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Father Knew Best

Looking back three decades, Rick Muskat, executive vice president and principal of Deer Stags Concepts and FDRA chairman, reflects on the fatherly advice that has served as the backbone to the third-generation family business.

Brothers in Arms
Brothers in Arms: Rick (center) Stephen and Michael Muskat, circa the mid 1980s.

You lost your dad abruptly and suddenly. Not fair. But no one said life would be fair. It was such a shock, and you clearly didn’t know how to deal with the grief. The business was going downhill with a bunch of debt and a family to support. Your accountant suggested seeing a bankruptcy attorney, but that just didn’t seem right.

All your life your father had been providing you with the fundamental lessons for living a wonderful life:

  • It is a beautiful world. Wake up every day grateful and don’t waste it. Make the most of every situation. You don’t get the day back.
  •  Cherish all that you have, but keep your guard up. You don’t know what’s around the corner. No one said it would be easy.
  • Life is wonderful, but no one said that it is fair.

He also provided valuable lessons for working in our family business:

  • Family is the most important thing, but the business comes first. It provides for the whole family.
  • When in the office, we can disagree, argue and even fight, as long as we are advocating what we believe is right for the company.
  • When leaving the office, we are father, son, brother, nephew, uncle, etc. Always keep those relationships sacred.
  • Coming into the family business is not a life sentence. If you find it’s not right, you have to feel free to leave. It’s more important to be happy and fulfilled in your work. Conversely, if you are not right for the Company, we have to be able to ask you to leave. The Company provides for the whole family.    Either way, we are still family. Nothing changes that.

It’s time to apply those lessons! Along with your brothers, you will decide to work your way through this challenging time. You will pay all of your debts and re-build the company. You will do this together with hard work and as a family. While not the easiest way forward, history will show it was the right way for our family business.

Here we are 30 years later with a strong business and a wonderful, third-generation family company full of loyal and terrific people—many of whom have brought their second generations on board. Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered, you have cherished every day doing what you love, with the people you love and in the city [New York] that you love.

Not too bad!!!

So here’s another bit of advice from 30 years of experience: You didn’t choose to work in the shoe industry, but you will find over these next decades what a wonderful industry it is. Make some time to get involved with Two Ten, FDRA and FFANY. You will help shape the future of the industry you work and thrive in. You will get the chance to work closely with the smartest and best people in the industry. And you can help “shoepeople helping shoepeople.” Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Lastly, cherish every day, even the tough ones. They are all part of what brings you forward in life.


Thirty-years-older Rick

Afterword: As I wrote this note, I found myself talking to both my younger self and also to my children, who are all in their 30s and a part of our family business. They never got to know their grandfather, but speak of him often. His beautiful philosophy on life and family survives in them.

The April/May 2024 Issue

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