Kelly Grains – a family business

‘The main challenge in succession planning is maintaining a commercial perspective while also maintaining personal considerations’

Client Challenge

Kelly Grains is a grain storage, marketing & logistics company. In operations since the 1930’s and over four generations, the Kelly family has built a strong grain trading business in the Southern Riverina, and are proud of their family reputation for stability and reliability.

Initially Kelly Grains identified the need to improve the management of the business. In addition, the business was considering the future direction and after looking at the options of selling or restructuring they made the decision to keep the business in the family and had identified a successor.

The challenge was they didn’t know where to start or how to go about implementing a succession plan. Chris Kelly and his son Matt decided to engaged Sean Martyn at Business By Design to help them develop and implement a succession plan to secure the future of their family business.

Business By Design Solution

Kelly Grains undertook our comprehensive succession planning program.With every succession plan we start with the people’s needs primarily focused on vision & goal setting for all family members. We then look to redesign roles and responsibilities within the business in regard to leadership, management and ownership.

The Business By Design team liaised with other Kelly Grains business advisers including their legal, banking and accounting support and division managers within the business to ensure the changes in the business would not impact day to day operations.

Position profiling for the incumbent leader and professional development training & coaching was implemented to help Matt move into the role of CEO. Matt underwent a comprehensive skill assessment and professional development schedule to ensure he had the training required of the CEO position. In addition, coaching and support was provided to Chris as the exiting leader to help him move to a mentoring role to the new CEO.

After a number of workshops and meetings a comprehensive documented succession plan was developed that included a monthly traffic light assessment of plans and progress. This is where the traction starts and significant support is focused on assisting the family, staff, customers, suppliers and business alliances deal with the change in the business. Our coaching extended to improving management reporting and accountability within the business as well as a comprehensive rhythm of meeting which now provides capacity to anticipate the impact of change for all involved.

Client Results

The succession planning and implementation process took 22 months for this million-dollar business.

During the transition the P&L remained positive and no financial impact was felt

Customers and suppliers did not notice any significant change in operations or procedures

Matt Kelly is now the CEO and Chris Kelly is now chairman of the board

The business leadership team meets monthly to work on the business strategy

The board meets quarterly to review the business plan and the Kelly family enjoy an annual 2-day retreat and share Christmas together.

Client Testimonial

“What Sean has helped us with is not only the succession but improving the management of the business and reporting. If the management and reporting of the business isn’t attended to, it makes the succession planning very difficult. We needed that accountability.”


“Sean was able to provide a structured approach to reporting and an understanding of the responsibilities and accountabilities. We incorporated the succession into the improved management structure.”


“When a CEO in the corporate world succeeds another CEO the new CEO is 6 years younger, whereas in a family business it can be 26 years younger. When the older family member tries to pass onto the younger one there is a lot of years difference.”


“The CEO role has now passed onto my son Matt and I am in the role of Chairman. The roles of CEO and Chairman work very closely together and this is complicated further when you have that personal father-son relationship.”


“The main challenge in succession planning is maintaining a commercial perspective while also maintaining personal considerations. The family relationship is the most import thing above everything however there are times where if that family situation wasn’t there, there are things you would do differently commercially.”


“There are a lot of personal considerations. You want the family members to succeed and you will at times modify your commercial approach in consideration of the family situation.”


“Sean is very good at managing people and he’s got the right sensitivities. Sean is quite perceptive to understanding the personal considerations and adapting to individuals, as everyone is different. He is very well researched and is able to communicate the message he needs to get across.”


“We have established an understanding of the rules of conduct and agreement on how you would bring contentious issues to the table.”


“We are better prepared for eventualities as they come up and now have a way of resolving most things. The family council meetings are a good idea so people can speak frankly and have a voice.”


“We’ve not had a business coach before and it’s been a really good idea to engage Sean.”


“We are now a long way down the path of succession.”

Phone (02) 6658 0775