obligation for any payment whatsoever for any services provided. It is our sole purpose to help successfully connect retiring owners and replacement management to further grow the Kansas economy and provide more good paying jobs for its citizens.?

So I enrolled in the program, and during the past seven months a plan was developed to find a successor for me. It has been a great experience working with Denton Zeeman at the KU?School of Business, who is the RedTire program manager.

In theory, someone who has graduated from any Kansas Regents University/ Community College would be identified as a potential new owner. In my case it worked out a little bit differently. I found someone who is a bright, young, up-and-comer in the newspaper business already, but the RedTire program was still helpful in enabling us to come to an equitable arrangement.

I was introduced last year to Joey Young, owner of The Clarion newspaper in the Mount Hope, Andale, Colwich and Haven areas, by our Harvey County sales representative, Bruce Behymer. We had lunch a few times at the Bentley Cafe to talk shop and how we might work together in the future. Then it hit me that Joey was the perfect fit for taking my place. We have been meeting regularly since.

Joey grew up in Buhler, graduated from Buhler High and worked a few years at the Hutchinson News after working a short time for Reeves Media in Halstead and at the Clarion.

Wife Lindsey, who is a partner with him in his newspaper operation, grew up in Haven, graduated from Haven High and some from here may remember her on the staff at Camp Mennoscah for a number of years. She graduated from Bethel College and now teaches and is the yearbook adviser at Haven High School.

They both know what small, rural Kansas towns are like and understand how they function. They both believe in building community through their publications. A perfect fit.

The rest of the story will soon be history as Joey and Lindsey take over my interest in the company as of April 1. Don Ratzlaff will remain as their partner and I will become an employee and adviser to them for up to three years as well as take care of the printing, which includes books, catalogs and magazines.

Joey will be spending a few days a week in Hillsboro as he takes over the reigns as publisher while continuing to publish his two newspapers in Sedgwick County. Just last year, the Youngs started a new free newspaper in Maize called the Maize Free Press.

Joey said I should keep writing this column, so I plan to do that, too.

There comes a time to turn things over to a younger generation, and this seems like the perfect time to make it happen. I am deeply fond of our current staff and I owe it to their future to change roles.

If you wish to share your comments or ideas, my e-mail address is joel@

Written By
More from Joel Klaassen
We’ll miss our great mother
I honestly thought my mother-in-law, Dayle Unruh, would live to be 100....
Read More