Life After Shop OwnershipPosted 10/1/2008
By Rachael J. Mercer
How to plan for retirement, explore a new career or just navigate a new road in life.
Retirement is often a subject that workers - including shop owners - tend to relegate to the "back burner" when thinking about the future. However, the 76 million Americans considered to be part of the baby boomer generation are approaching retirement, and along with the rest of the automotive repair shop owners, must be preparing for retirement. Too often the focus for shop owners is simply the day-to-day management of the business, which can be all consuming. Automotive shop owners who have experienced retirement and its processes before and after retirement can offer advice as others approach the major life event. There are steps you can take today to prepare for retirement; steps that will make life after retirement even sweeter!
It has been said that failure to plan is simply a plan for failure. This saying can be especially true in terms of retirement planning. Begin preparing for retirement by planning for the future - starting the process as early as possible. Craig Van Batenburg, AAM, who owned and operated an automotive business for 26 years, emphasizes to shop owners that "Every decision you make should be made while considering 'will this help me sell my business?'" Van Batenburg, now owner of the Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC), stressed that planning ahead is the key to a successful retirement.
Succession planning fits right in with financial planning, and AMI offers courses in succession planning that will help you as you prepare for life after shop ownership. Many shop owners recognize the problems associated with a lack of young people who are interested in becoming automotive technicians; but some are able to find employees within their business who will take over the shop successfully. Succession planning allows a shop owner to "replace himself" and walk away from the business knowing it has been turned over to someone who will help keep the business successful.
Mac McGovern, a shop owner for 30 years, is now the director of marketing and training for KYB America. McGovern explained that once he retired from his business, he knew he would pursue a "next" career. "My goal was to remain in the automotive industry," he said. "In my present position, I can clearly see that for the most part a long-term or succession plan simply doesn't exist in most automotive businesses." McGovern encourages owners to look into succession planning and to spend time talking with other shop owners who have experienced the successes and problems associated with retirement.
Denny Kahler, past ASA chairman, ran a shop in California for 32 years before selling it and moving to Arizona. Kahler encourages anyone thinking of moving out of the day-to-day automotive business to begin preparing in advance. "Things need to be in order; your books need to be impeccable," he said. "A potential buyer will look back about three years to determine what type of profit you've made. Keeping everything on the books and in good order will maximize your profit and allow you to do more of what you want to do during your retirement."
Now that you've stepped over the retirement line, what should you do?
Once you've retired from the automotive industry, ASA has a Senior Active membership category. Currently, the annual dues for this category are just $15. Members in this category receive AutoInc. magazine, division newsletters and other designated mailings. Senior active members are eligible for any benefits that ASA offers that are applicable to them in their new retired status. Although there is no age range for this senior membership, ASA bylaws state "individuals or their surviving spouses who have been employed by direct or affiliate members in good standing with the Association, but who have retired or who are no longer engaged in the automotive service industry" are eligible for senior active membership. Anyone interested in joining ASA at this membership level should contact the ASA Membership Department at (800) 272-7467, ext. 295.
Be Ready to Grieve
Grieve? Your eyes don't deceive you! Although from where you stand in the thick of shop ownership you might not believe it, many shop owners talk about the grieving process that takes place after spending years devoted to your business. Throwing a party to celebrate retirement is not often the first reaction for retirees and their families.
"I was not prepared for the emotional impact that selling my business would have on my family," Van Batenburg said. "As my family was cleaning out the last things in the shop, my son began to sob inconsolably. 'I grew up here,' he told me, and together we began to deal with the emotional consequences of selling the business."
Wayne Greider, technical team leader/instructor for the NASCAR Technical Institute, said that after leaving his business it took about a month to work through similar feelings: "There was definitely a grieving process to work through. I probably didn't prepare enough to say goodbye to customers I had served for 21 years." Often there is attachment to the location, a family-like relationship with former employees, and as you move on to the next adventure in your life, leaving those relationships and even the buildings behind can be difficult. Be prepared for this emotional adjustment.
Many retired ASA members have gone on to further careers in the automotive industry - some by chance and some by design. For example, Tim Dwyer, an automotive instructor at Oklahoma State University, began getting involved in vo-tech training at his local high school while he was still running a business. "This experience showed me that I was interested in something that I could do after leaving full-time management," said Dwyer. Dwyer said he didn't think he'd ever sell his business, but once he realized that independent shops need help in developing students into automotive technicians, he threw his hat "in the ring" to teach. Dwyer was able to sell his business because he wanted to - not because he had to. Dwyer, who now teaches at the college level, encourages retirees to be active in teaching the next generation - whether at the local high school level, the college level, or at the professional level.
McGovern also stressed the importance of turning the generation of retirees into educators. "For the most part, an ordinary shop owner does not recognize himself as having value as a trainer," said McGovern. "But there is a huge amount of value in the knowledge and experience that is leaving the industry as the generation of baby boomers is retiring." As you begin preparing to leave the day-to-day operation of an automotive business, begin asking yourself if teaching others is one way to stay involved in the industry while making a difference.
Learn Something New
Greider, who retired after 35 years in the automotive industry, learned a new skill after taking some time away. "I took some time off after leaving my business," said Greider. "My wife and I went on a cruise and took off about six weeks, really spending time recharging before taking the next step." Greider says it's important to stay busy during retirement. "We have to keep busy," he said. "Most of us are used to working with our hands - sometimes making something out of nothing." He urged finding things to do, filling the gap left by no longer running the business and working with your hands. "I took cooking lessons," he said. "Over the holiday season - a busy season for the caterer I took lessons from - I actually worked with the caterer. It was a great experience."
When Greider isn't cooking, he loves teaching at the NASCAR Institute. "I can't believe they pay me to do this," he said. "I almost don't feel like I work." Teaching gives Greider the opportunity to give back, which is something he feels is his duty. "After 35 years in the automotive industry, it's my duty to impart this knowledge to someone else," he said.
Return to the "Love of the Game"
Kahler pointed out that it was his love of cars that brought him into the industry in the first place. "I think a lot of people get into the automotive business because of their love of cars," he said. "But as the business grows, customers become the primary concern, and that love can get lost." In retirement, Kahler has opened what is basically a "hobby shop" where he can work on his own cars and complete an occasional restoration for a customer.
Kahler has stayed active in the automotive industry at large by attending events held during NACE and CARS in Las Vegas and speaking to groups about automotive topics. "Now I am active for pure enjoyment," said Kahler, "and there are many former shop owners like me whose love of automobiles keeps them active."
Keep Moving On
According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a study released in October 2005 concluded "death rates improve with increasing age at retirement for people from all socio-economic groups. People who wish to enjoy longer lives should recognize the importance of a healthy active lifestyle, whatever age they choose to retire." Staying active in something is essential. Just as you began a business with a plan for success, developing a plan to stay active during your years of retirement is essential.
Van Batenburg encourages shop owners who are approaching retirement to map out what they plan to do after retirement. "Don't just throw your experience out the window," he said. "Stay in the field; find something you can do well and put your skills to work." He emphasized that "life has much more meaning if you're moving toward a goal instead of away from something." Greider says, "As an automotive expert, you have to have something to fill the gap. Find something to fill it!" Kahler encourages retirees to "Find something to live for" once they've moved away from running an automotive business. "Travel, take a cruise, volunteer, get involved in church groups," said Kahler. "Get your goals and desires mapped out and then start meeting them."
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
ASA Partners with EPA Collision Repair Campaign |
Life After Shop Ownership |
ASRW Show Section |
Just Because It's Slow Doesn't Mean You Can't Grow! |
CARS Guest Editorial |
NACE Guest Editorial |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
Around ASA |
Net Worth |
Stat Corner |
Members' Advantage |
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.