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Commentary & Analysis

Letters to ODJ: Is There Life after 50? Lots of you think so

Pete Rivard'

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 19, 2007

Pete Rivard's column last Monday brought in a lot of comments on the issue of age in the workplace. Pete's Minnesota town is hardly unique in putting people past "a certain age" out to pasture. This week, read what some of you are saying. Then let us know what you think. And better yet, what you think can be done, and what your company is doing to hold onto the experience and perspective that comes with a few gray hairs. Pete: Very powerful stuff. As a company owner who just turned 60 you had my attention. I am glad my name is on the front door or I could be one of your sampling at the coffee shop. Unfortunately, the very technology you might teach is automating manufacturing processes to the point that mid-management slots are a luxury. As I look at my income statement each month, I see admin and sales costs as a ratio clearly not in synch. If I can third-party more accounting functions, more IT functions, use tools like SalesForce.com for CRM then I have to do it. Even in a small company and family owned, shareholder value is not a foreign term. Your scenario is happening at an alarming rate. The military treats their 50-year-old NCOs and officers as the huge asset they are. But business is ready to farm out people over 50. Your words certainly raise awareness. We need political leadership, which is sadly lacking, to address some of the issues. Best Regards, Alan Ross Pete, I believe you are on to something here. At 51 I have plenty of life and business experience that employers seem to scoff at. It makes me wonder, why not leverage those "old guys" and create a kick ass company that doesn't make all the classic mistakes these younger guys do. Thanks for the article. Stan Anglen General Manager Advanced Litho Printing Missoula, MT Pete, What a great article! You absolutely nailed this situation in the job market in America. Yes, I am one of those mentioned in your article. I will be 55 in three weeks. I enjoyed a very successful career in sales working for some very good prepress and printing companies. Unfortunately, my “nose to the grindstone," "shoulders to the wheel”, “back into it”, and “head in the game” resulted in too much sales and twice a company refused to pay the agreed commission. Therefore, I was forced into becoming a print broker where I employed up to 10 people and had a very good run. Mergers, acquisitions, and companies going out of business eroded my sales to the point where I helped all my employees procure new jobs and I worked by myself from my home. Although I always had to fight the image of a broker, it became especially difficult working alone as the business climate changed from 9/11/2001 and the broker became an unnecessary middle man, because the buzz word became 'deal direct' to save money. I had a few years of depression, volunteer work for my church, substitute teaching, and advisor to my three sons’ careers. I never made it to the coffee shops, except to use the bathroom in between my daily 3- 4 mile walk. I realized I had way more to offer, and through the help of a very thorough recruiter was put in front of some managers who saw my experience, values, and work ethic as something to give a try. Today is my sixth day and I am excited to build sales for a company which has tremendous capabilities--and a plan to do it. I still have my job as advisor to my three sons (that will never change), however, the situation you described today is accurate. The potential from the dormant (not dead) talent and experience out there is tremendous. Please consider me a strong advocate and willing participant to help these men (and women) achieve an opportunity to shine again. Earl Dunn I personally am convinced that this will be THE workplace issue of the next few decades in developed countries. There is no such thing as disposable people. Dear Pete, Uplifting! Thankful that I’m employed to the digital world as a consultant (franchise) at 63 years old. I have never worked harder to show myself as an asset and not a sliding liability. It’s hard, but I enjoy the challenge and I have people above me that are objective to the mission. My biggest worry is more of a bad dream. What if I didn’t have this job, benefits and 401K, my income would drop some 50 to 60%. Jim Atwood Good article, Pete. Regretfully accurate. Paul Rokos GMC Software Thanks, Pete. Well said! I especially liked, “Must be the headphones.” I was last a senior vice president for Vertis, and when I completed the turnaround a $95 million business for them post 9/11, they thanked me for the great job and told me they no longer needed my services. Oh well! So here I am two years later at 57, sipping Starbucks and “consulting” (code for “underemployed”). Actually, I’ve been driving hard to get out of the industry into one that has real growth potential. I'm tired of doing turnarounds and consolidations. This is hard to do when your degree from 1971 says “Graphic Arts”, but it now looks like I will succeed and join some former DuPont friends in the plastics and composites industry. I’ve already told them I won’t give up my Mac! Good luck and regards, Jim Callough Former Senior Printing & Digital Imaging Executive Mr. Rivard, I appreciated your recent article regarding life after 50. It hits a subject that will become increasingly more visible in coming years. Good observation and thanks for pointing it out. Dieter P Schilling CEO of Delphax Technologies Dear Mr. Rivard, This is just a short note to say what a wonderful article you wrote. As someone post-50, I have a number of friends and acquaintances in similar situations. And, as an employer, I hope to be more empathetic in my “human resources” dealings in the future. You’ve raised many excellent points. Thank you, Alan Bergman Hudson Printing Co., Inc. Hi Pete! At least these guys have each other to hang around with! Women in the same situation are just hanging around at home making a meatloaf to pass the time. Actually, most of the ones I know are keeping busy by giving away their skills and their time doing volunteer work for charitable community organizations. I wish more of them had the savvy to take their wireless laptops to a local coffee shop Thanks for recognizing this situation and not being afraid to address it. Coming up in my career in print production and direct marketing are a lot of women in the field and they really need the business networking skills (we are superior in social networking--never afraid to coffee klatch, etc. but do not apply this to a professional use). Hmm. Maybe I should look into a Panera franchise! Frances L. Luchsinger Vice President, Market Development VIVID, the digital press division of Spectrum Printing Tucson, Arizona Pete, That's interesting. I thought it was just in Germany that people over 50 were considered too old to contribute in the workplace. So much for U.S. anti-age discrimination laws. Presumably the younger generation, the ones making the hiring and firing decisions regarding the over-50-year-olds, won't face this problem themselves because there are fewer of them. When will it occur to them, however, that everyone --they too-- will end up paying for the situation they're creating? I personally am convinced that this will be THE workplace issue of the next few decades in developed countries. There is no such thing as disposable people. Humiliated, perhaps, but not gone. Catherine Duffek Heidelberg, Germany Dear Pete, I agree with your article. It is sad that people in this age bracket are oftentimes being passed up. I own a medium-sized commercial offset printing company - 46 employees, $6,600,000 in sales. 6 months ago we hired a 56 year old man as our Plant Manager. He is a great guy, personable, knowledgeable, professional, hard worker who has been in print since he was out of high school. Up until then that was my job since 1969 when I started the business. I couldn't be happier about our choice and he loves working together with my son and I and our people. By the way, I'm 66 and still working 10 hour plus days, enjoying what I do and learning new things about printing every day. Thanks for your article, Phil Scull Yorke Printe Shoppe Lombard, IL



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