If you were to flash back to Dick Halterman’s Fort Defiance High School years, you’d find him working summers at his uncle’s Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firm, Arehart Associates in Waynesboro, Virginia. You’d also see him smitten with his high school sweetheart, Sally. Both of these events would end up having a profound impact on his life. Dick Halterman’s story is one of hard work, discovery, adaptability, perseverance, and gratitude. As with most interesting stories, there are plot twists and risks, uncertainty and lessons learned, and the ability to believe in oneself.
We Make Plans, God Laughs
When Dick Halterman graduated from Virginia Tech in 1974 with an accounting degree, he thought he was embarking on a lifelong career. Little did he realize that his education had just begun. After graduation, Dick returned to Arehart Associates as an accountant. He also married Sally, his high school sweetheart.
Over the next fourteen years, Halterman dutifully worked as an accountant, eventually earning his CPA license, and making partner at Arehart Associates. Although successful, he couldn’t shake the feeling that accounting wasn’t his passion or final career destination. “I’m not your typical, reserved, introverted accountant—and the most talented accountants are like that,” he explains. “This isn’t a problem or character flaw for a CPA, it’s just the way they need to be, but it wasn’t for me,” adds Halterman. However, he credits the experience for helping him learn business inside and out. “I learned which businesses were making money and which businesses were floundering,” Halterman clarifies. After fourteen years, he made a graceful exit from accounting and started looking for his next opportunity.
“I’m not your typical, reserved, introverted accountant—and most really good accountants are like that. This is a problem or character flaw for a CPA, it’s just the way they need to be, but it wasn’t for me.”
A Challenge is an Opportunity
Never one to be idle, Dick jumped at the chance to open a wholesale electrical supply company in Staunton, Virginia. During the next eight years, the company grew beyond his wildest dreams. However, Halterman’s vision of expanding to dozens of stores wasn’t shared by his business partners. Unfortunately, Dick and his partners had planned for almost everything, except what to do if someone wanted out of the company. Dick faced a decision to leave a secure job and follow his instincts or stay with the safer bet. Although a difficult situation, Dick decided to sell his shares, exit the business, and accept the experience as a valuable lesson learned.
After leaving the company, there was no clear next step. To stay afloat, Halterman started working with a man who was doing mergers and acquisitions. The work was a one-off deal where he and his partner would split the profits down the middle. In addition to this venture, Halterman fell back on his accounting experience and started doing bookkeeping on the side. He also added a bit of brokering for residential and commercial mortgages, working this combination of positions for the next ten years. “I was doing everything I could to make money, just trying to stay alive,” Dick remembers.
“I was doing everything I could to make money, just trying to stay alive.”
The Risk and the Reward
Brokering turned out to be a brilliant move for him. He was able to learn about financing and gain insight into how creditors and lenders evaluate someone for a loan. “I was blessed because the mortgage market was lit like a match from 1996 to 2008,” Dick reminisces. However, the housing crisis of 2008 forced Halterman to change his career strategy yet again. “All of a sudden no houses were being sold, and no mortgages were being taken out,” he recalls, “The market went to zero almost instantly.” Thankfully, in a forward-thinking moment in 2007, Halterman bought into the Murphy Business Brokerage franchise. With a solid foundation in finance, Dick hit the ground running helping people sell and purchase companies.
Dick’s ability to make hard choices and take risks to find a career he loves paid off. This October Halterman will celebrate the 10th anniversary of starting his brokerage business. He attributes his success to the relationships he builds with his clients. He is especially proud of his ability to provide clarity for them during the process of buying and selling their businesses. “Emotions run high when you’re buying or selling a business,” adds Halterman. This is especially evident right before a sale is finalized when people are more likely to get cold feet. An important focus of Halterman’s work is helping clients successfully navigate this emotional journey.
“Emotions run high when you’re buying or selling a business.”
Halterman’s commitment to his clients is evident as he speaks about the lessons he’s learned from challenging deals. Early on, Halterman brokered a deal between a local school photography company and a major photography corporation. He was taken aback when the corporate executives charged in and announced to the firm’s thirty or so employees that they were done working for the former company. Adding insult to injury, they handed out new applications to the teary-eyed employees. Halterman emphatically explains, “This was done all wrong.” Vowing never to forget the experience, Dick is diligent in ensuring business transfers are completed with care and respect. “The best case scenario is to orchestrate it in a manner where everyone is somewhat comforted by it, that there’s a culture fit from the old ownership to the new ownership. I talk more about that with new owners than I do about the money being made,” he explains.
He believes in this so much that before working with clients, Dick has them sign a core values agreement. The agreement states that both parties will treat each other with honesty, respect, and integrity. “All business centers around trust and you’ve got to trust who you’re doing business with,” Halterman emphasizes. Now when taking on new clients, if he senses their vision and his don’t align, he walks away. Being in business for as long as he has, he’s developed a sixth sense for a situation that “feels wrong.”
“All business centers around trust and you’ve got to trust who you’re doing business with.”
When asked what he believes is the most integral aspect of a business plan, Dick shares that an exit plan is the key to success. “Everyone wants their business to succeed and be worth a bazillion dollars, but they don’t want to plan for potential failure,” he says. Dick notes that business plans that include an exit strategy have a greater chance of success, especially if partners are involved. He sees many businesses fail when no one takes the time to consider this scenario.
A Life Well Lived
Even with its challenges, it’s clear Dick Halterman is passionate about his work. “I found my dream job, and I’m in it. I’m in the job I love,” Dick says. While giving up a secure job to follow your dreams isn’t easy, Dick’s advice is, “Go do it. Life is too short to not like what you’re doing. You have to do what you love. Find something that keeps your energy going, your passion going, and keeps giving you a reason to get up in the morning.”
“Go do it. Life is too short to not like what you’re doing. You have to do what you love. Find something that keeps your energy going, your passion going, and gives you a reason to get up in the morning.”
Although Dick’s career journey is impressive, it’s his family that clearly steals his heart. He is the proud father of three adult children and grandfather of five. “When you have grandchildren you get to see your kids in them too,” he thoughtfully explains. As for his high school sweetheart that became his wife, he says, “She’s a saint.” Dick describes the success of their relationship as a balance of his ability to create and her ability to sustain. With a smile he adds, “She’s the tortoise. I’m the hare.” Dick also gives back to his high school alma mater by calling all of the basketball games at Fort Defiance High School where he enjoys being around the energy of the younger generation. When asked what he’d like his legacy to be, Halterman says, “I want to be remembered as someone that helped people achieve their dreams. I want to be known for doing more than I was asked to do.”
“I want to be remembered as someone that helped people achieve their dreams. I want to be known for doing more than I was asked to do.”
When talking with Dick Halterman, it’s easy to get caught up in the success he now enjoys. However, the most important lesson he imparts is anchored in an unrelenting commitment to pursue a life and career you love. Most of all, he proves that the wisdom and joy of life are in the journey, not just in the destination.
Melissa is the new kid on the block at Greenbrier Technologies & Electric. When she’s not tag teaming with her husband trying to wrangle and engage their two young daughters, you’ll find Melissa finding new and exciting ways to share GTE’s story and build relationships with folks in the “other” valley. The Greenbrier Valley may be the original home of GTE, but Melissa is quickly showing the team why the Shenandoah Valley is the place to be!
Who we areWhen Greenbrier Communications was first established in the late 1990s by founder and current president Bill Lenherr, it was his goal to provide the Greenbrier Valley and surrounding region with a much needed local option for Internet service. By 2001, when Lenherr joined…
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