The Business Journal salutes seven octogenarians and one nonagenarian for whom age is just a number.
BURTON S. SPERBER, 80
Chairman-CEO, ValleyCrest Landscape Cos.
Why not retire?
I think it’s important to do what you love to do and that is exactly what I’m doing. I don’t like golf; I’m getting too old to play tennis. So I will just continue to “do what I love and love what I do.”
Do you think you will ever retire?
If I think I’m not contributing in helping at ValleyCrest to teach and train, or if I get ill, then I will probably start to think about it. But for now, I’m too young to think about it.
How does your spouse feel about that?
I have been married for 60 years and have an excellent relationship that started with getting married “for better or for worse, but not for lunch” and that has worked well for me and my wife.
What’s the best aspect of working past 80?
Still knowing that I contribute to ValleyCrest, which is now doing $1 billion a year in sales and nearing 10,000 employees. I still have certain customers that I take care of. I watch the people around me grow and get better. I especially enjoy watching my son, Richard Sperber, who has been running the company for the past eight to 10 years, building it bigger and better every year. I just help. He does the heavy lifting.
What’s the worst?
Knowing that I probably will not have a 10-year future with the company.
What’s your career goal?
Right now I will continue to hope the future of the economy gets better so we can get back to ValleyCrest’s 15 percent-a-year growth and start rehiring at the rate we did before this setback.
What advice would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Have a son to work with you shoulder to shoulder for 25 years, teach him the trade well and set the goal to surpass yourself, not your competition.
Best advice you ever got?
Having only worked for myself since starting ValleyCrest in 1949, I’ve never gotten much advice other than from my partner and wife, Charlene Sperber. She has always believed in treating people fair and equal, and looking out for the other guy. Always treat everyone as an equal is pretty much our goal and the life we live.
What’s the secret to your vitality?
I have done nothing other than keep my mind active with work. I work on my hobby, which is magic. I have written a few books on magic and I don’t spend much time wondering how to keep busy. I am a very lucky man. I have had good timing collide with hard work. It’s called luck.
Do you work more or fewer hours than you did in your 30s or 40s?
Maybe a little less to be sure that we have plenty of time to travel, take time off where necessary. I may be a little smarter and able to get things done faster and not spend as many hours.
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