WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For Michael Teel, filling his grandfather's shoes was never his life's ambition.
Tom Raley's grandson is quite comfortable with the title and the responsibilities.
"I've known this day was coming since 1993, when I was told that I could replace Chuck Collings as president and CEO if I continued on the path that was laid out for me," Teel, 47, told SN.
"That was really the first time my future came into focus. As a child, I grew up in a family that taught us don't assume and don't presume. And even when I worked in the stores when I was a young man and people said I should be taking it easy because I was the founder's grandson, I didn't relate to that because the work ethic had been so heavily instilled in me all my life.
"When I left the company to pursue other ventures in 1983, my grandfather thought I was nuts, but I felt my plan in life was outside Raley's."
Teel said he moved to Seattle to attend Bible college and to work in sales, and he eventually bought a small advertising company there. "I ran it for a year and a half, and I lost my shorts, but I learned the hard way about working capital, lead time and other business functions.
"But the most important lesson I learned was, I survived. And I realized that the world is made up of all kinds of people, and the decision-makers in positions of power and leadership are really ordinary people who have some outstanding skills and some weaknesses.
"And that helped me, a perfectionist, to understand that no one is perfect and you need to put your strengths to maximum use and shore up your weaknesses with strong people around you.
"With that perspective, I saw people like Chuck Collings and my father [Jim Teel, Raley's co-chairman] as ordinary men, not men to be put on a pedestal, and I felt capable of doing what they did, and when my parents asked, I came back to work at the company."
Teel spent 1988-1993 on a fast-track management development program, then was named assistant to the president in 1993.
"Once Chuck told me I was the heir apparent as his replacement, I noticed a change in the way people dealt with me," Teel said. "They interacted with me differently, and my own perceptions, and how I dealt with them, also changed, because I had a vote of confidence from the CEO, which made an immeasurable difference in my own confidence.
"That's when the whole thing came into focus -- that the job I was training for was doable if I could refine my skills and go for it.
"I ran into a wall a couple of times, but Chuck was always there to point me straight. He was a great mentor and a great coach, and he'll still be around as a director and a sounding board for stockholders."
One of Teel's biggest challenges in returning to Raley's, he told SN, was working for his parents, Jim and Joyce Raley Teel, the chain's co-chairs.
"Before I came back here in 1988 I felt I would never be able to work for my parents, especially my mother, because I felt it would be difficult for me as a grown man to work for my mother. "But with my new perspective on life, I was able to view my parents differently, and it was cathartic and healing for me, because I found I couldn't be in a healthier situation.
"I think it's hard for a father to give up the reins and view his child as an adult, but my father actually stepped aside to make way for me, and after always being a very detailed person, he stepped out of operations and dropped out of the day-to-day business.
"I never found him second-guessing my decisions, and he was always willing to give counsel when I came to him, and he gave me reassurance when he sensed I needed it. "My mother had been very active in the business since I had left, and she had been working closely with Chuck, which gave her an appreciation for the decision-making process, the inter-office politics and the key responsibilities of management, so she was able to appreciate what I was going through and able to give me the support and guidance I needed."