Agent Byron Caraway and
Marion Summey of Stover Mechanical
Marion Summey is a Clemson fan. The orange Clemson flag flies high outside his company’s headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina, and the company’s name, Stover Mechanical, blazes bright orange against the building’s brick facade.
Marion is passionate about the things he loves, and he loves the company that he and his partner, Mitchell Allen, built together. Marion and Mitchell first met as associates at Freeman Mechanical, a firm that designed and installed heating, plumbing, and air-conditioning systems for large construction projects. The two became close and were like family to the company’s founder, Francis Freeman.
As Mr. Freeman approached retirement, he intended to have Marion, Mitchell, and two other associates buy him out. Unfortunately, before Mr. Freeman could make that plan official, he passed away. Ownership of the company became a legal battleground, and the company fell apart.
Marion and Mitchell still dreamed of running their own business, and they found a second opportunity in Stover Mechanical, a smaller company in the same industry. “Mr. Stover worked out a plan in which we could buy him out in five years, so we took the chance,” said Marion.
Together, Marion and Mitchell worked hard to build Stover, hiring many of the Freeman employees who had lost their jobs. “Our employees and our families were relying on Stover. We couldn’t afford to repeat the situation we saw at Freeman,” said Marion
Marion’s New York Life agent, Carl Smith, advised Marion and Mitchell to purchase key employee policies to ensure the survival of their business if one of them passed away. When Carl retired, Agent Byron Caraway stepped in and continued the relationship.
“Byron has my best interests at heart,” said Marion. “He’s always there to offer sound advice.”
In 2009, the economic crisis began to hit home for Stover. Construction projects ground to a halt, and Marion and Mitchell had to work even harder and scramble for the few large projects that remained. Shortly after leaving work one evening, Mitchell passed away from a massive heart attack.
“I didn’t just lose my business partner that day, I lost my best friend,” said Marion.
Fortunately, thanks to the payout from the key employee policy in place, Marion was able to provide Mitchell’s heirs with their share of the company, while he continued on as sole proprietor of Stover Mechanical.
“I wouldn’t be in business today if it hadn’t been for New York Life. The company truly understands the challenges of small businesses and the impact of losing someone like Mitchell. Because of the plans we put in place, the transition of full ownership to me went as smoothly as possible,” said Marion.
Since then, the two successors that Marion and Mitchell had previously selected, Richie Tucker and David Hensley, have moved into leadership roles at Stover. Marion has new key employee policies in place and is preparing to transfer full ownership of the business to them in several years.
“New York Life has protected me, my family, and my business for 40 years. It’s as though they are a silent partner. That kind of commitment is hard to come by,” said Marion.
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