ONE ON ONE | Robert Sebo Civic volunteer just couldn't help getting involved
What made you come back to Salem after retiring?
I always kept close ties with Salem. I love Salem. I loved it growing up here. As I moved along in life, one of the things I looked forward to was basing at least part of my retirement out of Salem. This is "back home." Another reason I came to Salem is that there was a multitude of people here who had influences on my life.
You've really taken the community under your wing by offering your time, advice and generous contributions to different projects. Why do you do this?
When I retired, it was my intention to not get involved. I had spent most of my life working and enjoying it. But I didn't play as much golf as I would have liked. Those types of things. I said that was what I was going to do. But bit by bit I've managed to get myself involved.
I've been blessed financially. That allows me to do some things to help my community. I see it as an opportunity to make a charitable investment into the community.
I look back on Salem and said, "Boy, I learned a lot of lessons here about people, motivation, proper attitude, how you get things done."'
The revitalization of downtown Salem as a retail center also is one of your interests. Can the downtown make a comeback, especially with Wal-Mart set to open here soon?
Having grown up here, I know that a retail store can be successful. People still prefer to buy locally if they can without having to drive to a mall.
This could be a very special boutiques and small-retail community.
Wal-Mart kills businesses in a small town that are identical. You don't compete with Wal-Mart. You put in something they don't have.
Have you run into any frustrations in trying to help?
Volunteer work goes awful slow [laughs]. And rightfully so. You can't, like in business, give an assignment.
What's the most important thing you've learned throughout your long business career?
The biggest thing is ethics. You tell the truth. You do what's right. Then you don't have to think about what you said six months ago. It's what you do when you're not being watched. An Enron could never happen in my company.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out?
The advice to pass on is that it's a tough process. It's a round-the-clock job. It's a dedication. To get your end result, there may be a number of years that it's time- and life-consuming. So you'd better be sure you do what you like to do.
The attributes of an entrepreneur are the right attitude and leadership skills. Surround yourself with people who have the right attitude.
Who were your biggest influences?
My father and my mother [John and Gertrude] were probably my major influences. They got me through college until I realized I grew up poor. That's the kind of parents I had. They were hard working.
My parents gave me the kind of love and attention at home that makes you want to do better and makes you want to do the right thing.
They were exemplary parents. They were always there. They could always give me an opinion on a situation. I had a happy home life.
Are there any famous people to whom you look toward as an example?
I'm driven by people who can motivate people. With my athletic interests, I've always had a great respect for coaches, particularly football. I'm highly motivated by Earle Bruce [former Ohio State football coach]. His first head coaching job was here in Salem. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play for him. He's been a good family friend for years. He's enthusiastic. He's energetic. I watch people get turned on by that.
Who's your favorite author?
John Grisham. I love every book he's written.
What's the last book you read?
I'm in the process of reading "From Time Immemorial." I figured I wanted to get educated on the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict.
Tell us about your spare-time pursuits
I like skiing. It's you alone. How good or bad you do is strictly up to you. I love to ski fast. I love the outdoors. It's a great exercise for my legs. It's enjoyable.
You've mentioned how much you like football.
I'm an absolutely avid football fan. I've become a real addict both at the collegiate and high school level. The pros I like, but I can take or leave them.