Hire Callings

Leaving a finance career doesn't necessarily mean leaving finance.

“It just came naturally to me that this
business would be something I’d enjoy,” says
Sager, who, along with his wife, has been both coach and cheerleader
for the multiple teams on which his three children, Kevin,
22; Valerie, 21; and Craig, 18, played. “Watching kids play, providing
them with equipment, that’s real fun,” he says.

Still, Sager has called on many of his finance skills to run
the small store, located just eight miles from his home. At Zoots,
Sager was involved in installing an innovative system that helped
turn “a mom-and-pop operation into a big, centralized cleaning
company.” At his own company, “we put in a
new computer system,” he says, “so we’re
now able to track inventory with a great
point-of-sale software application.” While
Sager does not plan to grow to Zoots’s level
(78 stores in nine states), he is certainly keeping
an eye out for the future, despite having “no
short-term, definitive plans. The business is
growing organically, and when it has grown as
much as it can, I’ll look to broaden the market.”

Being the owner, however, allows Sager to
be much more hands-on both with day-to-day decisions
and customer interactions. “You don’t need a Harvard
MBA to be sincere and polite and fair with customers,” he says.
And while he’s happy to be out of corporate finance, he is thankful
for the experience. “I’m absolutely happy with my decision,”
he says. “You may not know what you want to do, but you certainly
know what you don’t want to do.” — Gareth Goh

Start a Winery

Ask Dennis Groth to order a 2003 cabernet sauvignon and you’ll probably make out OK. The onetime Arthur
Young partner became a wine connoisseur during his time in the company’s San Francisco office, partly because of
the time he spent entertaining clients. And in the early 1980s, that passion led him to scout properties in Napa Valley.

Groth wasn’t just window-shopping. In the back of his mind, he had the audacious notion that he could
make wines. Of course, drinking wines and making them are decidedly different pursuits. Moreover, Groth was
already knee-deep in his second career as CFO at electronic-games pioneer Atari, which at the time was on a roll.

Still, once Groth and his wife, Judy, found their dream 165-acre vineyard in Oakville Appellation, he parlayed
his accounting background and Atari’s success into bank financing to start the operation. It was short-lived, however.
Within months, the overheated video-game industry crashed — and so did Groth’s financing. But instead of
pulling out, the 64-year-old left Atari and moved his family onto the farm. Armed with only a building permit to
construct a wine-making facility, he got creative,
opting to outsource his grape-growing —
a common practice today, but unusual
in 1984. “We put off constructing our building,”
he explains. “We wanted to first
demonstrate we could make good wines.”

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