No Matter Your Age, Get a Retirement Plan Going and Stick To It!

You should always be thinking ahead to those golden years. Here are some suggestions for your retirement path.

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Question: I am coming up to retirement age soon. Jeff and Terri, can you share your thought process when you decided to sell Pit Stop, how the retirement transition is going, and how do you find fulfillment after so many years of running the business? 

Answer: “You will know.”

We are sure that you are scratching your head, as were we, when we heard this response to the question of, “When and how did you decide to retire?” We are eager to share our thoughts about these words of wisdom.

A brief background

We were both hired by IBM after graduation from college. We met at an IBM-sponsored “Dale Carnegie Class” in the summer of 1985. After 10 years I left to start a portable restroom company called Pit Stop in 1995, while Terri stayed with IBM for three more years as our new company was in its infancy. (We needed a steady paycheck and benefits as Pit Stop was merely a truck and 30 portable restroom units at its inception.) Terri worked weekends at Pit Stop doing billing, collections, proposals and other necessary administrative tasks, while I ran the routes and did the pickups and deliveries.

In 1998, Terri said good-bye to Big Blue and came to work full time with our company. We slowly and steadily grew Pit Stop thanks, in great part, to actively participating in the PSAI as well as a regional spinoff, the Southeastern Portable Sanitation Association, more commonly known as the SPSA. This organization was active from the 1980s until roughly 2010. In addition, we also worked with the Small Business Development Center at our local college.

After 22 years of ownership, in 2017, we sold the company to our general manager and key employee, Brett Roques. Brett continues to shape and mold the company, his company, into one that is far more efficient and technologically advanced than the company he purchased four years ago. 

Start on a plan

As with most major decisions in life, we feel that you should have a plan. Although it seemed odd at the time with a brand-new business, we were encouraged by our PSAI friends as well as our local SBDC to begin a retirement plan. We opted for a Simple IRA Plan. As we began to hire additional employees, this program was a benefit to them as well.

At home, we maintained a household budget with an allocation, no matter how small, for savings. We found that our household budget was far easier to manage than that of our company, so this task was done on a routine basis.

As Pit Stop grew and we were able to compensate ourselves at a more reasonable level, again, contributions to savings were also a factor in these decisions.

In 2012, we paid off our house which was another component of our financial and eventual retirement plan. We paid “a little bit extra each month” on our mortgage payments and paid off the 30-year note in 20 years. At this point, Pit Stop — as well as the rest of our industry — had survived the housing slump/financial collapse of 2008-2010.  

Making the decision

There was not a single event or revelation that made us proclaim “this is it!’ We found deciding to retire was a slow process and one that we did not realize was beginning until we looked back upon it. There were, however, some influential factors in the 2010s that drove our decision:

Family — Both of sets of parents were into their 70s and health issues began to arise. With no children of our own and living near our family, their welfare became a higher priority. 

Work/life balance — While always working long hours, the demand increased exponentially from 2012-14 as I became intimately involved in helping to run the PSAI. While spending roughly 120 days at the PSAI headquarters in Minneapolis during this period, Pit Stop still demanded the same amount of work and Terri was left to handle this arduous task. 

Fortunately, Terri hired a young man named Brett Roques to join the company during my absence. Very soon he was promoted to general manager of the company.  

Next steps for the business — As the economy began to grow in the Atlanta area in 2014-15, we had to decide about Pit Stop’s future growth as well. Should we look at another loan to purchase more equipment? Hire more employees? Expand into other product lines such as temporary fencing?

Further growth and potential of managers/key employees — Brett’s responsibilities increased as did his desire to accept new challenges and to explore new business technologies. At this time — perhaps early 2015 — he expressed a desire to “explore the possibility of purchasing Pit Stop when the opportunity presented itself.”

As you can see, this was a process that slowly evolved. In late 2016, Terri and I thought more and more about these factors and concluded “it is now time.” Once the decision was made, we discussed it with our “key employee” — better known as our “work son” — Brett, who was eager to pursue this possibility.

Planning and executing the plan had worked since the company’s founding in 1995 and we did not deviate from that strategy in terms of selling the company. We worked with our banker, CPA and attorney as did Brett and, together, an in-depth analysis of the company was conducted from both a financial as well as a business perspective. Due diligence was done in a methodical and organized fashion. There was no rush. We wanted Pit Stop to continue to succeed as we determined how our future retirement needs would be.     

Finally, on June 30, 2017, after eight-nine months of analysis and planning, the sale was complete. 

How about you?

Our primary suggestion to all PROs — owners or employees — is to plan to retire. The old expression “fail to plan is to plan to fail” is certainly true from our perspective. 

Pre-retirement financial planning? Consider investing in financial retirement tools such as 401Ks, SIMPLE IRAs and similar plans.

What about after retirement? If you are an owner, once you sell the company, will you find another job or career path? If you are an employee, will you find another job as well? Full time? Part time?

Interests? Will you stay involved in the industry or in business in some way? Besides industry associations such as the PSAI, there are other business organizations in need of volunteers such as SCORE (formerly Service Corps of Retired Executives), part of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Hobbies? Consider joining clubs, nonprofit organizations and travel.

Make notes about your thoughts on retirement and share them with family members or others while reflecting upon them from time to time.

We found it to be true. At a certain point, “we knew.” Fortunately, we had planned and discussed this next phase of life and retirement has, and continues to be, enjoyable and fulfilling. We wish the same to you!  



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