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Father Knows Best

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Through the years, we’ve sent out hundreds of queries asking EntreLeaders their opinions on a large number of subjects. But none received quite as much response as this simple question: What was the best lesson your father ever taught you?

It quickly showed us that in this day and age, when society seems to be changing faster than a 15-year-old’s relationship status on Facebook, dads still play incredibly important roles in our lives. For many of our EntreLeaders, Dad was the one who inspired them to succeed. So this month as we celebrate papas around the world, we’re sharing some of their stories. Happy Father’s Day, dads.

Andy Tabisz, WorkSmart Database Masters, Grand Rapids, Michigan

My parents owned a Hallmark store. And since I was the youngest of five kids, I had the "opportunity” to dress like an elf and hand out candy canes when Santa was at the store. Even more embarrassing? For Easter, my mom took blue footie pajamas and added a cotton tail and ears. I wore it while handing out jellybeans. Luckily, I survived without years of therapy. Even though I was young, my parents made me feel a part of the business.

My dad also tried to find the humor in any bad situation. Once, a driver lost control of her vehicle and drove about 10 feet into the front of the store. Luckily, no one was hurt. My father put up a big sign that said, "Please do not park inside of store." It got a lot of laughs and attention, and the driver appreciated feeling the warmth and caring from my parents instead of anger. I'm thankful that I have Dad's entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and humor. Even though he passed away 18 years ago, I know he would be proud of the software business I created and the legacy I hope to pass along to my children.

Lesson learned: Never lose your sense of humor, and being forced to dress like an Easter bunny is something you pretty much will never get over. For reference, see Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

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Greg Dedman, Bothell Pediatric & Hand Therapy, Bothell, Washington

My good friend Paul Herrick once said while we were talking about our dads, “They broke the mold after those men passed on.” We agreed we could only hope to be as strong and courageous as our dads were. They were entrepreneurs and small-business men. They went to ballgames, took us fishing, went on hikes, took care of their families, raised children and grandchildren, and showed us how to work hard and love life. I remember holding my dad’s hand as he took his last breath, a gentle squeeze of compassion and he went on to be with the Lord. That was 10 years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I miss you, Dad.

Lesson learned: Simple gestures can sometimes be the most powerful.

Sandi Krakowski, A Real Change International, Inc., Warsaw, Indiana

My dad taught me the worst thing that could ever happen is if you fail and don’t get right back up. He also taught me I could do anything if I believed I could. I’m missing him a lot this Father’s Day.

Lesson learned: No matter how tough, never quit. Keep moving forward.

Dan Pratt, Pratt’s Pets and Feed, Glendale, Arizona

As children, we were appalled to see a little homemade sign in my father’s office that said, “The secret to happiness is positive cash flow.” We had been taught all our lives that the important things weren’t monetarily based, so this shocked our little minds when we saw it by his desk. It didn’t take long for all of us to learn that there was a lot of truth in that little sign.

Lesson learned: Even in business, debt is dumb and cash is king.

Troy Meachum, ACR Supply Company, Raleigh, North Carolina

Very simply, my father taught me that people do business with people “they like.” He has shown me what it means to treat others as you would have them treat you, and that treating people with kindness goes a long way.

Lesson learned: Whether it’s your family, team, customers or anyone you come in contact with, follow the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you would want them to treat you.

Allen Howell, Corporate Flight Management, Inc., Smyrna, Tennessee 

I am in the aviation business. My father, Reece Howell III, founded the company 31 years ago. Although he is no longer running the business, he is still an active aviator and businessman at age 76. 

He taught me to have a passion for what you do. He is a teacher and mentor to aviators and has taught thousands of people how to fly or be better pilots. When you love what you do and do your life calling, it’s not work. It’s fun. Reece will never retire. I aspire to maintain that kind of passion for serving people and making a difference throughout the rest of my life.

Lesson learned: You cannot lead without passion. Success is a natural byproduct for those who deeply care about what they’re doing.

Charlie White, Proctor and Gamble, Lynnfield, Massachusetts

My father passed away from cancer when I was 9 years old. He worked as a technician for a large industrial company and left me the legacy of self-improvement. As a young boy, I can remember that he went to school in the evenings and was working on his bachelor’s degree when he died. He was the first member of his family to go to college. I have had the privilege of continuing that legacy, with not only college but a PhD in engineering.

Lesson learned: You can’t grow your business without growing yourself. Never stop learning.

Heidi Stieh, Tri-City Retail Systems Inc., Kitchener, Canada

One of the best things my dad taught me was “do the right thing.” Growing up, I assumed that everyone knew this lesson. Sadly, I’ve learned that this is not always the case. From a business perspective, this has helped me to always take responsibility for our customers and their needs, for decisions we make and directions we travel, and for our team members. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest thing, but it’s always an easy decision. Doing the right thing has led us to reap the rewards of many loyal customers and team members.

Lesson learned: Loyalty comes from fanatical integrity.

What was the best lesson your father ever taught you? Tell us in the comments below.

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