Time Waits for No One
David Simmons was a long-time customer and a friend. Whenever he would bring his car in for service, he would remind me of his countdown to retirement. It’s not that he didn’t want to work—David enjoyed his career as an accountant, worked hard, and had a successful business. However, David had plans and goals other than business. That was, to purchase an RV and travel to every state in the U.S. with his wife. David had every detail clearly written out. The routes, the places they would stop at, how much time on the road each day, how long the trip would take, and of course, the model RV he would purchase. Three months before his retirement, David was excited and let me know that he would be gone for at least a year. I could feel his excitement and I was happy for David. Six months later, David’s wife came in to see me with sad news. A month before his retirement, David was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and died two months later. David and his wife never took their long-awaited dream vacation.
This story is not to upset or depress anyone. Death is a part of life. However, life is part of life too. As business people, we sometimes think that business will go on forever or that we have more time on this planet than we actually do. We all reach a point in our lives when we realize that there are more years behind us than there are ahead of us. No matter what age you are right now, stop and read the last sentence again and let that sink in a bit.
In 1973, at the age of eighteen, I made the decision to become an automotive technician. I took that seriously and worked hard to be the best I could be. Seven years later, I became a shop owner, and have worked hard to become the best I could be in business. I grew up hanging around repair shops and gas stations with my father, and I wanted to make a difference in the world of independent auto repair shops. My passion for this business was rooted from a very young age. I knew it would be a long hard road, but I made the best of it, accepted it, and have no regrets. Well, only one. If I could do it all over again, I would change one thing—reduce the number of hours spent at the shop.
There were times when I would go to work at 5:00am on a Saturday, get the shop going, leave the shop around 9:00 am for my son’s baseball game, go back to the shop at noon after his game was over, and finish up a few jobs. I know many of you reading this are shaking your heads, not in amazement, but in empathy, that you too did, or are doing, the same exact thing.
I remember there would be days when I was so tired, I would lock the shop doors around 7:00 pm, get an hour of sleep in the back room and go back to work for a few more hours. Yes, I was a little nuts in the 1980s. I would bet that I am not alone in my over-the-top work habits.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not judging anyone who works hard. And I am not angry with myself for working the way I did. However, later on in my business career, it became clear that the way I worked was due more to my inability to truly run an efficient business. The business relied too heavily on what I did, as opposed to building a team around me, which is what I eventually did. And we all know that the right team is more successful than any one person.
As shop owners, we have commitments to fulfill each and every day. Those commitments extend to our employees, to our business, and to our community. However, we also need to make a commitment to ourselves and our families. I have said this countless times and will repeat it here again: Your business must serve to enhance your life, never consume it. Be successful, build your wealth, and become the shop owner you’ve dreamed of becoming. Make a difference in this world. But never do any of that at the expense of precious time away from your family and time for yourself too. David Simmons’ goal was to wait until retirement to begin to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He never reached his goal. Let’s all learn from David. Don’t wait, make the most out of life. Start Today.