Last week my Dad, Walt Falke, finally retired from the HVAC industry. In his mid-eighties he has made the decision to move on to the next chapter in his life. He was completely prepared and the business was perfectly organized for it. So, how prepared are you for that big day in your future? Will you be in the position to retire? Are you preparing your company for that transition?
Over the years I’ve written about my Dad a number of times. I’ve never hid how close we are or what a terrific example he has been to me as he brought me into this industry and helped me find my place in it. He’s easy to write about because he typifies what a person should be in this industry and judging by the number of emails I receive after I write about him, many of you agree.
A Breakfast Chat
A few months ago Mom called and asked me to take Dad to breakfast and speak with him about his lengthy naps. He would get up early and head to the office, get things going, then come home and take a nap. He would go back to work, and come home for lunch then take another nap. Then back to work he’d go. Mom thought it may be a symptom of a health problem, and was concerned.
So, on my next trip to California, we had breakfast at Latif’s, Dad’s favorite breakfast stop. After we had eaten, I brought up the nap subject. He grinned and asked if he could talk for a while.
He started by recounting his 50 plus years serving his customers in the industry and how much he loved it. He reminded me he how he risked it all and bought the company he had worked with for the last 25 years when he was 55 years old, and most his friends were looking forward to retirement.
He talked about all the people we had employed, how he was pleased with so many of them, how many had become self managing and had become excellent technicians and true craftsmen under his leadership. He talked of how he had brought my brother and I into the business, created a successful succession strategy, allowed us to take our place as leaders in the company and provided appropriate ownership opportunities to us to keep us engaged and had given each of us the freedom to find our own path.
Then he spoke of the assets of the company how there was no debt. He told me how his home and the office building were paid off, how much he liked Mom’s new Lexus and how all of his financial goals were met.
Then he stopped and asked; Rob, how have I done in my business life? Well, few can say what he has said about his business successes. So I agreed few people could recount such a successful history in business.
Next, Dad talked about his health and how he had exercised nearly every day before work for over 40 years. He talked about how it has kept his mind as well as his body in good shape; how it had enabled him to overcome a stroke a few years ago and how he returned to work after falling off a story and a half roof as he was checking out a packaged unit when he was eighty. He returned to work just a few days later, by the way.
He stopped again and asked: So, Rob, how have I done with my health? “Not too bad, Dad, few can say what you have said,” I commented.
Dad was on a roll and I was loving it. He talked for a while about his church and community service. He talked about his years as a volunteer fire fighter, his decades of committed church service, his Rotary Paul Harris award and the list went on. “Pretty nice list, right, Rob.” I agreed.
The talk continued as we discussed his family. Four sons, all happily married following his good example, all successful. He went on and talked about each of his grandkids and how fine all his great grandkids and great grandkids were, each of them with their lives in good order and living well.
Again, he stopped and asked, “Now tell me Rob, how have I done in the family department of my life?” By this time in the conversation I was shocked. Dad has never been one to blow his own horn. But I was glad he did. Without it I would have never seen him as I saw him that day.
Finally, he commented on the nap issue. “Rob,” he said, “I’ve worked hard all my life and accomplished what I set out to do. I am grateful for what I have been able to do. But my life is complete and I am tired. I love my naps. Will you tell everyone if I want to enjoy a couple naps a day that it’s all right? I think have earned it.”
So Dad, enjoy your naps and thank for your good example to the industry and giving many of us a vision of what our careers could look like when we look back some day and consider our retirement.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC based training company with technical and business level membership organizations. You can contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.