Three Business lessons I learned from my family of business owners.
Updated: Oct 3, 2018
Three lessons of building a business I learned from my family.
I grew up in a family that has been persuaded by either nature or nurture or perhaps both to work for oneself. My family has a long history of Midwestern farming which I consider small business owners as well as Coast to Coast store owners, Dry cleaners’ owners, Manufactures representatives for fortune 100 companies, etc. I will focus on the three lessons closest to me which directed me towards business. These lessons all had very simple and pragmatic advice for business success.
My Grandfathers parents from my mother’s side were immigrants of Germany. They moved from Germany and settled in Ohio and later transferred to California and finally in Iowa. My Grandfather was a stout, god fearing man and worked from sun up until sun down. He had one speed which was redline fast and started and stopped at that same speed daily. His farm spanned from acre to acre and had two large ponds on it that he utilized for Sunday fishing after Church. This was his relaxing time and the time that I would spend asking the childhood question “Grandpa, why do you work so hard? This seems like more fun” His answer was direct, without hesitation and driven from a teachable stand point. The ground isn’t going to plant itself, the cows are not going to milk themselves and the weeds are not going to pick themselves. The corn, the beans, are not going to harvest themselves and the grain is not going to drive itself to the silos Jeff. I work hard because there is no other way to get what you want out of life. I could fish and let a day go by and the ground will wait but the season of growing won’t. I could let the cows dry up and then I wouldn’t have to milk them but then we wouldn’t have milk, butter nor cheese. I could let the weeds grow and choke out the crops but then we wouldn’t have a plentiful harvest to buy seed for the next season for planting. All these things I could let go but then they would disappear just as the fish would if we fished them daily. For everything there is a season and that requires hard work Jeff. That is the reason I work so hard. We cast our lines in silence as I soaked in the wisdom that a five-year-old can absorb. The pond glistened in glimmering sunlight and the sound of a plunk from the sinker rewarded me with a memory that hard work earns a day at the pond.
My grandpa and grandma from my father’s side were early entrepreneurs and drivers for the American Dream. My grandma had her own altering business as well as a successful Avon business with a stack of sales people below her. My grandfather was a lead man at a grain elevator and longed for his own business. Together they bought there first Coast to Coast store and I remember walking through the aisles gazing at the goodies along the shelves and up in the air hung bicycles that I thought looked like a cyclist’s dream. They had BMX bikes, road bikes, single speed bikes, oh it was heaven for sure for a 9-year-old boy. I thought they owned it all and must be rich! My grandma stated “we lease it and get a portion of the profit when we sell it”. It didn’t make sense to me at the time and I thought for sure it was all theirs bought and paid for and they were stingy and didn’t want to share just one bike with their first grandson. Anyway, a fire broke out and destroyed their store within 5 years of owning it. They took a big loss even though they were insured. They decided to try their luck with a dry cleaners which they owned successfully for decades in which my Grandma wouldn’t retire from altering until she was 92. I asked them one day at the cleaners why they thought they were so successful in town. They were so good that the other cleaners closed. My grandpa stated, “because we do good work, and laughed”. My grandma retorted we do excellent work every time or we don’t charge. In fact, if it isn’t perfect it isn’t Flack quality and we are not allowed to charge. This is not an exaggeration my Grandma is and Grandpa was a perfectionist. In fact, their house looks like it just came out of a magazine to this day. Everything is meticulously in its place. That message of quality was permanently stamped in my memory. I questioned whether that standard was attainable or not and struggled with the challenge ahead to be successful in life.
My third lesson came much later in my teens. My father was a top salesman for many companies and had a trophy room in his office. Rookie of the year in sales, top salesman multiple years over. In fact, he sold more by himself then the next 10 salesmen combined. My dad is an introvert not a text book extrovert that one would associate with a salesman. He was direct with uncanny memory for stats and world affairs. He could discuss from a depth of knowledge on almost any topic and when I fact checked him he was always right. It frustrated me because I questioned how one could be so familiar with such a diverse range of topics, but he was. He finally acquired his own business and shot to the stars with it. He was a great success and bought a brand-new airplane, big boats and new cars every year to reward his hard work. I asked him one day home from college what do you think the key to success in business is dad? I mean you have multiple titles of top salesman in every company you ever worked and now you have your own business and some major retail companies will only work with you. What is the secret? His reply “tell the truth”. What? That’s it? It’s not some complicated sales funnel or psychological chess game? It’s not discounts or volume price breaks? Tell the truth? I thought everyone did that, tell the truth that is. Nope, he said. Most sales people will tell people what they want to hear and won’t get the repeat sale. I tell truth and build trust and a following. Dang, simple things for success.
If you are wanting to know the three simple building blocks for success then I suggest hard work, great product and service and tell the truth. Those things catapulted my family members in building successful businesses.