Bob Hastings just bought a boat and is building a dream house on a Florida golf course. He also recently donated $500,000 toward the construction of a new wing on a nursing home in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
At 69, Hastings, a recently retired Oldsmobile and Saturn dealer, has been able to achieve those goals because he was smart enough to plan for them for several years. And now his retirement, which officially began last summer, is in full swing.
'I had my game plan together,' Hastings says.
Hastings was a dealer for 27 years. He started thinking about an exit strategy in 1986, after suffering a mild heart attack and realizing he still had plenty of work to do before he would be ready to leave the business.
He made two important decisions at that point: to expand before retiring, and to avoid selling the Bob Hastings Group to outside investors, if possible.
'I had to work very hard to get my reputation, and I wanted to make sure it was maintained,' Hastings said.
With no children of his own, Hastings began looking inside his organization for dealer talent.
David Stoetzel, 45, emerged as the leader. Stoetzel had worked at Bob Hastings Oldsmobile since he was 16. He attended business school and received training through the General Motors Institute. His positive attitude and strong work ethic impressed Hastings, who was accustomed to being at the office from 7: 30 a.m. to 9 p.m. most weekdays.
'Dedication is so important today,' Hastings said. 'This is not a 40-hour-a-week job, but today's generation - to be quite frank with you - doesn't like to work over 40 hours. It's a big job, though.'
Hastings groomed Stoetzel by moving him through every department, from service and parts to sales and general management. In 1989 Hastings added a Ford store, and then in 1990 he was chosen by General Motors to open two Saturn dealerships.
After Saturn was in place, and Stoetzel was general manager at the Oldsmobile store, more talent emerged. Marcy Edmiston, 38, had been hired as the business manager at the two Saturn stores, but Hastings believed she was ready for greater responsibility. Now, she is a part owner of the dealerships.
Meanwhile, an accountant, Kevin Stamp, 42, who had been helping Hastings with both personal and business-related financial planning since the mid-1990s, was handpicked to play a big part in the exit strategy.
'I call them 'my three kids,'' Hastings said. 'I'm very fortunate, not having any children, to surround myself with people like that.'
Hastings, who had won GM's dealer service merit award for 24 consecutive years, said his plan to leave the business was relatively simple, once he felt sure that his 250 employees would be treated well and that his dealership's name would be carried on properly.
He sold the Ford dealership to a former business manager there. The Oldsmobile and Saturn dealerships would be owned by Stoetzel, Edmiston and Stamp, with Stoetzel holding the controlling interest.
The value of the Bob Hastings Group, he said, is between $15 million and $20 million. Hastings is financing the majority of the buyout, and he still keeps an office at the Oldsmobile dealership.
But his heart no longer belongs to work.
'At first I was sort of afraid ... of retiring,' Hastings says. 'You know, I wanted to keep occupied. But David got me into golf, and I'll tell you, I've gone wild. I don't ever want to go back to work!'
While building the businesses in Rochester, Hastings was a member of two prestigious golf clubs in the area and one in Florida. But he never took up the game until a little more than a year ago, when he finally started to unwind.
Now he plays daily, residing in Sarasota from October to May and in suburban Rochester during the milder months up north. He also walks another five miles each day, for fitness. Hastings shares a rich social life with his wife of 45 years, Mary, a retired teacher.
They recently christened their new party boat, the Mary Olds. The couple is planning to break ground this winter on a five-bedroom home overlooking the third hole at Oaks Country Club in Sarasota.
Why do they need so much room? So that Stoetzel, Edmiston and Stamp, and their families, can all visit at the same time each year during holidays.
'I got hold of three go-getters,' Hastings said, 'and I'm tickled to death at the way it's turned out.'