Case Study

Navigating Transition: How A Strategic and Proactive Plan Secured the Future of Crane Johnson Lumber Co.

November 7, 2023

Why Next-Generation Family Business Planning May Not Be Easy

Family business succession planning doesn’t always include the next generation. But careful, proactive planning can ensure that your family business continues for years to come, even if it’s not family-owned.
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Crane Johnson Lumber Co.
Crane Johnson Lumber Co.Fargo, ND

There’s a common factor that binds all business owners together — the need to someday transition the business to its next owner. This inevitable phase requires careful consideration, strategic decision-making, and a keen eye towards the future.

Founded in 1883 in Cooperstown, North Dakota, Crane Johnson Lumber Co. evolved from a single lumberyard serving a rural market into a multi-faceted company encompassing several divisions with headquarters in Fargo, North Dakota. After the Briggs family became involved in the business in 1930, Crane Johnson spent over 50 intermittent years operating under the family’s ownership.

However, when Wayne Briggs decided it was time to start thinking about retirement — and transition to the next generation was no longer an option — he remembered an Exit Planning Seminar he had attended at the recommendation of his business advisors at Eide Bailly and turned to our team to help him through the transition process.


  • One-stop-shop for all aspects of the sale process
  • Proactive transition planning spanning over two years
  • Peace of mind about the future of the business
  • A new owner who aligns with the company’s culture
  • Creation and implementation of a strategic and thoughtful exit strategy
  • No employee turnover due to the transition
By the numbers
Learn more about the client
years in business
family members involved in ownership
in annual revenue
full-time employees

The Challenge

Wayne was getting ready to retire and needed to find someone to take over the family business — but next-generation was not an option.

After three generations of family ownership, Wayne Briggs was in a unique situation — as much as his daughter loved working in the business, she did not want to become the next owner. As 60 loomed on the horizon, Wayne started thinking about what the future of Crane Johnson Lumber Co. was going to look like — and how to make sure his decision kept his employees top-of-mind.

yellow 1
Next-generation ownership was no longer an option. 
    yellow 2
    Valued finding a buyer who matched company culture.
      yellow 3
      Wanted a team that could handle all aspects of the transition.

        The Solution

        Our transaction advisory team worked with Wayne to navigate a successful sale with a buyer that fit the company’s culture.

        Eide Bailly had been auditing Crane Johnson and helping with their taxes for over 40 years. So, when Wayne had to choose who to work with for his transition, Eide Bailly stood out as a promising choice. Not only did we already know Wayne’s business through our existing relationship, but we could also serve as a one-stop-shop for the transaction — handling not just the sale but also the accounting and tax implications that accompanied it.

        Throughout each stage of the process, we maintained open lines of communication with Wayne, ensuring that, as the owner, he was well-informed about what to expect and how to prepare. Exiting the business requires extensive groundwork before, during, and after the transaction to ensure success. Eide Bailly adeptly navigated each step — facilitating meetings with potential buyers, making sure the business’s financials were in place, and keeping the deal on track and on time — ultimately resulting in a successful merger of Crane Johnson Lumber Co. with Miller Holdings Inc.

        The Results

        A strong future for both Wayne Briggs and Crane Johnson Lumber Co.

        Unforeseen circumstances often back business owners and their families into a corner. Through his proactive and thoughtful planning, Wayne could voice his desires and goals for the company — and then work with our team to ensure those wishes were accomplished. Now, Wayne feels peace of mind knowing that he can retire with a plan in place and a bright future secured for his company.


        Wooden Truss Roof
        Exit Planning
        e-BookKey Considerations in Exit Planning
        Preparing to exit your business is a series of choices, assessments, and reassessments. It’s a process and the longer you give yourself, the better off you’ll be. Discover the four stages of every successful transition plan in this comprehensive e-book.
        We’ll help you create a strategic transition plan that accomplishes your goals.