I was asked by many of my friends, “What are you going to do with yourself if you retire?” This question was presented to me years before my retirement. I never really thought I would retire from a trade that I loved, but I still started to prepare, just in case.

I want to backtrack, just a bit. As a business owner, it was always my goal to be the best I could be in my trade, give my family of customers more than they paid for and support my automotive community by getting involved with some of our local automotive advisory boards. I am no different than most of my community of shop owners.

Being the best I can be: I was an exhaust only shop, so where do I get more information on my trade? There are no schools or even classes on exhaust installation, so how do I better myself? I had to break it down into small segments. If I sold catalytic converters, I would research exactly how each one works, down to the precious metals within the catalyst. I would then find out why a catalytic converter fails and the most common failures. If I built performance exhaust, I would do the research on each performance muffler and the application for each one. I would even purchase a new product, cut it open and see how well it was constructed. How could I sell something that I was not sold on? I had to break it down to understand my products in order to better myself. Not just for my own good, but for the good of my staff and customers.

Giving my customers more than they paid for was next on my list. Before I get into this I want you to know that Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service was not a nonprofit. One could make a profit and a good living and still give a little extra. Educating my client so that they could make their best investment in their vehi-cle was always a goal at the shop. That was twofold, because when they leave, the very next person they see, they are going to talk about their experience and advertise for us. We always do a thor-ough inspection of the vehicle, beyond what services we provide, and make a list of priorities, especially safety con-cerns. Let us say our customer came in for a non-essential item like a Cat-Back exhaust system. Their original system is still in working order and you notice they really need a brake job. What we would do is let our customer know im-mediately. They may have only enough money to do the exhaust or brakes. I would tell my customer to go get the brakes done and promise him or her that I will still be here when they are ready to do the exhaust.

I have written before about getting involved with your automotive community, whether by teaching or joining your peers in Automotive Advisory Boards. I found be-yond this were many charitable organizations. What was nearest and dearest to MY heart was helping our young veterans who were returning from combat with injuries. I found a true nonprofit that helps our men and women who served and took my few off hours and volunteered.

So, how does all this business advice tie into retirement? Little did I know, by trying to be the best I could be, giving more and getting involved was my preparation for retirement. 

My advice is to be prepared for your retirement, be-cause in the blink of an eye it will be there. Find a purpose that fills your heart. Then leave your toe print in the sands of time. Until then there is no “The End” to my story!