Career Corner – Bob Fregolle (Xi, ’79)

I recently met an older gentleman at a function here in Cincinnati who I’ve known for some years (spoiler alert – he’s fictitious so we’ll call him John). John had retired a few years ago and I was keen to catch up with him. We chatted briefly but I could tell something was eating at him, so I suggested we have a coffee where we could spend more quality time catching up.

We met yesterday (for about 2 ½ hours) and I’m still sorting through my emotions following our discussion. The gist of it is, he’s not happy with how his career ended and there’s not a lot he can do about it. But, he said younger folks can do a lot about their careers and he’s only too willing to share what he did wrong.

John told me, “I wish I hadn’t been in such a rush. Life’s too short and I focused too much time on driving my career and not enough time building my life with interesting hobbies, an expanded friend pool, and frankly, eventually spending enough time with my wife and kids. Now that I’ve got time on my hands, I’ve got nothing to do, I’m divorced twice, and I hardly see my kids and grandkids anymore.” Sad.

He went on to say, “You know, I really thought I’d go higher. What they told me along the way was that I didn’t focus enough on building my core competencies and knowing what was really expected of me, from both a professional and a ‘social’ development standpoint. I guess if I’d listened more, I’d have picked up on this better. I networked well but that alone won’t help you pass the grade during annual performance appraisals.”

I asked him if he felt his contributions made a difference. He told me, “You know, I thought they did. I was doing a solid job, but I guess I never took the risk to create something new, even though I was empowered to. You know, ‘don’t rock the boat’ is how I felt.”

I asked him at one point, “John, you had to have done something well!” “Yes”, he said, “I was honest as the day is long. Never cheated, never stole anything, gave a full-day’s work, and never missed a day due to sickness. Not one.” I said, “Well, that’s pretty impressive!” He also told me he’d done well financially because he was a ‘saver’ and never spent beyond his means. The latter allowed him to retire earlier than his peers.

The coffee ended on a positive note as he agreed to join me at the local university when I talk career advice to the business school undergrads. As John said, “Hopefully through learning about my experience, the next generation will not make the same mistakes I did.”

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Bob worked for 35+ years at Procter & Gamble retiring as their Global Chief Sales Officer in 2014. He and his family spent 18 years abroad living in six countries. Bob personally traveled to more than 100 countries selling soap for P&G. Today, Bob is co-owner of The Daytona Tortugas, the Reds’ High-A Affiliate baseball team in Daytona, Florida. He’s an avid cyclist, hunter, and scuba diver (Instructor). He sits on three non-profit boards (Michigan Business School, the Cincinnati Museum Center, Tortugas Care Foundation) and is busy with Lori ticking off their long bucket list in their ‘rewirement’.

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