Today would have been my Dad’s 67th birthday; I think I learned a good chunk about business from him.
Missing my Dad, Tom, lots lately; he left this earth on June 1, 2009. He was – fittingly – born on March First: he had leadership qualities and was one of the guys you wanted on your team.
He never took the time to write a book – but what I learned about business from him would take up more than a few cocktail napkins. Here are a few highlights.
1. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.
It was bound to happen: Northern Indiana’s economy was not doing so well, and the factory that had been the family’s lifeblood decides it want to relocate to Georgia. Not being much of a Dawg, not wanting to uproot everyone with three kids in high school, Dad did what everyone should do at least once in their life.
He reinvented himself.
Turns out, as is the case, “Quality Control Director” was not as fitting for him as the new life he invented: “Real Estate Agent.”
You may want to (if that industry you picked in college isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in the real world), you may have to (in walks the boss, pink slip in tow). But, at some time in your life, you NEED to. Reinvent. Yourself.
2. Play to your strengths.
We joked that Dad grew up on 7th Street, got married and moved to 8th Street, then, when the kids were grown up, moved to 13th Street.
This was true: the Belgian-American enclave of the West End of Mishawaka, Indiana was his home and, even when he and Mom moved for the last few years to a street without a number, he was still in the same 2 mile radius for his entire 65 years.
Hey, guess where he sold the bulk of his houses as a real estate agent?
Dad would do one deal a year that was outside of his normal zone, but his business was pretty much The Guy on The West End.
While he reinvented himself rather easily, he sure didn’t reinvent himself as something he wasn’t.
3. Show up.
Wish I had a dollar for every time Dad called me from a boring open house. Of course, he would never say that out loud; it was always something like “well, we’re waiting for the crowd to show up.”
He couldn’t just hang up a shingle and expect the business to start coming to him – he had to actually put in the work. That meant a lot of events – not just open houses but rubber chicken dinners and local sporting events – that were probably not ideal places to spend your time then…
But those events paid dividends down the road.
There’s something that is important to you. A charity. An organization. Your church. A club. A cause.
It doesn’t have to be financial – heck, Dad wasn’t rolling in dough – but he sure did give of his time.
I still remember him getting the frequent donor club card from the Blood Bank. As a kid, I thought it was nuts – I mean, who in their right mind would let you take their blood?
It’s not about “my cause is better than your cause.” He found the causes that were important to him. And he gave.
5. Please have fun.
I am 100% certain that my Dad did not take himself all that seriously.
I’m guessing, if Dad were around today, he’d probably chide all the “Social Media Gurus” for being “Guru” first, “Media” second. And “Social” third.
Dad would talk to anyone, and listen to anyone. And drink a beer with anyone.
His last birthday, March 1, 2009, found him at the casino, having gotten his faculties back and being good to go after his first stroke. He had a nice payday at some exotic sounding game – Mississippi Stud or some such – and was thrilled to tell me all about it.
I’m sure my Dad picked up quite a few lessons in business, and life, from his Dad.
So I always wondered, not totally “getting it,” why my Dad made a big deal out of his own father’s birthday, years after his father had passed away.
I get it now.
Notes: since it was a stroke that marked the beginning of Dad’s last days, consider this an invitation to understand the warning signs of a stroke:
Directly from the American Heart Association’s web page, be on the lookout for these signs:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If any of these things are happening, don’t mess around: Call 9-1-1.
Here’s a link to the American Heart Association’s web page. You can learn all sorts of things there and, even though February 28 was the last day of “Heart Month,” well, you can learn tons there. Please do.