I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it.
Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain.
- Joyce Cary
How Easy Was Retiring?
It was a lot easier for me than it is for Doug now. You have to buy it, pay for it and store it. The prices traditionally go up a little in the spring, but if they go down, like they did a few years ago, that's tough. There are no guarantees, price support or competitive allowances. Agrium supplies everyone, so they don't care who the customer buys from.
In 2000, I was 65, and Doug, as general manager, was doing all the purchasing. Purchasing today can make or break you. When we started as a Sherritt dealer, there was competition between manufacturers. Sherritt wanted you to survive. They had programs that would be unheard of today. We could give prepaid money to Sherritt at Christmas, the price would be locked in and, if the price went down in the spring, they would give us a refund. They would also store the product until required, at no charge. If our competitor started cutting prices beyond reason, we could get a competitive allowance. There were year-end bonuses based on volume and investment in the fertilizer business. This gave us funds each year to buy more equipment.
As my responsibilities lessened, I still spent a lot of time at the plant. At times it was frustrating because I was out of the loop as far as the day-to-day operations. You see men and equipment coming and going, and you have no idea why or what for. One day, at about 4 p.m., I saw a part-time employee wandering around the yard, seemingly doing nothing. I figured he was probably on overtime, so I went out and asked him what he was doing. He said, "Well, nothing." So I told him to fill in his timesheet for the day and come in tomorrow at 7 a.m. He agreed and left. Ten minutes later, Doug came in my office and asked if I had seen whatever his name was. I said, "You mean the tall guy?" Doug said, "Yes." He paused a moment, smiled and said, "You didn't send him home, did you, Dad?" I replied, "Yes. He was doing nothing and was on overtime.' Well, I guess he was to leave for Onoway with a load of fertilizer in 10 minutes. "Whoops. Sorry, Doug." He said it was ok, he'd find someone else to take the load, but maybe check with him before I send someone home. We had a little laugh and no hard feelings.
Doug's management style and personality are very different from mine, but he is still effective. As Doug says, there is more than one right way to do things. I still go to the a plant a few times a week for a few hours. I give my opinions if I'm asked and sometimes when I'm not. Doug keeps me informed on important matters but avoids telling me things that may cause me stress or upset me.
Since Pat and I have retired, we don't see many of the old Sherritt people. Most of them have also retired or have passed away. My old boss, George Gould, has moved back to Ottawa. For the past several years, George and his son Doug have come back to Edmonton at least once a year. They check into the Royal Executive Inn, round up the old Sherritt survivors (about 25 or 30) and treat us to a first-class meal. First class is no stranger to George-he always went first class. He was always in charge of the dealer meetings, and we had some good ones.
I really enjoyed my active years at SVF. I can honestly say I never had a day when I didn't want to go to work. There is no greater joy than going to work and having your children there. I think that Doug understands what I mean now that Cory and Nick are at SVF. Also, when I look at our computer system, I think about our son Ron, who developed it. When I look at my paycheque, I think of our daughter, Heather, who does the payroll. (Heather is a character. The other day she told me it was salary review time and asked if I would like a raise. I said, "Well, no. If I had more money I would probably just give it to my kids." Heather then said, "Well, I repeat the question. Are you sure you don't want a raise?" I love that kid.)
I think the best description of me came from Doug in a tribute at our 40th wedding anniversary. He said, "The best thing to be to my dad is one of his children. The second-best is to be his customer and the worst is to be his supplier." Since 1971, our whole family has gone to Crystal Sands on Mara Lake in B.C. This has been and still is a great bonding time for us, our children and our grandchildren.
In 1994, we bought a park model in Yuma, Arizona, and we spend part of the winter there. Since retiring, I have also restored a few old cars. Pat has made a rule that whatever is spent on my cars will also be spent on cruises. Needless to say, we have been on a few cruises. In 2004, we moved to an acreage on the Sturgeon River Valley. Pat was born in 1934, and I was born in 1935. We can hardly believe how fast the years have gone by. God has blessed us, our family and our business. It is our prayer that he will also bless all of our customers.