In February 2002, Bill Lutz of Larson Equipment and Furniture wrote an article for the UIC Business Council Newsletter titled, “Why the Council is Worth the Cost”. Bill shared his experience about a time when he was faced with a tough business decision. Bill had the opportunity to merge with three other companies and have his son, Chris, become a 25% partner of a larger company and step in as the new leader. He also had the option to keep things as they currently were, remaining a family-run business that was 100% owned by one family. At a true crossroads, Bill explained how he took this decision to his Forum, Sigma, to help him come to the best decision. Bill wrote: “The merger did not go forward. Because of our discussions and the knowledge imparted by the other eight members, I may have been saved from heartache, control issues of the ‘new’ company, financial issues, etc. Even a year later, I find it was a wise decision not to proceed with the merger.”
So, this begs the question: Where is Bill now? What is the state of Larson Equipment and Furniture Company? Even after 12 years, does he still feel it was a wise decision not to proceed with the merger?
Reflecting on his longtime career, one thing is clear: Bill does not regret the decision he made. Through more than five meetings of deliberations, Bill says he knew all along that the agreement to merge would have been unfair. He does not regret refraining from putting Chris in a partnership with someone that they barely knew. It all worked out, thanks to the help of his trusted Forum.
Today, Bill is retired and the succession has come full circle. Chris is now the President and Owner of Larson Company, thanks to the facilitation of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella. The retired life is treating Bill well as he gets to spend a lot of time with his family, including his six grandchildren. If you chat with Bill, it doesn’t take long to see how happy his grandkids make him. During a Sigma Forum meeting, it isn’t uncommon to hear Bill share updates on his grandchildren’s hockey games, baseball games, soccer games and test scores. Bill’s value to Sigma goes beyond sharing his life experiences; he is also a shining example of how to transition into the fourth season of life.
When thinking about how the business has changed since his retirement, it is hard not to notice the change in technology that has transformed the traditional business methods that Bill always practiced. What used to be handwritten letters is now texting and emailing. Rather than payphones, there are smartphones and tablets to keep a salesman- as Bill always was regardless of his title- connected 24/7. Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn and staying at the office until all the work is done, people work around the clock. Even though the methods may have changed, Larson Company remains successful and Bill is very proud of the strides that Chris has brought to the company.
And what about Bill’s relationship with Sigma Forum? Even though members have come and gone, the core of Sigma still stands strong. As one of the first Forums of the CFBC, the group has grown together and seen a lot of change throughout the years. Bill and his wife, Sue, spend January to March in Florida each year but it is still a priority for Bill to fly home to Forum meetings each month. The combination of this traveling and the fact that Bill sometimes feels out of the loop when discussing business issues caused Bill to consider leaving Sigma. What did the Sigma Forum say? No way! Bill being retired did not change the way his experiences and his input is still highly valued and much needed. It is clear that Forum is a cherished part of Bill’s life. It has even become a part of Chris’s life as a member of Tau Forum and Larson Company’s CFO, Arthur Goldstein, in Arête Forum.
Then- Bill was faced with mergers and running the company.
Now- He spends time with his grandkids and travels to Florida as a retired man.
What hasn’t changed? Twelve years later, Forum is still worth the cost.