Transition Guides

Next Generation Institute (NGI)®

Goering Center Transition Guides are individuals with personal and/or professional experience with family business successions, both with transition planning and the implementation process.

Their job is to:

  • Provide objective leadership and feedback to all members of the succession team and family as appropriate
  • Lead the process with a "business first" mentality, while respecting the needs and wants of all interested parties in the process

Read the complete description of a transition guide’s role here.

The Goering Center's Next Generation Institute™ is a comprehensive transition planning process, designed by the Goering Center and based on over 20 years' experience working with dozens of family businesses - large and small - as they prepared for transition of ownership.

12 critical topics that span three phases of succession planning
Align Discover Empower

Session 1 - Find Community

Session 2 - Learn to Communicate

Session 3 - Gain Consensus

Session 4 - Explore Governance

Session 5 - Build Your Team

Session 6 - Educate Shareholders

Session 7 - Assess Readiness

Session 8 - Create Redundancy

Session 9 - Build Value

Session 10 - Get A Game Plan

Session 11 - Make the Deal

Session 12 - Take “Ownership”

Meet your transition guides

After graduating from Notre Dame and serving as a Naval Officer, Rick began his career at his family’s business, Kirk & Blum, as a sales engineer in 1972. Kirk & Blum produced industrial sheet metal products, air pollution control systems on a design/build basis and installed them. Rick became president of Kirk & Blum, succeeding his retiring father, in 1982. By the mid-90’s it had become the largest company of its kind in the U.S. In 1999, K & B was owned by Rick, his two brothers who were active in the business, and three sisters who were not. Working with their advisory board, the family decided that the best solution to their succession issues was to sell the company. The company was sold to Ceco Environmental, a publicly traded company, in December of 1999. Rick became the president and Chief Operating Officer of Ceco and his two brothers continued at K & B.

Areas of expertise
Business strategy: Rick was CEO of Kirk & Blum starting in 1982, and COO of Ceco Environmental from (CECE) from 1999 to 2011.

Family transitioning program: Rick has been both a G2 and a G1 and has personally gone through two transitions. He has guided a number of families through generational and leadership transitions. He also serves a number of family owned companies as an advisory board member.

Operations: As a CEO and COO Rick was responsible for the operations of a company with revenue in excess of $300 million.

Industry experience
Construction: Kirk & Blum is the largest industrial sheet metal contractor in the US.

Manufacturing: Both Kirk & Blum and Ceco operated manufacturing facilities.

Other: Ceco is one of the most fully integrated environmental controls companies in the world.

View Rick's LinkedIn Profile

Todd is an accomplished operations leader with a background in privately owned and private equity sponsored manufacturing businesses. He has successfully instituted strategic and tactical plans to achieve improved results in the areas of gross margin, on-time delivery, safety, and quality. He has overseen the integration of multiple acquisitions and was part of the leadership team that successfully sold and transitioned from one private equity group to another. He developed a passion for developing leaders during his time in operations leadership and now works with small businesses and leaders to improve performance through coaching and training.

Areas of expertise
Strategic Planning:
 Facilitate the creation of vision, mission, and core values with an organization that drives the attainment of a multi-year plan utilizing annual and monthly goals, daily and weekly actions, and metrics and tools to track progress.

Business Coaching: Working with leaders and owners of the organization to improve in the areas of profit and loss, personnel, strategy, and time management to help them achieve results they cannot achieve on their own.

Succession Planning/Family Transitions: Working with family owned businesses to help them through the process of transitioning leadership from parents to children. Identifying key areas of knowledge and building processes to reduce the reliance on the founder. Creating and implementing development plans for the future leaders. Working through the difficult decision of selling the business versus handing it down to heirs.

Process Improvement: Utilizing the tools from lean manufacturing to identify and eliminate waste, reducing cost and improving effectiveness.

Team Building: Working with teams to improve communication through a better understanding of behavior styles. Teaching problem solving individuals how to become coaches and developers of people.

Industry experience
Manufacturing: Served as COO and VP of Manufacturing for several privately owned and private equity sponsored metal fabrication and assembly companies.

Coaching/Training: Certified Business and Executive Coach. Three years as an owner in a professional coaching and training franchise.

View Todd's LinkedIn Profile

Sara works primarily with founders and their families, helping them create the emotional space necessary to work well together. She and her husband started their business a year into their marriage and over 19 years grew it into a firm with 70 employees, 4 locations, and an international partnership. She knows firsthand the challenges that can come with being family while owning and managing a business.

Since 2010, she has been an executive coach and consultant serving CEOS and other professionals in a wide array of industries including manufacturing, professional services, nonprofit management, and corporate settings. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) designation through the International Coaching Federation and has earned the Certificate in Family Business Advising (CFBA) and the Certificate in Family Wealth Advising (CFWA) through the Family Firm Institute.

Areas of expertise
Family dynamics: Helping families see and adjust the underlying relationship patterns that are uniquely theirs, to promote family harmony and improve both the family’s and the company’s capacity to make solid decisions, grow strategically, and transition to the next generation.

Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and NextGen Readiness: Working with current and emerging family and nonfamily leaders to assess present and potential capability and develop leadership strength and maturity.

Succession Planning: Quarterbacking the overall process of transition from one generation to the next, guiding families through the strategic, tactical, emotional, and relational issues that inevitably present themselves during business succession.

Organizational Design: Assessing and adapting the current organizational structure to promote maximum effectiveness in both strategy execution and managerial leadership.

Industry experience
Publishing: For 19 years, Sara was co-founder and co-owner of an educational publishing services firm, doing design, development, and production for major K-12 and collegiate textbook publishers.

Coaching and Consulting: Since 2010, Sara has served as an executive coach and consultant to CEOS and other professionals in manufacturing, professional services, nonprofit management, and corporate settings. She has also provided support for corporate initiatives in career development, culture transformation, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

View Sara’s LinkedIn Profile

Roger is an achiever, arranger and organizer for maximum productivity. He is an activator, making things “happen.” With his upbeat, positive attitude he is able to engender excitement along with having the ability to listen to, and understand the unique needs, desires and talents of others.

Areas of expertise
Family transition planning: Transitioned his own family business and has been an NGI facilitator since 2010 and a transition guide since 2014.

Leadership/management development: CEO coach since 2014 through Vistage International.

Business strategy: CEO responsible for strategic planning and implementation of a $60 million distribution company. Strategic planning facilitator for small to mid-sized companies since 2014.

Industry experience
Distribution/wholesale: Owner/CEO of $60 million pet food and supply distribution business.

Retail: Owner/CEO of seven-store specialty retail chain.

Technology: Executive VP of Administration and Finance, technology company.

View Roger's LinkedIn Profile

David Kiihnl is president of David Kiihnl & Associates which specializes in developing sustainable business strategies, implementing successful succession plans, and providing advice to presidents and owners of mid-size and small companies. Adding to his 12 years of corporate leadership experience, David gained firsthand entrepreneurial knowledge as president/owner of Loth Inc. - a rapid growth company providing Steelcase office furniture and related services to companies in the Cincinnati and surrounding markets. During this time David also served two consecutive terms as a board member of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the first Steelcase Dealer Council. For over 10 years David has volunteered at the Goering Center's Next Generation Institute.  As the leader of the 20-plus volunteer facilitators, he recruits, trains and coaches these volunteers for the important role of assisting family businesses in generational transition. David currently serves on four boards of privately held and family businesses.

Areas of expertise
Marketing and sales: Began his professional career in sales with a division of Bristol Myers-Squibb for 12 years. Utilized these skills in all future positions.

Distribution/logistics: Owner/President of Loth, Inc., the largest Steelcase office furniture dealership in the Cincinnati region.

Business strategy/planning: Received professional training in strategic planning as the owner of Loth, Inc. Utilized this skill to significantly grow the business. Has facilitated this process for over 30 companies and non-profits.

Industry experience
Consulting: Currently president/owner of David Kiihnl & Associates. Utilizing his experience as owner of Loth, Inc., he serves as advisor to owners of small/mid-size companies focusing on strategy, business/financial growth, and key issues facing the owners.

Distribution/wholesale: Owner/president, Loth, Inc., a distributor of office furniture representing Steelcase. Significantly grew this company to from $7 million to $45 million. Received national recognition for several accomplishments.

Consumer products: Progressed rapidly in sales, sales training, and sales leadership in Memphis, Little Rock, Dallas, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. Over this timeframe acquired geographic responsibility for all markets in US.

View David's LinkedIn Profile

Mark is an insightful marketing and financial executive uniquely talented in core purpose and value decision making, mergers and acquisitions, international trade and finance, strategic planning, market competitive analysis, and delivering incremental new business. He has a collaborative leadership style is complemented by developed skills in strategic position analysis, complex financial modeling, deal structure/negotiation and business integration planning.

Areas of expertise
Business strategy/planning: Has led multiple strategic planning processes, as that is the cornerstone of most succession planning processes.

Finance: Expert in raising capital, both for business transition, as well as managing sale processes for clients where that is the chosen option.

Family transition planning: Designed the Eight Steps to Transitioning Value and Control, used by the Goering Center's NGI and has used it in his private practice for almost 20 years.

Industry experience
Consumer products: 30 years of experience.

Distribution/wholesale: 30 years of experience.

Manufacturing: 30 years of experience.

View Mark's LinkedIn Profile

Headshot of Rik Vonderhaar

Rik Vonderhaar

513-225-8092

Rik Vonderhaar earned a marketing degree from St. Joseph’s College, after also receiving a basketball grant-in-aid and the Wall Street Journal Award for senior with best GPA in business major. He earned an MBA from University of Cincinnati, which he completed in 10 months while being a Teaching Assistant. He has had 41-plus years of sales and marketing experience with six companies, two being Fortune 500. Rik is retired now, but still actively applying his skills and experience.

His most recent position was Vice President at Champion Window. Rik has broad based experience and skills in: interpersonal communications, marketing/advertising, pricing, sales management, competitive intelligence, financial statement analysis (P&L responsibilities), operations, customer service, strategic planning and manager recruiting. He has taught and trained several functions including: selling skills, customer service, body language, negotiating and personality types.

Rik has authored a newly published book on value selling, titled In The Absence Of Value, All That’s Left Is $$. He is currently working as a volunteer consultant to non-profit organizations serving the business community of Cincinnati. Rik received 2018 Mentor of the Year Award by the University of Cincinnati Center for Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (CEC).

Areas of Expertise
Marketing/Sales: Ability to teach and train strategies and tactics for sales, including: negotiating, body language, personality types, contact preparation and execution and sales proposals. Have purchased advertising media and developed marketing plans for retail markets (e.g. Atlanta, Cincinnati, Chicago, Washington, DC).

Leadership/Management Development: Managed 29 retail outlets (12 at one time) for Champion Window – sales, operations and P&L. Responsible for assessing, hiring and training Division Managers for the cities. Also responsible for building team to support Division Managers. Responsible for building team to support Division Managers. Skilled in analyzing financial statements to identify areas for improvement.

Business Strategy/Planning: Managed annual budgeting process for retail locations, including sales, operations, personnel and P&L. As Executive Committee member, made and discussed recommendations for improving company operations. Developed operating and strategic plans.

Industry Experience
Construction: Senior manager in three privately held, family-owned home improvement companies.

Manufacturing: Windows and Automotive: Developed marketing and advertising programs for both corporate and division locations.

Banking/Financial Services: Developed and trained corporate customer service initiative resulting in improved customer service scores and company revenues.

View Rik's LinkedIn Profile


It is important to note that there is no third-party accreditation for a profession known as “transition guides.” There are consulting professions that naturally align with this work – many accounting, wealth advisory, and law firms, as well as banks, insurance, and business brokers – have segments of their businesses focusing on these services. There are accrediting bodies who certify professionals to do business valuations, or to be certified exit planners, and there are family business advisory firms who support the challenging family dynamics that surface during transition. All of this expertise is relevant and important and desired, but “transition guide” is simply a descriptive term, not a standalone profession or an accreditation.

The Goering Center is a hub for people who do this work, and we provide a comprehensive listing of these firms in our Professional Services Registry. Be advised that the organizations listed self-identify their transition guide expertise. The Goering Center does not warrant their services or verify their qualifications.