LAS VEGAS — Succession planning has grown more formal at McKee Foods Corp. as the Collegedale, Tenn.-based company approaches a move to its fourth generation of family leadership, said Mike McKee, president and chief executive officer.

As a panelist in the Executive Leadership Development Committee Baking Industry Forum, Mr. McKee offered his perspectives on issues related to being part of a family business. The American Bakers Association forum was held Oct. 8 during the 2013 International Baking Industry Exposition at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Panelists in addition to Mr. McKee included Paula Marshall, chief executive officer of The Bama Companies, Inc.; Miles Jones, co-chairman of Dawn Food Products; and Fred Penny, president of Bimbo Bakeries USA.

Mr. McKee identified two keys for succession planning at the outset of his presentation. First was the importance of taking a “long-term view.” Next, he said is having the patience to realize succession does not unfold quickly.

Before discussing the succession just beginning to a new generation, Mr. McKee endorsed a number of steps taken roughly 20 years ago at McKee in the transition to his generation’s leadership.

“A first step may be engaging a family business professional,” he said. “Someone you trust. Somebody who is a third party. Someone objective. That was something we did, and I was part of that.

“Also, getting involved in a family business organization gives you a chance to rub shoulders with other family businesses, to share experiences. Those are all things our company did early in the transition from the second to the third generation.”

Mr. McKee described what he called an “informal” process of bringing third generation family members into the business, beginning with summer work as teenagers and touching on all operational areas of the business.

“That brings us to today, and we’re focused on 4G, which is my daughter’s generation of the family,” Mr. McKee said. His daughter Brittany, who recently joined the company in a marketing role, was in attendance at I.B.I.E.

“It’s our hope that in 10-15 years a handful of those adults will make a commitment to the company, put their time in, build credibility and have done the things they need to do to take a leadership position,” Mr. McKee said.

In addition to the elements in place during the transition to the third generation, McKee has instituted specific policies for family members to join the business.

“We have an annual family business meeting where the focus is more and more on the 4Gs,” Mr. McKee said. “In our family, they range from 16 years of age to their late 20s. So we have a lot beginning to make their career decisions. We continue to use family business organizations and family business professionals. And starting this summer, we had a two-day session on leadership development, character, Myers-Briggs type thing. Teamwork. It was well attended. We had nice attendance from our 4Gs. So our programs are more structured today but our principles are the same.”

Ultimately, he said the objective is to give the next generation the opportunity to look at the family business as a potential career.

“But there’s no heavy pressure,” he said. “We’re just trying to find that match.”

 (More extensive coverage of each E.L.D.C. forum participant’s remarks will be published in upcoming issues of Milling & Baking News and Baking and Snack magazines.)