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    Dad-isms: Lessons in business you never realized your father taught you.
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    Dad-isms: Lessons in business you never realized your father taught you.

    June 2016

    Think back on your mom and the advice she gave you in life and you’re likely to remember tips on manners, decorum, and generally being the best and happiest version of yourself.  Think back on your dad, and you’re likely to remember quirkier, more colorful advice -- stock phrases like, “Quit cryin’ or I’ll give you something to cry about,” or, “Because I said so,” were common in my house.  That’s not to say my dad (or yours) was a bad guy.  He’s not.  In fact, he’s one of the best and most honorable men I know.  It’s just that, while moms seek to civilize us, dads try to make sure we can survive on our own. That is why much of their advice is so centered on preparing us to leave the nest and succeed independently.  I like to think this, anyway, and hope he really didn’t “just want our house back.”

    But beyond just pushing us toward independence, those tidbits of fatherly advice provided some pretty simple, solid truths -- for life and for business.  In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, let’s take a look at some classic dad-isms and how they can help your business thrive.

    “Keep your eye on the ball.”

    My dad coached my first Little League team and this was his most important bit of advice.  To hit a baseball, you need to see it, from pitch to bat, so that you constantly maintain focus on both the execution (the pitcher’s release) and the ultimate goal (hitting the ball).  The same laser-like focus is needed for business.     

    As business owners, our job is to make sure that everyone involved in our work has the same vision of what each completed project will look like. How will we know whether we’ve succeeded? Do we have some measure by which we will know success, or will it just be a guess on the part of the project team?

    Display your vision and goal board prominently.  Discuss both regularly.  This is how you “keep your eye on the ball.” Anything you do to make individual projects and overall vision more visible will further increase your chances of sustainable change and improvement.  

    “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

    If I had a dollar for every time my dad said this, I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life.  

    But here’s the simple truth for your business: absolutely nothing is going to be handed to you.  There are no shortcuts.  If you want something, be ready to sacrifice time and/or money for it.

    Take networking, for example.  Many business owners I know, with relatively slim budgets for marketing, rely heavily on networking because it’s so low cost.  But is it?  Networking events take 1-1.5 hours on average, plus drive and “transition” time once you return to the office.  Go to three or four of these events during the week and you’re taking yourself away from a significant portion of your work week and other revenue-generating activities.  

    Now, I’m a big fan of networking and go to events myself, so do not take me wrong the way.  Just realize that “there is no free lunch” here.  Everything, including “free” networking events, has a tradeoff.

    “If you’re cold, put on a coat.”

    Dads are frugal, mine especially, and sometimes a little stuck in their ways.  But that doesn’t mean it makes sense to turn up the heat when layering some clothes offers the same benefit (and those dang kids keep leaving the door open anyway).

    This is the business mindset you need to keep: There will always be a new technology that promises to get things done faster and easier but there’s usually a way to get similar results for less money -- and without sacrificing quality.

    Bottom line?  Don’t opt for fancy, cost-intensive technology when a simple fix is at hand.  Save money where you can.  The unexpected expenses are just around the corner anyway.  And, let’s face it, most of the time the old way of doing things is still perfectly good.  

    “I’m not mad at you.  I’m disappointed in you.”

    Nothing made me feel worse as a defiant teen than this.  My rebellion quickly turned to guilt and I was suddenly two inches tall.  My behavior improved.

    Leadership through expectation.  It’s what we should strive for as business owners.  You cannot police every action of your employees, so teach them to have high expectations of themselves.  This kind of effortless leadership is what will drive your company.

    “It was hot for the other team, too.”

    Ah, baseball in Arizona.  Such a special, sweaty treat.  After one particularly grueling game in which I performed horribly, I shrugged off my performance because, “It was too hot!”  And my dad promptly replied, “It was hot for the other team, too.”  Ouch.

    Lesson?  Stop making excuses.  If your business isn’t doing well because of a bad economy, remember that every one of your competitors is operating in the same economy -- and some doing so very successfully. There are always going to be distractions and forces that make running a business hard. The key to long-term success is getting things done despite them.

    “It builds character.”

    I was quick to become frustrated as a kid, but my dad would hear none of it.  Bad grade?  Challenging coursework? Unsympathetic boss at my first job?  Get over it, kid, “it builds character.”

    Here’s the business translation: It stinks to fall flat on your face, but we’ve all been there. Do not be quick to anger, but instead find the lesson in the failure.  Look into what happened and determine what, if anything, you can do differently next time.  

    “Now swing for the fences.”

    Here’s where things got interesting.

    Once I learned to keep my eye on the ball and actually connect the bat to it, I did so safely, by slapping balls just over the infield but well before an outfielder’s reach.  Base hit every time. My batting average looked great on paper, and  I “succeeded” by playing it safe.  There wasn’t a lot of glory in it, but at least I wasn’t humiliated at the plate by striking out.  I was “good enough”.  Then dad told me knock it off and swing for the fences.  And so I did.

    Dad showed me that, with my new skills and a little courage, I could get past the infield and into the fun stuff -- home runs and stealing bases and sliding head first into second. Swinging for the fences empowered me and made me a better player.

    The same can be true for you and your business.  Once your skills are sharp, have the courage to aim for the next level.  Sure, you’ll experience some discomfort and maybe even a few more strikeouts, but your success will be greater and life a lot more fun.

    On Sunday, celebrate your dad and the advice he gave you.  Then show your business some love by honoring the wisdom he imparted -- whether he realized he was doing it or not.

    Happy Father’s Day!  


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