“She was perfectly sane in streets unknown. She loved conversing with people tagged as strangers. She was social, amiable & all that is her.” – Debatrayee Banerjee
"What I know for sure is that an ugly exit - you know, the shocker, the crash-and-burn, or the harsh words you can't take back, not only leaves scars on everyone involved, but adds to the psychological burdens one carries long after the exit."
The story of
Geri Reid Suster
Geri’s love of adventure and embrace of graceful exits — and new beginnings — is not only the subject and theme of her book, but also a reflection of her life to this point.
Geri grew up in a small beach community in Southern California with dreams of becoming a journalist when she got older. She attended college, where she was enrolled in SDSU’s journalism program (the first class to transition from typewriters to Apple Macintosh computers – what a time to be alive!). With the goal of becoming an editor, Geri landed her first job in the publishing industry…though she had envisioned something glamorous like books and magazines she ended up at a company that published telephone directories.
Seventeen years later, Geri worked her way up to the Director of Operations and Equity Stakeholder, responsible for all of the Production and Printing services for 325 directories annually and a combined budget of over $60 million. She traveled extensively, learning the art of compassionate and inclusive leadership and developed a penchant for building high-performing teams. Her company completed 57 acquisitions in a 10-year period. She successfully integrated the operations of the acquired company into their own, on time and on budget. As a result, she was put in the difficult position of laying off employees, as they simply could not keep all that they had acquired. Invariably, the company she served was bought by its biggest competitor. She stayed for one more year to help transition the operations and then took her one-year severance package to be with her boys, who were 6 and 9 at the time.
Geri started consulting for another directory publisher, ZipLocal based in Orem, Utah. After a year of consulting and convincing them that she could do the job from her home base in Carlsbad, she was hired as VP of Operations at ZipLocal. After 5 years, she was promoted to COO. She left in 2013 to jump into an upcoming technology-based company; she was laid off 8 months later because the sales strategy failed. That layoff resulted in an epiphany, and time for further reflection, that led to the writing of Graceful Exits.
With some time off to enjoy her boys, who were quickly becoming adults, she rented an RV a few months before her eldest son left for college. She began feeling restless – not really knowing why but she felt the end of her full family nest approaching. She longed to be somewhere with more trees but wasn’t sure where that would be. A strong pull toward moving was washing over her with greater frequency. The solution? An epic road trip. In 2017, it became clear to her to sell everything, buy an RV and travel until she found her tree-covered oasis.
She hit the road driving a 33-foot Class A RV with an SUV in tow and two dogs on board, traveling 45,000 miles across 25 states and 5 provinces in Canada by the end of 2019. When her older dog crossed over, she decided it was time for a new chapter in her life as well. So in February of 2020 she sold her RV and tow car, bought a MB Sprinter van and drove it to California from Texas to start building her new home on wheels. Her nephew helped her design and built the home in 81 days, during the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Geri continues to love the nomad life, writing, and consulting with businesses and others on effective leadership and, of course, exits. She has found her new hometown (Bend, OR), with no plans to stop traveling. She is hooked on the adventure, spending time with nature and seeing what is around the next curve. Some of her hobbies include exploring, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, reading, gardening and volleyball. Music, laughing and enjoying a game of dice with loved ones is always Geri’s idea of a good time — even better if it is around a blazing campfire.
The beginning of the great shift begins here with the terminal diagnosis and death of my mother followed three days later with the end of my marriage. When the Universe wants you to move, its going to happen one way or another.
My divorce finalized in spring, my company sold in July and I bought a new home for myself and my two sweet sons in my hometown. It was a wild ride and friends and family helped me through along with a great therapist!
After 18 years at an excellent company, I chose to leave post sale for the opportunity to stay at home with my sons due to a generous severance package. A paid year off to reflect and heal was just what I needed.
As my sabbatical came to an end I got a call from an old friend for an opportunity to jump back into similar work at a new company based in Orem, Utah. My remote work-life began.
After 27 years in the same industry, I made the leap to a new one after I received an offer I couldn’t refuse from a dear friend. At home, I was preparing for my first born son, Bar, to leave for college. Big changes were happening.
Less than a year into the new industry, I was laid off for the first time in my career. The idea for Graceful Exits was born. Meanwhile, my nephew, Tyler, had a brilliant idea for a camera accessory line and I helped him create his first start-up. Bar left for college and my nest went from 3 to 2.
Went to CES with my nephew to rep his product and had a multi-million dollar deal to sell the company less than 2 months later. It was the ride of a lifetime and I was blessed to be a part of it!
As my youngest, Jake, was preparing to take his turn at adulting, I knew I needed a change. I sold my beautiful ocean view nest in Southern California and 90% of my earthly possessions, bought a 31′ RV and hit the road with my two dogs. My life as a nomad begins…
Still on the road but now in my new home on wheels, Wufgang, that I built out with my nephew Tyler in 81 days at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. I have a new rescue pup, Nellie, and our adventures are just getting started. Follow along on Instagram @gerireidsuster or sign up for the newsletter to stay in touch.