In this episode Josh talks with Peter Christman about his experience in business and if others treat him differently due to his age and experience.
Peter Christman has 17 Years in executive management with Ford Motor Co. and Xerox Corporation, 20 years as an investment banker involved in over 100 transactions with privately held companies valued between 5 and 152 million. He is the founder of Exit planning and the Exit Planning Institute which he sold to the Snider Group in 2012.
Peter is 79, with a lot of good experiences to share for business and personal reasons. Still active, consulting and mentoring business owners and advisors. Strongly believe in active aging versus actively growing old!
In today’s episode you will learn:
- How living as an active senior look like.
- About selling privately held companies.
- The three legs of the stool in Exit Planning.
- The fun of aging in the business and personal world.
- How to overcome the fears of aging.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at the Sustainable Business Podcast. Today, my guess is Peter Christman. I’ve known Pete for gosh, I don’t know 15, 20 years maybe.
Josh: Been a while and he is an interesting guy. He’s been a leader in the Mergers and acquisition world forever. He’s one of the original people in the Exit Planning World. He’s one of the founders of the Exit Planning Institute which he sold several years ago. He now is in retirement living in St. George, Utah. Let me finish, Pete.
Josh: I don’t think he’s in retirement really. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Both Pete and I are over 65. He’s well over 65. I’m barely over 65, but I’ve had this phenomena has happened in the last couple of years which is I’ll just call it ageism for a lack of a better term. But what I’ve seen is that as we get older, it’s harder to stay relevant in business and Pete has done that.
So I thought I have him as my guest today. For those of us who are older or those of you who are getting older, you’re going to find this episode pretty interesting. Let’s bring Pete on. Hey, Pete how are you today?
Peter: Good, good, good. How you doing, Josh?
Josh: I’m doing well. Thank you. Let’s talk about this for a second. You’ve been semi-retired or at least you moved out of doing stuff actively. How many years ago?
Peter: I moved out of Chicago three years ago. I sold my last business the Exit Planning Institute in 2012, but I’ve been very active with them in speaking at various meetings that they’ve had and so much of conferences they’ve had. I would say that three years after I sold the institute, you could say I was—I hate that word retirement because you never should be retired. Let’s just say I was not as active as I was about 2015.
Josh: So have you experienced as you got older that people tried to make you more and more irrelevant in the context of being in business, or working with other business people?
Peter: When you say people that tried to make you more relevant describe that further because I want to make sure I talk about your definition of what that is.
Josh: Well, as we get older especially in the United States, the reverence for age in wisdom is not especially high. People who are younger in business say under 40 years old sometimes even under 50 years old. They look at folks at our age and say, “What can we bring to the party and business that has any relevance or interest to them?” They don’t get it. They’re out of touch with what’s really going on today.
Those are the sort of things that I’ve run across in the last couple of years. I know that I’ve been having to work relatively hard to get people, people who are younger in business to continue to take me seriously.
Peter: Yeah, that’s true and I don’t know why because I have found that once people are with me whether it is through a medium like this or we’re face to face or whatever and we have active dialogue, I’m getting a whole hell of a lot of respect.
But because of the way they communicate nowadays, Josh, what I found is people don’t pick up the phone and have a conversation like we used to do. I don’t know if it’s a lack of respect, or they don’t think of it, but you’re right. You do have to be more active with your interaction with people as you get older and I don’t know why.
I do know one thing with younger people they dialogue with email, texting, but like people our age, they don’t pick up the phone in business particularly, but they’ll pick up the phone and dialogue with people.
Josh: I would say that’s probably true. What I’m finding is that folks that are definitely under 40 basically are seeing our skill set is being out of touch with what they’re trying to do today. Now, what I do find is that in the under 40 group there’s at least two very, very distinct groups. This was true when I was younger also.
I was fortunate to have a bunch of really smart mentors when I first got into the business that sort of adopted me and took me under their wing. This was back when I was in the food service and vending business and I’m sure they were having the same issues that we’re facing today is that many people saw them as being out of touch with what was going on in business and that they really weren’t concerned there.
And then there’s another group of people who actually look for older folks to be mentors to them because they realize that if someone’s been in the game for a long time and they’ve actually created something of use, they probably haven’t lived 40 years the same 40 years every single year like its Groundhog Day.
They probably grown and learned and lived along the way and as a result, they do have something useful to add. So my question is, what have you done specifically to let people know that you still have it and that you still are able to create good stuff in today’s world?
Peter: Good question. First of all, if you excuse expression, you have to stay exposed otherwise out of sight, out of mind type of thing. I just finished workshop here in Utah in Salt Lake which is a four hours from St. George. There were about 10 other people in that group besides myself and it was put on by a gentleman by the name of Peter Hickey who owns a company called MAUS.
Josh: I know, Pete. He is a good guy.
Peter: And it was one of his seminars and so forth. I found in that environment that with being active, but not controlling, but being active that younger people really did appreciate my experience and what I had to say and so forth and that was followed up by emails after that conference and it was a two day conference.
So if they’re exposed to you, they’ll make a judgment on whether you are ancient or whether you are old and not just aging because we’re all aging and then they’ll make that judgment and move accordingly. But it’s really funny that one of my— I wouldn’t say direct mentors because we were when I was starting out in business, but one of my idols that I worked for through several levels, Lee Iacocca to this day.
I started out my career was Ford Motor Company working for people that reported directly to Iacocca. And when I was growing up, I never looked at anybody as if they were too old for me and I didn’t have time for. I think that’s the way I was brought up, to have respect for people, but also to give them a chance to see and qualify whether they’re any good or not.
Peter: And whether I should give them like that, but always with respect for them.
Josh: That makes a lot of sense to me. So when you’re going to seminars today, do you find that there’s a particular type of group of business owners who you are more relevant with and others?
Peter: I’ve maybe been fortunate or what have you, but I would say I get along with the younger and the aging almost equally as well or equally turn on or off as well. So there’s not one particular demographic that I can say, “Oh, I definitely turn them off or they’re turned off by me.”
Josh: Right. Pete, so you worked in the Mergers and acquisitions world for a million years. And I know that you’ve dealt with a phenomenon that I call or is called Sellers Remorse. And you said that 75% of the people will experience Sellers Remorse within a year of selling their business. I would actually say it’s 100% of the people experienced sellers remorse that 25% of you’re talking about, they actually handle it and the 75% don’t handle it.
Peter: Right. I won’t disagree with what you just said.
Josh: In the 25% of the people who handle it tend to be able to stay relevant for a very long period of time afterwards after they sell their businesses. You have any thoughts or theories about why that would be true?
Peter: Well, one thing is their attitude about what they’re doing after the liquidity event.
Josh: In liquidity event, just let people know is when you actually get cash from selling your business.
Peter: But what I have found, and this is one of the reasons I got involved in Exit Planning is that a lot of people don’t plan. And when I say plan, really plan for that life after the liquidity event. Let me give me some examples.
The one tip in successful they’re still relevant today because they can themselves active. And one of the other things I found when you sell your company it depends on the relationship they’ve had with their spouse. And if they’ve got a great relationship with your spouse and they plan this thing together then they’re very relevant and very active and so forth.
But to actually stop and think about it when they started the business or bought the business they probably were early in starting a family and so forth. And what happened in the 20, 30, 40 years the spouse would raise the family and the business owner would be active whenever he could be or she could be, but they really didn’t have a lot of social intercourse between them because of the kids. It was suited kids. Then all of a sudden now the kids are gone and so forth and he— mainly it’s a he sells the company and they’re looking at each other and say, “Okay, now what? What are we going to do?”
And believe me, I’ve got some friends in Chicago that are lawyers and where that’s happened so that happens to professionals, working people, executives, and people that own businesses. But what I’m attempting to tell you is that the most successful transfer the business for the business owner has been when they want, they plan for it.
They knew what they were getting into this different type of life kind of a third life type of thing. They had support through friends, through their spouse and so forth to get involved in that type of life. Now, I tell you one other story that’s funny that I had a client soldiers, I always been fortunate to sell my [inaudible 00:13:05] business for the greatest value.
So great guy, engineer from Purdue and so forth had a wonderful business and this is when I would just at M&A. I wasn’t at Exit Planning. So he built a 10 by 15 or a little bit larger building for himself—a brick building that would boat 20 minutes from his house where he could go to get away from his spouse and read the Wall Street Journal, even go to Starbucks.
He would go there and that would be his man’s cave if he will after he sold the business. He didn’t plan for what life was going to be like. I think that’s kind of a true story.
Josh: The thing that I find is that if you’re going to stay relevant after you leave your business or after you retire from business, you have to sort of find something that is work like even though it may not be work. It could be volunteering. It could be you’re working with SCORE which is a senior consultant organization that gets you in front of up and coming businesses and helps them use the wisdom that you’ve gained over the years.
Peter: Correct, yeah.
Josh: And the thing that kind of occurs to me is that if you want to stay relevant after as you get older, you can’t count on younger people to keep you relevant, or make you relevant. You have to work hard yourself to put yourself in the position to stay relevant. In other words, you have to take responsibility for it. You can’t just wait around for someone to call you because the phone won’t ring.
Peter: You got to make it happen because it won’t happen unless you talk to people, unless you’re out there. You got to be out there on the playing field and come into the dugout every so often. But don’t stay in that dugout very long otherwise they won’t call you into the game—the game of rights. I know exactly what you’re talking about. You also can’t take it personally. It’s just a phenomenon that happens. If you take it personally then you’re really screwed up. You know I’m saying?
Josh: But a lot of people do take it personally because you, you are I mean, I’ll give you my example. When I was 44, I sold my food service and vending company. I was one of the five best known people in the industry. The year I sold my business, the phone rang three times. It used to rang three times a day—
Peter: — or more. Yeah.
Josh: This was three times in a year. Now, I had moved to a different industry so I was getting myself involved and started there. Didn’t have a huge interest in staying in contact, but the year after that I did reconnect with some people and every time I call somebody, they’re always happy to talk to me as long as I have something reasonable in a relevant to talk to them about that.
Josh: And it couldn’t be about me, it had to be about them.
Peter: Them. Correct. Correct.
Josh: And that’s what I’ve been learning is that, it’s the same thing is happening now as I’m getting older, is that I have to pick up the phone and initiate the call. I have to make sure that I’m talking about what’s important for them. I have to actually break a bunch of [miss 00:16:32]. I’m about as tech savvy as most people I know who are in their 30s, but I have to prove it to people. If you’re 30, you don’t have to prove your tech savvy. People just assume you are.
Peter: You’re right there. You’re right.
Josh: But if you’re in your 60s and you’re dealing with a 30 year old, you have to prove to them right that you know the stuff they know plus a whole lot more.
Peter: You’re absolutely right, but it doesn’t work in reverse. The other thing that’s interesting in our society, and I talked about this when I give talks. We don’t sit down with each other and have a dialogue, a personal dialogue. And you’re asking me how I feel about certain things and we’re having a great dialogue, but this kind of conversation does not take place too many times. And what I have found, especially in Exit Planning, a lot of people are afraid to get personal with each other.
Josh: That’s true in everything by the way. It’s not just Exit Planning.
Peter: Yeah. I don’t know how you cannot have good conversations unless you do get personal.
Josh: Here’s my experience with that and we’re going to have to end it here.
Josh: We’re out of time unfortunately. I said 23 minutes goes fast. Somebody has to spill their dirty laundry until someone starts talking about their dirty laundry they have in their life. It’s just superficial. Nobody gets real. Once somebody starts spilling the dirty laundry then permission happens for the rest of the group to do the same. That’s been my experience for years and what I decided to do is I’ll be the guy that starts the ball going.
Peter: Yeah. The other aspect is they got to respect that you’re not going to go out and spread it all over the community or the world or whatever. That’s one thing I will say especially when I was in M&A, but in Exit Planning— confidentiality, you could tell me something and you never hear again from a third party.
Josh: Right? And that’s essentially how it is. So you’re going to do a peer to peer of any sort where you have a group of business owners, someone has to spill the laundry, and there has to be a very solid agreement within any group. Now what is said in the group stays in the group.
Peter: That’s right. That’s right. What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Josh: Right? And Pete, unfortunately, we’re going to have to end it here. If somebody wanted to find you, how would they do that?
Peter: Probably the best and easiest way is my address is Peter Christman. That’s spelled like Christ, man. So that should be easy email@example.com.
Josh: Cool. So if you’re interested in talking to Pete, I know he loves talking to people.
Peter: I love it.
Josh: He’s full of knowledge. He’s a wealth of knowledge. If you want to know about Exit Planning, or the world of Mergers and acquisitions, or about even aging in place and getting stuff going, I’m sure you’d be willing to have a conversation with you. I also have an offer for you. I’ve been working on this project for quite a while now. We call it Cracking the Cash Flow Code. The one thing that I’ve learned in business is that all business owners are always worried about cash no matter how much cash they have because they think they’re going to disappear tomorrow.
So I put together this infographic which shows the five stages that people go through the rich cash flow freedom from their business. It’s free. It’s easy to get. You just have to go to www.sustainablebusiness.co/cashflow. We’ll send you that free infographic and you’ll get to see the success path for how to create cash flow freedom for your business and your life. Thanks a lot for stopping by today. This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Pete Christman. You’re at the sustainable business. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.