Roger Valine helped transform VSP from a small local company to an international operation by 2006 when he decided to retire.
When he was hired as a management trainee in 1973, not long after graduating from Sacramento State, the Rancho Cordova company had 30 employees and around $10 million in annual revenue. When he became CEO in 1990 at 41, it had roughly 220 employees and $200 million annual revenue. And by 2006, it had grown to 2,500 employees and $2.8 billion annual revenue.
Even though the company, which provides vision insurance and related services, was doing well at that point, Valine, then 57, wanted something more. He thought back on the relationship he’d had with his grandfather and the bonds he hoped to forge with his own grandchildren. “I knew it wouldn’t happen if I was a CEO,” Valine says.
So, 15 years ago, Valine stepped away from the place he had worked since college and has been forging his own path in retirement. Now 71, he has much to show for his decision. There’s his marriage to his wife of 47 years, Marie Valine, their three grown and now married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom live in the area. Family dinners are Sundays. Each year, Valine takes the entire family on a trip to a new place, most recently to Turks and Caicos in 2019. (The pandemic halted 2020 trip plans.) “We’re like an old 1950s traditional kind of family,” he says.
“Just living off my assets seemed so foreign, felt so uncomfortable. … When you’re helping someone with their business or with their life, it’s immediately rewarding. And I don’t mean necessarily just economically. It’s just fulfilling.”
It speaks to values he carried with him through much of his business career, with VSP being celebrated for its work-life balance for employees during Valine’s tenure. But he also admits that in the early years of his marriage and tenure at VSP, Marie would have to remind him to do what the company did for its employees. “I was kind of like a car that would go off alignment every once in a while, and she would bring me back in,” Valine says. “She’d tow me in. … I’m so, so glad she did that. Because I have a great relationship with her and my kids and my grandkids.”
Family is not the only thing keeping him busy. While Valine entered retirement financially comfortable, “Just living off my assets seemed so foreign, felt so uncomfortable,” he says. He serves on several boards, including an eye care services provider in Michigan and Lionakis, the Sacramento architecture company. Valine also speaks to MBA classes at Sacramento State and the University of the Pacific, golfs with an 18 handicap, and is executive coach for two CEOs.
“When you’re helping someone with their business or with their life, it’s immediately rewarding,” Valine says. “And I don’t mean necessarily just economically. It’s just fulfilling.”
One of the CEOs coached by Valine, Susan Armiger of Walnut Creek-based nonprofit Catalight Foundation, which formed in 2019, says Valine has helped improve employee satisfaction scores. “We want our employees to love working here,” Armiger says. “We know they like working here, but we want to do better than that.”
Asked what he might have done differently or what he knows now that he wishes he knew earlier in life, Valine says he’d be more focused on the moment and not so much on tomorrow. “What I find, what I would hope, is that people realize that next year’s not going to be any easier at all,” Valine says. “It’s going to be harder. And if you want something, make it happen. Make it happen right now. Because if you don’t, that gift will never come back again.”
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