Here is part four of the “Getting to Know Kaizen Leaders” series.
This week, Bethany talked to Tony and Patricia Tefel.
Since Tony and Pat joined the LIFE business, I’ve been watching their progress from afar and have been continuously amazed by their enthusiasm.
Chris Brady introduced me to the Tefels about eighteen months ago, and since then we’ve become best friends.
They’re great people and have added so much value to my whole family’s life. They’ve been married forty-seven years and are an excellent illustration of what marriage should be. On top of that, they’ve been in the industry for over forty years!
They’re a great example of American entrepreneurship and family values. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I have!
Getting to Know Kaizen Leaders: Patricia and Tony Tefel as written by.
According to Tony Tefel, there’s good and there’s great. The Tefels, high school sweethearts who’re now just a few years shy of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, weren’t satisfied with a good life. They aimed for greatness.
Today, they’re planning a fiftieth Mediterranean anniversary cruise on a private yacht with their whole family, and it becomes abundantly clear: they have achieved this greatness.
The Tefels have been in business for almost as long as they’ve been married. As a young couple, their hearts were full of dreams, but they knew with their current jobs—Pat was a social worker and Tony an engineer—they wouldn’t be able to accomplish them.
As they began to look around their community for new opportunities, they discovered something: those who had the lifestyle they desired were business owners.
Pat’s next-door neighbor growing up played a particular influencing role in Pat and Tony’s life. The neighbor was an illustrator and both he and his wife worked from home on his business. They had lunch together, and in the evenings they were able to sit out on the porch and relax. Pat and Tony spent an abundance of time with the successful couple, and as a result, their own dreams morphed to match the couple’s lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the bank wouldn’t approve a loan for Tony and Pat’s traditional business plan, so they were forced to look elsewhere.
Eventually, a friend of Pat’s parents introduced the couple to the entrepreneur industry.
The Tefels were hard workers, but what they quickly realized was that they preferred to work on their own time, to be their own bosses. When Pat became pregnant with their first child, it served as more of a motivation to work hard in business so that she could be a stay-at-home mom. Eventually, Pat could retire from his job and become a stay-at-home dad as well.
This stay-at-home lifestyle allowed the couple to teach their children the same principles that were learning as a part of their business. They had four children within six years, and their fifth and final child—a son—was born eight years later. Their children are now all grown and work in a diverse array of fields. One daughter is a missionary. One son has his own contracting business. No matter what their choice of work, Pat and Tony believe that their five children’s successes, and their propensity to follow their heart, can be related back to the LIFE Leadership concept and the way they were able to raise them.
Though the couple’s schedule today is more relaxed, they remember the days of babysitters, time management, and attempting to build a business with young ones running around. They are both empathetic and encouraging to those in business with children. They were there. They faced these challenges—albeit many years ago—and made it through.
For Pat and Tony, the business was a blessing because it provided them with what they describe as “vital information. In addition, it put them in direct contact with mentors who had been down this road before. Today, five kids and forty-seven years of marriage later, Pat and Tony are those mentors, those role models, those people looking to guide new couples on their way.
Not only did being in business help their familial values, it also helped shape their marriage. Working together, having common dreams and goals, helped unify the couple. Prior to the business, they were going in different directions: Tony and Pat headed out to different jobs in the morning, and though they were together in the evening, they couldn’t afford any hobbies or extracurriculars.
“I tell couples today, even though the business will be adding something else to your plate or your calendar, it’s something that you get to do together,” says Pat. “It’s time that you can grow closer, and achieve goals and dreams that you probably would not have a chance to achieve otherwise.”
That said, everything wasn’t all roses for Pat and Tony. The couple struggled with debt when they were younger, and once again when they were older. This unpretty financial experience allows them to appreciate today’s debt-free life more than ever.
“It’s the freedom and the peace of mind that brings,” says Pat, “Not having to worry about where the money’s coming from and living month to month or week to week.”
Tony echoes this sentiment, focusing on the flexibility being in business has allotted them. When Pat left her job to work as a stay-at-home mom, the couple didn’t have to stress about losing half their income. Being in business meant they didn’t have to sacrifice their security in order to spend time with their children. This flexibility eventually allowed Tony to leave his engineering job, which in turn meant the couple was able to spend more time with their children and focus on the family they’d always wanted.
Pat and Tony are grandparents now, and family still remains their number one priority. They enthusiastically tell me about their many trips to Disney, including, most recently, a trip that included all five children and their spouses, as well as their many grandchildren. In total, twenty Tefels ventured to Orlando, Florida for sunshine and Snow White, magic and Mickey Mouse.
With fun like this, it’s no wonder why the couple is already anxiously planning their fiftieth anniversary cruise. They both credit the idea to Claude, who, up until eighteen months ago, they’d never formally met.
Now when I ask Tony to describe his relationship with Claude, he jokingly—though with an edge of seriousness—asks if I want him to cry.
It was at a major in Ottawa when Tony first felt connected to Claude. After a talk Claude gave about his kids, Lana, and his relationship with his father, Tony was set back, telling members of his own team, “I think I just fell in love with Claude Hamilton.”
Since then, Claude has become a coach, a leader, and most importantly, a best friend, with Claude’s son Wyatt even calling Tony Grandpa.
When Pat and Tony first started, over forty-years ago, the industry was brand new. As a result, they’ve been able to watch and learn as the industry has changed, grown, and adopted over time. What they’ve noticed is the closeness between today’s leaders and teams.
“We always wanted to have the close knit team they had,” Pat says of Team Kaizen, “and now we’re a part of it!”
Within four months of their switch to Claude’s team, they’d gone from Leader to Senior Coordinator.
“They’re just amazing people, both of them,” says Pat of Claude and Lana. “Their desire to help people is refreshing. They’ve truly invested their life and their time into other people.”
It is these ideals and generosity that has kept Pat and Tony motivated in this business after all these years.
As a social worker, Pat was looking to help people better their lives. As an engineer, Tony wanted to build things.
As business owners, they are able to bring to fruition these dreams. Today, they get to see other people’s lives dynamically change for the better.
“I changed from building buildings to building myself and people,” says Tony. “We’re building a better future through people and with people.”
Despite their successes today, Pat and Tony are still only looking to help other people grow.
“We ultimately want to build our lives to edify our Lord and to learn better and better how to do that and how to help other people,” says Pat, who encourages all newcomers to think long-term. “Anything worth having in life is worth working for, and LIFE Leadership is so worth your time.”
“If you have cable TV, you have both the time and the money to build a business.”
Looking at the couple today, their gratitude for the decision they made many decades ago is evident. They were just a young couple with a growing family who decided to dream. Today, there are no regrets.
“God has big plans for his people and Kaizen is a part of that dream,” Tony says, and with a smile, Pat echoes this: “We’re not done yet.”
No, they’re certainly not.
If you know Pat and Tony and have more to add, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!!