I remember somewhat vaguely my 60th and 65th birthdays and they didn’t seem to be very important. Last month however I reached 70 and it seemed different. Someone asked me how “Ted how does it actually feel?” and I had to admit that I was kind of “looking a bit sideways at it”. I am not really sure what to make of it.
Yes I know it is just a birthday, just a date on the calendar, but it feels different to other birthdays and yes it does feel a little strange. I am not sure that I entirely like it but perhaps, and I do hope so, it will in time grow on me and someday I might even enjoy being in my 70’s. Anyway I have decided to try and work towards at least feeling comfortable with it because I know that every day we have should be treasured and enjoyed because we have only so many of them and anyway there is not much I can do about it. I am what I am!
On the family side I have been blessed with children and in later years grandchildren and thankfully all of them are still talking to me. And so during my life I have been a brother to six. I have been a son and a grandson and am thankfully still a husband, I am also a father and a father in law, and in recent years a grandfather and so yes I have been blessed.
On the business front almost 46 years ago, I started a little business which is doing quite well and indeed is growing again after some challenging years, under the excellent guidance of my son Eamon. I am enjoying the interesting challenge of working with him. His two little girls are I think also delighted that we work together and I have already had some business chats with them and particularly with the older of the two Claire who is nearly 5, about taking over from her Dad in about 30 years’ time. She thinks it’s a cool idea! You can’t start this business succession process early enough!
We started a new business franchise in Galway 5 years ago with Pat O Dwyer at the helm and this has been a most exciting and interesting development. It is wonderful to see him building a serious business in the West of Ireland. In due course we would hope to bring this franchise business model to other parts of Ireland.
So everything is fine but it is not the same as it was and I struggle sometimes to adapt to the changing times and to accepting that I am at a different age and stage now at 70 to what I was when I started City Life in 1971 when I was a young fellow of 25.
Back then when I persuaded people, sometimes a little reluctantly, to start putting a few quid away each month into their pension plans, I was able to tell them that I would go back to them each year till they retired to assess and monitor their funds. Just to keep them on track to make sure that when they got to their selected retirement age they would have enough money in their fund to give them financial independence outside of their business. This became especially important, if like me, they were lucky enough to have a son or daughter competent and interested in coming into the family business with them. Now their business perhaps was not going to be for sale!
As a result in the last few years I have had the absolute privilege of sitting down with many of these people when they reached their retirement age and saying to them. The good news is that “this is now your pay-back time” Over the years they had paid good money every month into their pension fund and now it was time for this money, plus the growth to be paid back to them and their spouse in the form of tax free cash and a monthly or annual income for the rest of their lives.
Quite frankly I had no idea as to how satisfying this aspect of our work was going to be when I started my own little business all those years ago!
Now however it is quite different because when a young business owner or manager aged say 30 looks at me they know full well that there is not too much chance of me being around when they get to 65 to look after them. In these cases I have to get one of the younger people in our company to work with them and to look after them into the future. This I find quite difficult to deal with as in many cases the young person doing business would often be a son or daughter of a customer or friend that I had been doing business with over the years.
For many years I have been the person responsible for bringing in much of the new business into our company and whilst thankfully this is still the case, I am finding it difficult to accept that as time goes by more and more of my customers and their connections especially the younger ones will no longer be under my personal umbrella. Yes I have to admit that this transference of my younger customers to other members of our company is something I am struggling to come to terms with and yes I am struggling with this letting go stage of the business cycle, that I now find myself in.
And then I say “Ted look at the positive side”. You could be facing far more serious issues if the business had failed or if Eamon had decided to do something different.
One positive aspect of what is happening is that I am actually now getting some time back and possibly next year because the number of customers that I deal with will be less than before, means that maybe a three day week might become a strong possibility. (I don’t mind admitting that what comes to mind for the other 2 days is a certain bank of a river that often conceals a fresh salmon straight in from the Atlantic and a few stretches of land with 18 very small holes contained within!). I hear Eamon saying what is Ted talking about….. He has never worked more than 3 days a week in his life ever! I protest my innocence!!!
And at the same time this fact of being 70 and with the ongoing succession planning at City Life and with my love of and interest in the small family owned and run businesses I do think that perhaps there are many other founders of small family businesses who like me who could well be struggling with this letting go stage that I might be able to help.
And so I am looking at starting up another little business venture called Ted Dwyer Family Business a new company that will give advice and help to founder family business owners. Owners who like me have family members able and willing to run the business for them and in time will take it over as the business moves into the next generation. People like me who are also grappling with the letting go stage. I will report on its progress in due course.
And so as we approach the end of the year you are now reading my final blog of 2016. I thank you for reading this one and indeed any of the other 35 blogs that I posted during the year. All together this year there have been over 7,000 reads of my blogs, people from 59 countries around the world. Most of my readers have been from Ireland with just over 4,000. The USA was next at 1,200 and then the UK at just over 700. The biggest number of reads on any blog I wrote was the one on The Southern Lake Hotel posted in September 2015 with more than 1,100 reads. I enjoyed writing that one.
Let’s hope you have a pleasant and peaceful Christmas wherever you are.
Ted Dwyer Family Business