He Went From Good Decisions To Great Decisions
At age 65, Frank Vorlicek can look back at his life and say he made a lot of good choices. They seemed to be the right thing for him at the time, and in retrospect they look even better.
Frank was born in Monterey, California while his dad, Frank Sr., an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, was an instructor at the Army Language School (now the Defense Language Institute). “When I was 11, we moved to Falmouth, Maine, and that’s where I grew up,” he recalls. Frank was a good student in grade school and high school but says, “I had no aspirations then other than having fun.” The aspirations came later, when he matriculated at Boston College and decided to major in accounting. “I knew that would guarantee a good job,” he reckons. Having fun took second place, and Frank hit the books well enough to earn his B.S degree in accounting with magna cum laude honors.
When he graduated in 1977, he landed a job as an auditor with Peat Marwick (now KPMG) in Boston, then one of the so-called Big Four public accounting firms in the country, and within a year he was promoted to senior auditor. “I wanted to be in business, because that’s where the money was to be made, and in particular I wanted to be in the international field,” he says. “I loved to travel, and I wanted to see the world,” and getting on board in an international company would be his best ticket. So he knew he’d need a master’s degree in international business to achieve those goals.
He did just that. He got his MBA from Columbia University in finance and international business in 1981, the same year he was recruited by business giant W. R. Grace to become a financial analyst. Grace was a highly diversified company with worldwide operations in chemicals, packaging, shipping, oil drilling, healthcare and other fields. Frank’s responsibilities entailed analyzing and presenting major capital investment proposals to the board of directors, primarily in specialty chemicals and packaging.
Working between their offices in New York and Lausanne, Switzerland, Frank learned enough about international business operations, management and budgeting to qualify for a bigger assignment. He found it with another business megalith, Philip Morris International, famous for the “Marlboro Man” as well as its old-style ads that featured a bellhop shouting “Call for Philip Morris.” He was to stay with the company for 18 years as chief financial officer (in international business parlance, finance director) of three different subsidiaries in three different countries.
(At that time, the cigarette industry was not perceived as negatively as it is today, and naturally enough, Frank’s attitude has changed over the years. Since leaving the industry, he says “I’ve come to believe that the tobacco industry acted badly in its efforts to promote smoking, and there should be an active effort on the part of government to discourage its use: high taxes, large warning labels and anti-smoking ad campaigns.” But his job in those days was to work hard to help his company flourish.)
Frank began his career with Philip Morris as business development manager at the regional headquarters in Lausanne, but he was quickly moved up to treasurer of that entity. You could say his responsibilities were ecumenical: budgeting, asset management, credit control, foreign exchange and cash management, banking relationships, capital expenditures and acquisitions, to name a few. He traveled widely in Europe, Africa and Asia during his eight years in that capacity. “We were acquiring companies all over the place,” he remembers. “Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia,” among others. Frank was a key player in these activities.
He met his wife Ana in Lausanne, where she worked in finance for the company. In 1991 they were married, and in the next four years they had two daughters, Anita and Andrea, of whom they are rightly proud.
In 1994 he was sent to Budapest, Hungary to serve as the chief financial officer of Philip Morris’ operations there. The company had 3,000 employees, and Frank’s staff consisted of 60 employees responsible for all phases of finance, accounting and information systems. Frank supervised the financial restructuring of the company during his almost five years there, and he then moved up to yet a bigger job: CFO of the Philip Morris subsidiary in Istanbul, Turkey, which had annual sales in excess of a billion dollars.
One of the nice aspects of his foreign assignments was that basically all of his living expenses were paid for by the company, in addition to a hefty salary as a major executive and board member. By the year 2002 Frank had saved enough money and made enough good investments that he decided to retire—at age 47, when most folks are midway through their careers. “I had a young family, and I wanted to spend time with them. My parents were living in Englewood, and we wanted to be near them. I already knew about the area. Englewood had a good lifestyle, and I love nature and the beaches. So Ana and I decided to move there,” he says.
It’s not that he became a couch potato. Frank set himself up as a business consultant, running training programs for a few different companies, an activity which continues to this date. In 2004 he joined the staff of Webster University as an adjunct professor, teaching a variety of finance and accounting programs to Webster’s MBA candidates in St. Petersburg and Sarasota, an undertaking he is still engaged in … once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
In 2005 he took a 6-month assignment for Philip Morris as CFO of their billion-dollar subsidiary in Brazil, commuting back and forth between Rio and Ft. Myers while the company searched for a permanent finance director. In 2010 he became a volunteer counselor for the Charlotte/Desoto chapter of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which helps small-business owners in financing and running their ventures. This, too, is an activity he continues with today.
But he’s not all work and no play. In addition to their residence in Rotonda, Frank and Ana own a condo in St. Petersburg for weekend and beach activities, as well as a chalet in France, where the family can enjoy skiing. Frank is also an avid tennis player.
On the intellectual side, he is active as a peace advocate and has been a member of the Englewood Peace Initiative Coalition (EPIC) for several years. He’s also involved in two very interesting discussion groups: The Café Philo, which is heavily into philosophy, and the Great Decisions chapter based in Englewood’s Elsie Quirk Library. “I’ve been leading discussions at both groups for many years,” he says. Typical examples? How about “Classical Greek Culture” at The Café Philo, or “Populism in Europe” and “The Northern Triangle” (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) for Great Decisions?
Well, Frank has already made quite a few great decisions in his career. Why not a few more Great Decisions in retirement?
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: email@example.com. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.