Well, I’m in my late 40s, so I’m coming to the realization of how much my parents have had an impact on my life. A while back I read a book about Walt Disney and it showed me how much your Father can have a positive or negative impact on your life. In Walt’s situation, he made the decision to become the antithesis of his Father – where his Father was dour and abusive, Walt was carefree and blithe (despite many hardships).
I wanted to share business lessons learned from Dad.
My Dad is stubborn, and he passed this on to his children. His willingness and courage to move forward and persevere when the right decision is difficult. As a Chemical Salesman, this served my Dad well. He could see past the rejection that is a part of any salesperson’s life.
2. Wake Up Early
I’m not a morning person, so this is one that I struggle with. My Dad would always be the first one up in the morning – either exercising or checking email. I’m trying to get better with this, but it’s a fight (being more of a night person is something I think I get from my Mom). Along with this message is probably the more important lesson of putting in a hard day’s work every day.
3. Use Technology
I remember my Dad adopting computers very early on – he had one of those IBM PS1 or 2 that had no hard drive, so you had to switch disks in and out often. I learned to use Quicken early and started budgeting at a very early age. My Dad was not afraid of technology and taught me early on how it could help you make an even bigger impact and be more productive.
4. You Can’t Shoot the Moose from the Lodge
My Dad traveled to visit customers all the time. This taught me that in order to be successful in sales, you need to get out of the office and go to see customers. My younger brother Bobby is the best salesperson I know, and he is always meeting with customers face to face.
5. Bring the Donuts
My Dad used to bring donuts to customers. To this day, I enjoy bringing food to customer events. I believe it's a way of showing people that they are valued.
6. Your Value = Your Service to Others
Some would call me an optimistic believer in capitalism and the free market system. I believe this stems from what I was taught about money. My Dad taught me that the money that you make should be commensurate with the value you provide to someone else. Money is earned by serving others – not by tricking, taking, or luck. Now, this is an ideal. But, it’s one that I continue to live by, and I believe that it serves me well.
7. Be Flexible as Your Role Changes
During the latter parts of my Dad’s career, his sales position turned into more of a service position as his clients expected more from him as they cut costs by reducing payroll. My Dad started taking on some of the responsibilities that were typically the customer’s roles. He’s taught me to be open and willing to change roles as needed.
8. It’s Ok to Be Friends with Your Clients
This is one that I’ve struggled with in Sales – I like having a separation between my personal and professional life. But, I’ve realized that both situations are fine – one of your friends becomes a client or one of your clients becomes a friend. If the goal of your business is to serve others this will happen naturally, and it’s not a bad thing or something to be avoided.
9. Family Comes Before Work
There were multiple times when my Dad turned down promotions because he knew that saying “yes” to the promotion meant saying “no” to spending time with us. This made us feel valuable. When my Dad retired, you didn’t read about it in the newspaper. Raising a family and being a loving husband have different rewards. And if you asked him, I doubt he has regrets about this.
10. Talk to Your Family about Work
At my house, if you wanted the salt you would say “pass the NaCl.” Dad was a chemist by degree and a salesperson by necessity (the money allowed him to support his family). He would share stories about work and let these stories teach us a pertinent lesson for the day. I remember listening to him struggle when he knew something wasn’t right – this has taught me to do the same with my family.
11. Integrity Begins with Respecting Others with Your Language
Growing up, my Dad did not use foul language (except for the occasional slip when he misses the nail and hits the finger). What you say and your language does matter and Dad taught us to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
12. You Are Accountable to a Higher Power
My Dad taught me that you are accountable to a higher power. Accountability to a higher power means that it doesn’t matter whether you can get away with something or not. What you say behind closed doors is heard, and it doesn’t matter whether someone is looking or not, because someone always sees. The idea of service stems also from this. I serve you not because I have to, but because I was served so freely by my Higher Power (in my case my Higher Power is God).