The closure of a business can have a large impact on a community. Important services and offerings diminish, and jobs are sometimes lost. The closure can also affect other surrounding businesses. For a business owner, closure often marks the end of a would-be legacy, but succession planning can help ensure that a business continues. Succession planning is the process by which individuals are prepared to take over key roles in a business, as people plan to leave or retire. It requires proactive thinking and effort, but the rewards can be great for the community, the business owner, and the successor.
A Defining Year for Dick Bulsink
In the late 1970s, Harry Stekelbos began the process of succession planning. Anticipating retirement, he began looking for someone to take over his business, Stekelbos Watch & Clock Repairs, which had served the Wallaceburg community since 1955. By divine providence, a 21-year-old in the Netherlands, trained in the trade of watch and clock repair, heard about Harry and this opportunity in Canada. This young man was Dick Bulsink. At first, moving to Canada to take over a business was out of the question for Dick, but after having trouble finding work, he decided to visit Wallaceburg during the winter of 1981-1982.
By the summer of 1982, Dick had received his visa, moved to Canada, and had become a young new business owner in Wallaceburg. Never having been a businessman before, let alone in another country, Dick feels that he grew ten years older in that first year, but with rewarding results. Although retiring, Harry was not going to pass on his business to Dick without assisting and guiding his successor. Harry taught him about customer service, government requirements, and dealing with suppliers. This is one of the reasons that business succession can be so great – you will likely never find someone better qualified or as committed to training a successor as the person who has invested their life into the business.
Words of Wisdom
To this day, Stekelbos Watch & Clock Repairs lives on, and Dick has some of his own experience and wisdom to share with Chatham-Kent and prospective business owners.
First, Dick testifies to the loyalty demonstrated by his customers in Chatham-Kent. The Stekelbos name has been in Wallaceburg for a long time. Customers and even former Wallaceburg residents enjoy stopping by just to see that the shop is still alive and well. It is certainly rewarding for Dick to hear customers say, “Please, don’t ever close!”
Second, Dick urges aspiring business owners to do what they love. It is hard work to run your own business. If you don’t love the job you’re doing, you will want to throw in the towel.
Third, serve your customers well, be attentive to their needs, and price your services and products fairly. If you run your business in a way that makes customers want to return, then you will be rewarded. Word-of-mouth can grow your business, but you have to do your part to make sure it’s positive.
Fourth, keep your overhead costs as low as possible. This is practical, and essential to making your business last. If your monthly expenses are not paying for themselves each month, something has to go or change.
Fifth, don’t let your business run your life. Pick one day of the week to step away from the business –meaning, don’t be involved in anything business-related at all. Spend time with your family, take time for yourself, and enjoy other hobbies. This will keep you sane!
Stekelbos Watch & Clock Repairs
851 Dufferin Avenue