King of Fire Protection Pivots Into Retirement


You’ve worked hard for your business over the years, pouring your heart and soul into it – and that’s worth being proud of.

But if you don’t plan for your exit now, you’ll end up burned out with no time to spend on the people you love.

So how do you keep your youthful energy as you pivot into retirement?

As you’ll discover in this episode, sometimes you just have to jump when the opportunity presents itself.

Today’s guest Russ Felldin sold his fire protection business after a surprise phone call. And he’s here to show you how you can use retirement to build a legacy, do real estate deals and relive the favorite parts of your childhood – this time with your own children.

In this episode, you’ll discover the best time to retire and how to enjoy your newfound freedom to the max.

Listen now!

Show Highlights Include:

  • The “survivorship option” that lets married veterans protect their spouse’s finances for life ([5:27])
  • How to keep your employees’ futures secure after you sell your business (even if they fear for their jobs) ([12:54])
  • The systematic way to “accidentally” find lucrative real estate investments ([16:29])
  • Eliminate 90% of your child’s financial worries with one piece of advice ([19:19])

DLP024 - King of Fire Protection Pivots Into Retirement


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money?


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? So welcome to the Retire In Texas Podcast, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the state of Texas. And now here’s your host, financial advisor, author, and all around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.


([00:29]): Hey, welcome to Retire in Texas. My name is Darryl Lyons and we’re happy to have you today. I’m the co-founder and CEO of PAX Financial Group. PAX Financial Group is the sponsor of, of this program. So be sure to visit PAXFinancialGroup.com. And before I get started, I have a legal disclosure. This material contains general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment tax or legal advice. Visit PAXFinancialGroup.com. Investment advisory services offered through PAX Financial Group. I also wanna remind you that if you text the phone number seven four eight six eight, and put in the text text, we will send you a Retire in Texas ebook for free that’s 7 4 8 6 8, and just put in that text text. So I appreciate a, all the feedback and comments I’m really proud of the traction the show has been getting, but I wanna make sure that you can direct your comments to me at Darryl@PAXfg.com. That’s Darryl@PAXfg.com. So if you have any questions or suggestions, please send them my way. All right. So today’s a great show. Really excited to have Russ Feld in here is great story known. Russ, how long have I known you now?


([01:47]): 15 years. So Russ 15 years. 15 years. Yeah. So Russ of course he, I think when let’s see, 15 years. Yeah. So you know what? You probably met me when I was 29. We always laugh about this, but when I turned 30, you said you couldn’t trust me anymore. That’s right. You remember that? I do. Yeah. Yeah. So some of you guys are laughing cuz your products of the sixties and seventies and you know that to be the commonality, right? Absolutely. Don’t trust anyone over 30 Yeah, yeah. You’re right. Don’t trust anyone over 30. Was it 30 or was it 20 or was it 40? What was it? Was it 30? It was 30. It was 30. Yeah. And then you can say 40, but actually 30 was, was the number. Yeah. Yeah. So I’ll never forget that though. I thought that was funny. So you must have known me since I was 29. All right. So let’s just kind of dive into a little bit of your past and we’re gonna share the transition that you made to retire or pivot. But before we do that, where are you from originally? I’m from the Philadelphia area. I was born on the, what they call the main line about 30 miles west of okay. But I got here as soon as I could. Did


([02:47]): You  now, did you have brothers and sisters? I have a brother, an older brother. He lives in upstate New York and he’s 11 years older than I am. So, you know, he, he went into Vietnam when I was like seven. Okay. So we didn’t really grow up together. Okay. Yeah. But we’re pretty, we’re pretty close now, even though we’re 2000 miles apart. So what did your parents do when you were growing up? Well, my dad worked for the Ansel company, which was a fire protection manufacturer. He worked there 35 years. My mom was a homemaker, but she was very interesting person. She was an artist. She did sculpture. She had countless small businesses. She was an author published author. She did a lot of different, a lot of different things. That’s cool. So y’all have a lot of money. What was it like middle class? We were middle class, but back in the sixties, middle class was kind of different. Yeah. You didn’t really have to make a lot of money to be middle class. For instance, my parents bought property on a lake in Maine the year I was born two lots for a thousand dollars. Oh man. And then they built about five years later, a little what they call a camp, but there, yeah. So, you know, we were, we weren’t well off, but we got by, well, I would say,


([04:04]): Did you learn a little bit about real estate? Did you observe any of that? Like, or was it just, Well, you know, my appearance always owned a house. The, the house that I was born in I lived there I guess, 15 years and we moved to Texas and they built a house till I was an adult. I was there. So, you know, their theory was don’t rent, always own move up. Well, they only did it a couple of times. I’ve done it more than a couple. We’ll get into that for sure. So was there any lessons, did they ever sit you down and say, okay, here’s how you behave with money? Was there a conversation or was it just all observation? It was mainly observing. They were kind of big on, you know, savings. I had a savings account early on. I had a paper route. I, I collected glass bottles and yeah, recycled them. And you actually got paid back then. It was about a penny, a pound, but  may happen again


([04:56]): May. Yeah. So was there any low points financially for you guys growing up or was it pretty, you know, steady for the most part? It was pretty steady. I mean, he worked for a, a pretty big company and you know, he got, always had a paycheck and he moved up in the company. One of those, one of those types of careers where you stick with it. Right. I mean, you know that generation. Yeah. And, and unfortunately he passed when he was 65, but had a pension. My mom got the pension until she passed away. Wow. That’s which was a big deal. No, That’s a huge deal. You know, oftentimes when I’m helping people with pensions or packs in general, sometimes the spouse will get a little creative and elect not to have the survivorship option and they just financially overthink it. And I can’t how often that decision just kind of irks me because, and I know it can be justified, but seeing a widow, like your mother with a pension is like, I mean that, that’s a, that’s a game changer for a widow. I’m sure she was okay for,


([05:57]): Yeah. She, she received that for 25 years. Holy and I know that she told me that he had a choice, you know, he could get more money if you know, she wasn’t her survivor. Right. And so he opted for the less money in the long term, which definitely paid off for my mom. That’s a, it’s such a, such a smart decision. And, and so I’m glad to see that play out out. So I’m gonna kind of jump into life and skip over a lot of things. Although we’ll probably come back and revisit a few life things, but where did you retire from Dragon fire systems? A company that I started in 91. What was that? What did y’all do? Fire protection company? Our main thrust was restaurant fire. Suppress. If you go into a restaurant in the kitchen, you look in the hood, you see nozzles and pipes coming down. That’s what we did. We installed service those. Okay. And so you did that in what area was it mainly Texas or? Yeah, we started in the Houston area. Okay. And then I wanted to get back to the hill country cuz I lived up here for about seven or eight years. So I opened an office in the San Marco area eventually morphed into an office in new Brownsville’s covered the Austin, San Antonio area, Houston area, the big, you know, a lot of people in that triangle.


([07:09]): Yeah. Yeah. And so what did you do there? I mean, like from the beginning to the end, did you role change? Did you turn wrenches at the beginning or did you yeah, I was the, I was it chief cook can bottle washer in the beginning with a pickup and you know, went around, knocking on doors and I’d been in the business for a while. I’d worked for another company for several years, so I kind of knew the business, but you know, going into business was a, a brand new thing and it was it was challenging. How long did you do it for in context there is it i’m sorry. What, how long were you an entrepreneur? Was it for 10 years? How long did you have dragon fire? I guess 27 years. 27 years. It was actually was my third company though. Okay. Yeah. So what did you just as a teaser? What did those, what were you?


([07:51]): Well, well, it was fire protection. I had hill country fire equipment first. Then I merged with another company in Austin called dragon fire and incorporated. Okay. We split up and I went to Houston to open an office in 91 and had dragon fire systems. Now, technically was it humble or was it Houston? Yes. It was humble near, near the George Bush, inter continental airport. But at the time humble was out of Houston. Is that right? Or yes, it was, but actually I had, it was very strange where we were, I had to get a dumpster permit for the city of Houston occupancy from Houston. Okay. But they didn’t respond for fire or police. It was, we want your money, but we’re not coming out. Yeah. I can see that. Yeah. Yeah. And so then you evolved changed your role over the years to more of a leadership role. And that’s where you found yourself in the latter part, part of that 27 year career. And so what were you doing? Kind of define that leadership role a little bit, telling people where to go, making sure they show up on time. What did that look like?


([08:48]): Well, initially that’s what I did. And then towards the end I had managers in place. And so really I was getting kind of bored, but I would order the product for all the offices and basically you oversee operations. I would sell also I had, you know, certain customers that would call me. I still went out in the field and, and sold jobs, which is probably the biggest thing that I miss now is going out, Closing the deal, closing the deal and, and the employees. I still have a really good rapport with a lot of the employees. I wanna tease out the board. Well, you were bored towards the latter part. That’s what I heard you say. So I was, was that when you knew, okay, look, it’s time. I’m this? I just don’t have the passion. Well, actually I had a plan to open an office in Dallas Fort worth and I was waiting for a particular customer stock cabana. We were doing in Houston and Austin, San Antonio. And we’d been told we were gonna hit the DFW market. So I was waiting for that call. And then once we got that, I was gonna into Dallas, Fort worth area, open an office, hire people and, and expand. And, and I was really excited about that. But you know, you can only dwell on that so long. I mean, after two hours in the office, I’d walk around the warehouse and go, well, what am I gonna do now? Yeah.


([10:10]): Okay. You know, you knew it was time. Yeah. It was getting to be that time. What did your wife say? She ready for you to retire? She was it was kind of a, kind of a funny story. I was in my manager’s office and we were talking and I got a, one of the girls came in and said, Hey, I’ve got a call for you on the phone from this company called pie Barker. And I said, okay, well tell ’em, I’ll take the call in a minute. And so my manager, Leslie, she said, well, I know that name. And I said, yeah, they’re they were, I used to buy wholesale from ’em. And so she’d heard the name I said, but I hear they’re buying companies out. So if I come back smiling, I sold and I laughed and I got up and went and took the call. And that was the call.


([10:51]): Wow. I’m glad you did not take that call. I mean, I mean, you know, I, you know, as a PAX Financial Group, I get calls all the time and, and I know they’re buyers and I just, I just ignore ’em but you know, you were, you know, you were open, you were at that stage where you, okay, look, I’m, I’m open to the idea and I actually want to go there a little bit deeper before I do. I want to let people know. Who’ve just tuned in, you’re listening to retire in Texas. We’re having a, a conversation with Russ Feldon who was an entrepreneur business owner for 27 years in the fire protection industry. So we’re on the latter half of the dialogue. And for those of just tune in, be sure to grab an ebook at PAXFinancialGroup.com. Okay. So you took the call and were you ready to sell? I mean, I know you had kind of like, okay. Emotionally kind of getting board maybe a little bit, but were you like, okay, had you ever laid down at night and said, okay, if I get a good offer, I’m selling,


([11:45]): You know I think every business owner thinks that at some time, at some point in their career, but no, I was really not there at all. I mean, as you know, like you said, you get stuff all the time, I get it in the mail and I would look at it and just throw it away, you know? Yeah. Yeah. I never really got a serious phone call. It was always just the mail thing. So, you know, when I took the call, it was like, well, I’ll listen. I really was not planning on selling. Yeah. That’s what I was getting at. It was kind of like, I’m open to just listening. Sure. Now, economics aside I know that you had an idea of what the value was and what you were willing to sell it for, but economics aside, why them, what made them a good fit? Well, when I told ’em that I would entertain a visit, he said, let me call you back. And he called me back. He said, Kim, we meet tomorrow wherever you want to. Now they’re outta state. And so that told me, well, they’re the CEO’s flying in to meet. So I met with them at bill Miller’s barbecue. Good call one of our customers, good call. Yeah. great company out.


([12:47]): Towner’s actually like bill Millers. Yeah. You know? Yeah. And I like them too, but anyways, so I met with them at, at bill Millers for about an hour and a half. And I felt really comfortable with them. A couple of things that were really important to me were I wanted the employees to be happy. I didn’t want pay cuts or rearranged salaries. I found out later that I paid better than about anybody in the, the industry. Okay. And so, you know, that was kind of important to me. So we left the meeting and I got back and I emailed Chuck with pie Barker. And I said, Chuck, a great meeting. You guys are either the biggest BSS that I’ve ever met or you’re really sincere. And I hope it’s the latter. He really liked the email. Yeah. Yeah. Good. And so he, it kind of went from there, but I did get multiple offers also.


([13:38]): So looking back, do you feel that you left your employees in good shape? I do. Absolutely. Okay. When I sold, I had 36 employees and only one has quit. So I was, that was a manager. Yeah. That’s remarkable because I was with a business transaction the other day and they came in, you know, good people, right. Like whining and dining, the executives and leadership and yeah. We’ll keep the employees and then the next day wiped them out. Right. And, and you’re, that was great. You had, I mean, good intuition on your part and it feels good as a business owner, reflecting on that and said, I treated the people well. So it’s a, it’s a great, it’s a great feeling and kudos to you. So what was one of the trickier decisions financially that you had to make when you were transitioning out and retiring from this career?


([14:23]): Well that’s a good question, actually. You know, I think initially you wanna make sure you’re gonna have enough money where you don’t have to work. Yeah. You know? Yeah. Unless you want to. And I know that when I got the first offer we turned them down and I got another offer and turned it down. And then they came back with 20% more. And so that’s when we, we decided to sell. But I think that, you know, I don’t, I don’t know, Darrell really, other than just worrying about  are you gonna have enough Have enough money? Yeah. And you know, when I ran the numbers, it was enough. Yeah. I felt like, yeah. And so I basically paid off everything that I owed. Okay. And turned the rest of it over to you. Yeah. Almost now you’re doing some good real estate stuff and that’s worked out great. So maybe a little bit inside of you is from the time that your your parents bought some waterfront property that, that never left your heart maybe, but could here, you are buying some waterfront property, tell the audience where you’re buying right now and, and what you’re doing there. Well,


([15:26]): I have one three on river road on the Guadalupe. One is actually on the Guadalupe. I bought that before I sold. And then I bought two across the street with river access through that property. They’ll be going online within the next month or two new Brownsville’s escapes by the way is where you can find those, oh, there you go. All right. But also, and then we have one downtown new Brownsville’s, it’s a hundred, two year old house that we bought shortly after I retired. And that one is two blocks from the square two blocks from Slee bomb. Oh, that’s, that’s gonna be great. And you know, that, that the whole area is just developing and there’s some great plans for more growth. So do you find that this is this real estate piece? Is it occupying a lot of your, do you want expand it or do you like the cadence that you have right now? Just whenever it makes sense.


([16:16]): I think whenever it makes sense, it’s kind of funny. I was not actively looking for any one of these properties. I just kind of stumbled onto them. It’s kind of weird. Well, we talked about that. How, you know, sometimes, you know, when you have some money, you just stumble in opportu. It’s very strange. Yeah. Driving home one day from work down river road. And I went down Ponderosa. I’d never really been on that road. I’m like, well, I’m just gonna drive by for sale by owner. And I called the guy up 30 minutes later, he showed up, we made a deal and I bought it, you know, the house in new Brons to get him oil chain changed the blue on it. And I went for a walk downtown, walked by the, this two story house that was for sale and called and boom bought it. Wow. Its kind of funny, You know, it is really funny. It’s, it’s kind of one of those things when you’re noodling on something like a business opportunity, even if it’s like a 20% probability you’ll happen, it can kinda lingers there in your subconscious. And so when it, when it shows up, it’s like you had mentally already justified it already kind of rationalized and already kind of planned for it without even mapping it out. But in your subconscious it was there like, okay I’m yeah, this makes sense to me.


([17:29]): Yeah. I would agree with that. But also beyond that, when I sold the company, I, I own two shops. So the shop that we had in new Bronsville and the shop we had in humble, you know, I’ve got a lease with the company that bought me out for those. So that’s, you know, another pillar of income if you will. Yeah. And a nice diversification from residential and right. Some industrial. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so what do you see going forward for you and your wife? What do y’all want to do? Well, I think at this point we’re probably gonna do some traveling. We, we have an interesting summer planned. Okay. And I mentioned the, the, the camp in Maine. So I spent probably 14 years up there, two months out of the year with my mom. Okay. Every summer and still have friends up there, but my kids, my mom sold the place in the eighties, so my kids never got to see the place. Yeah. So I’m taking the whole family up this summer to the lake.


([18:23]): Oh, that’ll be nostalgic. Yeah. How are you gonna hold yourself together? Well, you know, it’s, it’s gonna be interesting, but here’s, what’s gonna, unfortunately up there, you, you can’t find large places to rent on the water. Yeah. So they’re all built in like most of them in the fifties sixties. So the most you’re gonna find usually is six. So we’re having four groups come up. Oh my gosh. And I had to rent a couple of different camps. It was kind of challenging, but, but I got it all put together. That’s really cool. So now that’ll actually lead me to my next question. What values are important for you to instill into that next generation and those people that you’re bringing and the people that you love, what one or two values are important to you?



Well, family, for sure. And you obviously realize that as life goes on, as you get older, it just becomes more and more important and hopefully plan for the future financially. It is super important. Yeah. And you know, that’s one other thing I want to touch on because I never really had much savings. I had net worth. I had, you know, some real estate. I didn’t have a lot of money in the bank and we started a 401k through packs. Yes. Which is great. You know, it’s a great benefit for employees and for myself, but it’s really nice to be able to, to do something like that. And so, you know, my daughter, for instance, I keep asking her you are maxing, not your 401k or yes, dad. Good,


([19:45]): All right. Okay. Just checking, you know, so family and being a good saver, those are a couple, and I’m sure there’s many more values that you would share with the next generation and love to tease those out, but we’re coming towards the end here. And the most important question that I have for you is what’s your favorite salsa? Well, I like the different restaurant salsa. I like, you know, going and, and checking out different places, but Rodriguez Mexican and new Ron salsa’s got pretty good salsa. Okay. it’s a little Mexican restaurant behind. Buckys kind of across from the hospital. I’ve got really good sauce. I have not been there. So that’ll be on my, my list, Mel leg rose and Wimberley is pretty good also. Okay, good. Right. Both of those, we haven’t had those on the show yet, so those will have to try it’s all those hole in the wall ones that are pretty good, right? Yeah. Hey, this has been great. I mean, this has been a short conversation that could have gone two hours, but we covered a lot of ground and I really appreciate it. So thank you for being a guest today.


([20:39]): Thank you. It was an honor and a privilege Darryl. Appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you. So yeah, li you’re listening to retiring Texas. Thanks for tuning in be sure to go visit PAXFinancialGroup.com. You can grab a a 15 minute consult on that website real easy, and you’ll find all the advisors have a heart of a teacher. So I don’t think you’ll feel threatened. If you have a question, you can always jump on there. Ask a question and again, thanks for joining us. And as a reminder, as always, you think different, when you think long term,


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