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Rich Z's Blatherings Since Connie and I have retired the SerpenCo business, topics here will focus on topics of a more personal and general nature.

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Old 05-25-2009, 08:40 PM   #1
Rich Z
Red face Retirement........

I know I've been dropping hints about my retirement taking place one of these days here and there, and quite honestly I wasn't sure when this would take place, much less HOW. Several months ago someone approached me about buying SerpenCo, and quite honestly at first I was kind of shocked by that idea. Not that anyone would consider buying my business, but that the offer snuck up on me without my expecting it. I thought I would have to advertise it for sale, at least, instead of someone just coming out of the blue to ask ME about it.

Well unfortunately that sale fell apart after months of the buyer talking like this was a done deal and 100 percent certainty, and quite recently as a matter of fact. Truth of the matter is, all during these months the more Connie and I thought about the idea, the better it sounded to us. I sincerely wish the sale had happened, for quite a number of reasons, but it didn't and that is that.

In the meantime, our mindset has been pretty much set in that we were going to be done with this business this year. I discussed this with the buyer, and my goal had been to have him take possession of the the adults and younger snakes directly after the females had finished laying their eggs. This would have been this past week, had things gone according to our plan and his assurances. Then as babies were hatching, they would be shipped to him immediately. So as you can imagine, Connie and I were elated that this year was going to be so much easier than previous years, and our exit would have been easy and simple. When the signed contract did not materialize by the deadline just a few days ago, and I got a "Dear John" email from the buyer, Plan B had to be initiated, as although this deal was dead, not so was our intentions to be done with this. The goal was the same, but our method to getting there obviously needed to be revised.

Part of the extenuating circumstances leading to this decision is the fact that in April of 2008, I went to the emergency room with appendicitis. A lot of thoughts can go through your mind in the short time waiting for the anesthesiologist to come around to put you under. Laying on a gurney can cause a LOT of introspection, believe me. Foremost in my thoughts was, well, if I DON'T come out of this, just what the hell was Connie going to do with all that crap I would be dumping on her? She couldn't possibly handle SerpenCo alone, even if she wanted to. Really, the reptile business just is not her cup of tea, but she has been at my side the entire time throughout. Quite frankly, she has been my right hand man all these years simply because she knew it is what I wanted to do, and she was willing to devote herself completely to my doing just that. In the meantime, she has had surgery on one of her legs from problems stemming from the long hours of working while standing helping me with my business. I am watching her literally kill herself to make certain that I achieve this dream I have had of running a snake breeding business.

So how can I keep on doing that to her in good conscience? How much of HER life am I willing to continue to take from her for what I want to do? Yes, she would continue doing this till the day she dies if I asked her to, but I just cannot, and WILL NOT, do that.

Then there is another perspective of this that I need to consider as well. Connie's health could fail suddenly at any time as well. There are a few aspects of this I have been thinking heavily on. One is that there is just no way I could run this business without her help. Secondly, if she were in the hospital for an extended time, I would need to be at her side, which would mean that SerpenCo would go kaput anyway. That's just the way it would have to be. And lastly, there is no way I want to be at the side of her death bed thinking that I wished to hell I had given her more fun in her life rather than having it all sucked away to help me with this business. Quite frankly, I would just as soon die today then have that experience.

Not to sound like a wimp or anything, but I doubt that most people realize the workload we actually bear up under doing this business. I think we have symptoms of every type of repetitive strain injury that you can possibly imagine. Who would ever have thought that years of opening and closing thousand of deli cups on a weekly basis would damage your wrists and elbows? That standing for hours on end would weaken your knees, hips, and back? That my eyes would start failing and I would need one pair of glasses to see while driving, and then another pair so I could see to read that small print they use for serial numbers on computer equipment? That I can't remember if I washed my hands after I walked away from the sink? That the reason that time seems to be whirling by so quickly these days is because after the hours have passed I don't remember what I did during them? Golden years, my butt!

Frankly, if that sale of SerpenCo had not fallen apart, right now the business would belong to someone else. I had made up my mind to do this, and having seen the glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, there really is no turning back now. So yes, I am planning on retiring this year. My goal is that by January 1, 2010, all of the animals will be sold or otherwise disposed of. That is why there will be no "keepers" for 2009, and I am making this "no keepers" policy retroactive to the older animals that I have been growing up for future breeders. There is NO future breeding in store for them here, so there is no reason to keep them around. Certainly I will be selling the adults eventually, but there is still some hope that the buyer may be able to swing buying my business at a lesser amount (money is always an issue, isn't it?) if the business only encompasses the adults rather than all the younger stock. So the adults will not be offered for sale separately until the last possible moment. Quite likely around October or November. Honestly, we will be far too busy with babies pretty shortly anyway to even think about dealing with that additional workload.

If someone would be interested in buying the entire business, lock, stock and barrel, of course I would be interested in discussing that possibility with them. But it doesn't really matter to me either way. There are some tax advantages to my retaining the "SerpenCo" business itself, so I can do this either way and be satisfied with it. I would like to see someone else carry on the SerpenCo brand name, after all the years we put into making it such a well recognized name in this industry. But if the name retires along with us, then so be it. That's just the way it goes.

Will there be regrets? Most certainly. I don't think anyone can give up something they have done for 30 years because they LOVED doing it without regrets. Should I have done things differently? Maybe. But I'm not sure what, and whether things would have been worse or better off. One severe issue has been hiring help around here. Not sure if it is just this particular area we live in, or people in general are not what they used to be in respect to work ethics, but we have always had major headaches trying to hire and keep competent help. Or more accurately, barely passable competent help. We have had some good workers (rare birds indeed), but honestly, cleaning snake cages is just not a life long career path for anyone. And it takes a very rare breed of person to want to tolerate having snakes trying to eat their hands several times a day for a part time job. Had we been able to hire a few people who would be willing and capable of doing what we need to have done HOW we want it done, indefinitely, then yes, I would consider continuing doing this until I dropped. Not sure I could ask that of Connie, but at least with good workers, then the burden would be off her to give all of herself helping me. But at this late date, there is just no way to hope that good workers are only a newspaper ad away any longer.

So with all things considered, this really is the only right thing to do right now.

Of course, the question really is, CAN we survive after retiring? That is a scary question to try to answer honestly. Yes, we do have some money saved up, but will runaway inflation make that worthless? Can we afford to drop a fairly good source of income with the economy being like it is now?

I can only hope this is the right decision. The plans are to take as much money as possible from the sale of the animals and put it towards our retirement. Will it be enough? This is one of those kinds of questions that I won't be able to answer until looking back in retrospect. Just dropping the business will cut our expenses tremendously. Which will certainly help. I am also eligible for my state retirement at the end of January, 2010, but social security (if the federal government isn't bankrupt by then) is still over three years away. Not that either of them are going to be pouring lots of money into our bank account, but it will certainly help somewhat. No, I'm hoping that I can get a reasonable amount of money from the sale of the animals to make a difference. That difference being, of course, maybe 10 years from now Connie and I still kicking and able to be comfortable in our retirement, or 10 years from now us working at the local Walmart just so we can afford to put some food on the table between the retirement checks.

There really are times when I wish I had a crystal ball. I certainly could use one right about now.

As for the websites I run, as long as they are a positive cash flow for me, and I am not digging into my pocket to pay the server bills, upgrades, repairs, and technical help, then they will continue as usual. I'm hoping that they may even be a positive enough cash flow that they will help with this retirement thing we are going to launch ourselves into. But again, we will just have to see what happens, I guess...
Old 05-25-2009, 08:46 PM   #2
Many of us have seen the writing in the wall and all i have to say is Good luck with your future. I will try to help in my way of getting some animals from you.
Old 05-25-2009, 09:05 PM   #3
You need to do what is best for you and your family, and it sounds like this has been a long time in coming. Best of luck in the future, and I'm glad you're going to be staying around the herp community online at least. It will all work out, even if there are rough spots.
Old 05-25-2009, 09:16 PM   #4
Best of luck Rich. That's a big step that I know you have been thinking about for a long time. I hope it is the right decision for you and your family.
Old 05-25-2009, 09:20 PM   #5
Wow, Rich. This has obviously been on your mind and in your heart (and gut) for a while. You express everything so well, it almost makes me want to cry. I truly, sincerely wish you the best in this new chapter of your life.
And I still hope I have the pleasure of meeting you face to face one day. You are a very very deep person. The kind we need more of in this world.
Old 05-25-2009, 09:29 PM   #6
Best of luck Rich. I wish it wasn't so, but you and Connie deserve a great retirement.
Old 05-25-2009, 09:35 PM   #7
Rich, I agree with what everyone else has said. I can see that you've been waiting for a long time for a break, and now you'll finally get it. Congratulations! I imagine if it were me, i'd miss some aspects of breeding (seeing the little hatchlings pip, counting the eggs, seeing new morphs, etc.) but I can imagine you'll look forward to not having to do dirty work all the time.
I wish you the best of luck in your future, and I hope you'll continue to stay around and talk snakes with us. Thank you for everything that you've done for the reptile community. I appreciate it immensely as a (somewhat) newbie.
Old 05-25-2009, 10:09 PM   #8
I pray that all goes well for you and for Connie. Congratulations on making this difficult decision. We appreciate all you've done for the hobby, and wish nothing but the best for you.
Old 05-25-2009, 10:37 PM   #9
Rich and Connie, first off CONGRATULATIONS on the Future Retirement. You both certainly deserve it !!

I remember when I first dicovered Serpen Co on the internet. That was way back in 2000 when I first saw it, and I'm sure it was around even before then. I remember when the two of you used to travel to every show in the south east of the US. I can't even begin to imagine how much work that must have been for you and Connie. Packing up for a show , selling the animals , and then loading up and driving long distances back home.

I personaly want to say thank you for everything you've done for the corn snake community. I hope the two of you can have a very enjoyable retirement and do alot of things that you have always wanted to do. Again , you both deserve it !!!!!!

Good luck. Take care. And keep in touch from time to time.

Stephen Howard
Old 05-25-2009, 10:53 PM   #10
Rich, thank you for everything you've done for the reptile community as a whole. It almost feels like the end of an era with your retirement announcement. Congratulations, and all the best wishes for your retirement.

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