Life-insurance statistics say many successful business people die soon after retirement.
Oh, there are the enjoyments of retirement such as relaxation and recreation. But there may also be a sense of emptiness and a lack of belonging.
The “Joe Who?” syndrome is one is one of the most difficult situations which the retired businessman — especially high-profile dealers well known in their towns — must deal with.
To suddenly become a non-player is traumatic to the unprepared dealer retiree. For years he has been in control and responsible for the destinies and well-being of scores of people.
Now he may find himself trying to control his golf swing. Pursuits that were once pastimes can suddenly become primary activities. Filling the void may be difficult in advanced years.
Sometimes it's hard contractually and emotionally for auto dealers to retire. Most factory-dealer agreements are personal contracts between manufacturers and individual dealers.
This relationship is constantly utilized and if there are family manager appointees designated as dealer nominees. In most cases, these contractual agreements may make it difficult for dealers to accept the succession process and fully retire.
I did in 1992 and named my son Scott the dealer of record. We have a buy-out agreement which will mature in 2006. During this period he maintains complete operational control of the dealership. Partial control cannot succeed, as early on it was acknowledged that our management goals were vastly different.
My goal was to practice conservation and preserve my personal assets, while my son (who incidentally proved to be an excellent dealer) was more of a risk-taker. One of us had to step aside, and it was me. Partial control does not work at dealerships. I discovered that.
I recall one incident when I paged my son to my office where I wished to have him handle one of my old customers.
Introducing them, I privately told Scott I'd offer a price after the customer checked out the inventory with my son. After the customer left, my son walked into my office, shut the door and warned me not to answer the telephone as a defensive ploy.
He then announced he wanted no more of my old customers otherwise he would resign from the dealership. He wanted no special treatment from “Dad.”
There's none of that now. Scott is happy running the dealership in Massachusetts without Dad second-guessing him. I now live in Hawaii where I'm happy after launching a new “career” as a volunteer for various causes.
Fortunately, the stereotype of retirees living with their memories is rapidly changing. For many of them — with a little effort — the present has become the focal point of their lives. They're encouraged to live it to its potential.
One of the most exciting environments available to retirees is in the field of education. Available to retirees are hundreds of adult education opportunities ranging from earning degrees to learning a craft.
One of the biggest obstacles to participating in adult education is the false impression some people have attached to the learning process. They recall earlier education environments and relate them to any reference to “school.”
This is like comparing a Model T to a Corvette. They're both cars that will get you to your destination. But the trip will sure be different.
Envision retirement as a beginning rather than an end.
Educator Perry Gresham once said of retirees, “Those who have vision, expectancy and a spirit of creative adventure, go to the happiest and best years of their lives.”
Nat Shulman is a retired Massachusetts dealer now living in Hawaii.