As I have grown and developed as an entrepreneur, I continually look back on my dad’s entrepreneurial journey. I guess as he was living it, he didn’t realize he was modeling behavior for me that would one day form how I ran my business. Probably a good thing…running a business is hard enough without the added pressure of young eyes watching.
I recounted some of his history to a colleague yesterday, and I was reminded of 3 valuable lessons I learned from my dad:
He was always looking for new merchandise for the store. He was always inventing new sandwiches to make for his customers. He continually improved the barbecue pits where he cooked some of the best barbecue I have ever had. But, he never bought 100 boxes of something that he wasn’t sure would sell in the store. He never made a substantial investment in anything that had the possibility of not producing profit for the business. He could test things and then buy more if the customers liked them. Donating ten boxes of something that didn’t sell, or simply giving it away to long-time customers, was far easier than dealing with 50 boxes. How many times do we consciously and carefully analyze the downside of something before jumping in?
I could write for hours about all the things my dad taught me about entrepreneurship. I could recount the story of him giving free tanks of gasoline to this family who had a terminally ill child and had to travel 200 miles every three days for treatments. I could tell you the MANY stories of free bags of groceries given to families around the holidays, and free 5-gallon drums of kerosene to families who had no heat. If you asked him today if he considers himself an entrepreneur, he would probably say no. I think it’s partly because my dad is a very humble man and hates labels, but I also think that entrepreneurship came so easily to him that it felt like breathing. He didn’t have to do anything special to turn on that part of his brain. I can envision him right now, shrugging his shoulders and saying “I did what I had to do.” I meet many entrepreneurs in my firm who are exactly the same way. I think that’s why I consider it such an honor to work with them. They remind me of my dad in those moments, and my only response is to help them change the little part of the world they occupy, one customer at a time…like he would do in my position.
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