January 19, 2006. Dallas, Texas. Jon Weiner had just turned 52. Things were finally going his way. His firm, Weiner & Associates, an engineering, planning, and environmental consulting company, had grown to more than 200 employees and $22 million in net service revenues. 2005 was the firm’s best year ever— it made a $3 million profit— and the company paid record bonuses to its employees and owners. Now, Weiner was getting ready to kick off the final phase of the 10-year plan that got him where he was. As the sole owner of a very profitable, growing company, Weiner was probably worth upwards of $15 million. But in spite of the 80-hour work weeks for the last three decades, two failed marriages, and a 25-year-old daughter who wouldn’t speak with him, that wasn’t enough. Weiner was committed to the vision of becoming a 500-person firm with offices in 10 states. Then and only then would he look seriously at the many offers to buy his firm that seemed to come in weekly. That would make his company worth at least $25 million, which, along with the $5 million or so he had already accumulated through being profitable for years and investing his proceeds in real estate, would give him a net worth of $30 million.If he could get the company where it needed to be in the next two or three years, take a year to sell it, and work another three for the new owners (at a healthy salary, he thought), he’d be only 60 and set for life. He could buy the big house in Aspen he always wanted as well as the “Plum Crazy” purple hemi ‘Cuda that he had been lusting after since he first saw one on a dealer’s lot as a 17-year-old in the summer of 1970. But, alas, it wasn’t to be. On the morning of January 20, 2006, on his way to the office, a deer ran out in front of Weiner’s white Lexus SC430. Though he avoided hitting it due to quick reflexes, the shock caused him to have a massive heart attack. Though a fellow motorist kept him alive through CPR for the 20 minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive, Jon Weiner was DOA at the North Dallas General Hospital emergency room. The suddenness of his death took everyone by surprise. Sure— he was a workaholic—everyone knew that. And he was, at 240 lbs., more than 60 pounds too heavy for man with his 5’8” frame. He didn’t really watch his diet, drank a few too many martinis over long business-related dinners, and never had time for exercise or regular trips to the doctor’s office. There were too many other things to do! Jon Weiner was really good at what he did. He was a fantastic engineer, a great motivator of other people, and a tremendously skilled entrepreneur. But he, at least in the bodily form that we all recognized, was no more. The money didn’t do him any good. Another 30 years, however, might have given him the time to patch things up with his daughter, get to know his as-of-yet unborn grandson, see Alaska in the summer, and buy an old ‘Cuda, even if not a Hemi-powered one, not to mention plan for and carry out a real management and ownership transition in his firm. The moral of the story: live each day as if it might be your last. And do what you can to make sure your time above ground isn’t any shorter than you’d like it to be!Originally published 2/13/2006
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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