Phil Kelleher had the life in early 2008.
Kelleher was an investment banker for Barclay's Capital in London.
But in May 2008 he gave it all up.
He returned home to Ellensburg, Wash., to manage his family's Ford dealership.
"I feel a responsibility to the preceding generation -- to do it out of respect to my mother, my father and my grandfather," Kelleher says.
Kelleher Motor Co. turned 100 years old this year. There have been rocky times: the Great Depression, deaths, fire and the recent recession. But Kelleher lists three main tenets that keep the store going: conservative financing, training and opportunity for employees, and involvement in and support from the community.
Colleen Kelleher, Phil Kelleher's mother and the dealership's 84-year-old owner, adds a fourth: "A lot of faith."
Kelleher sells about 300 new and used vehicles a year. Ellensburg is home to Central Washington University, but it's largely a rural community with a population of about 40,000 people.
Despite his aw-shucks modesty, Phil Kelleher, 46, is eloquent, direct and very smart. He worked on investment banking deals for nearly 20 years.
He arrived home in 2008 in time to draw on that experience. The housing market had softened and the credit market collapsed.
"In this case, the shareholders were my family and community," Kelleher says. "You might be working with lower absolutes of money than in institutional banking, but the level of importance is equal or greater."
Kelleher didn't want to lay off any employees or lose the business. It occurred to him to draw upon something his father told him in the late 1970s and 1980s.
"Interest rates were 20 percent or so then," Phil Kelleher says. "We didn't floorplan a large part of our inventory, so we didn't have that huge interest burden. I thought, 'Gosh he's right. That was how he was able to weather that period of time.'"
Kelleher slashed inventory levels through the end of 2008 to mid-2009 to lower the amount the dealership spends on bank financing. The dealership went from an 80-day supply of stock to a 40-day supply.
He built up relationships with nearby Ford dealerships and did dealer trades on vehicles. Now, he keeps inventory at about a 45-day supply and says, "We still don't floorplan used vehicles, only from time-to-time."
Kelleher Motor Co. has not cut anyone from its staff during the past few years.
The dealership is one of the largest employers in town, which the family takes seriously. It employs about 25 people, some of whom have been there 25 years or more. The average tenure is about three years.
"We're in a phase where a lot of our employees are young," Kelleher says.
"It's important, as a dealer, that we offer people the chance to keep their training up."
The dealership allows the employees to move to new roles within the company. And Kelleher gives them plenty of product and service training, he says. Having a low turnover and well-trained staff keeps customer service high.
"The customer is the key to your business," Kelleher says. That's a lesson his mother taught him. "Integrity is key. Training your employees and making sure employees know how important they are to the overall success of the business are all key."