My dad is one of the most important people in my life.
I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. He is one out of a handful of people who have always been there for me.
Much of my career success thus far can be attributed to principles I’ve learned from him growing up, many of which were acquired through observing him in daily life, during interactions with family and customers, and seeing how he always followed through on his commitments.
These principles have never been put down on paper until now, and I think there’s value in sharing them so that those who might be interested can learn about them.
My dad has owned his own business for over thirty years. He started from scratch and built it up into a thriving enterprise. I believe he’s done as well as he has primarily due to the man he is, and his conscious adherence to the principles we’ll be discussing.
We’ll list these out and provide some commentary on each.
· Being Available and Reliable
The featured image in this post appealed to me because it reminds me of my dad’s business. Not that he runs a hometown general store, but it most certainly has the spirit of such.
Dad’s shop is a place where customers can always go to be greeted with a smile, a warm “Hello,” a hot cup of coffee (and perhaps a day-old donut or the odd sweet-roll).
Another place I think of when I consider dad’s shop is the bar from Cheers. It’s a welcoming atmosphere, where, starting at 8 AM every day of the week (except Sundays) someone is around to help, serve, and even provide some consultation.
If you’ve been there but once, my dad knows your name.
The overarching factors we’re talking about here are availability and reliability. If there was one thing I was taught growing up it’s that you get to work on time, and when you’re working, you’re working.
Your integrity requires you to put in the time faithfully, even when no one is watching.
This is true even when it’s your own business.
Along these lines, you ALWAYS answer the phone if it rings, and you respond to messages in a timely manner. This responsiveness is critical in building trust with your clientele.
Most importantly, one must take pride in this characteristic of being available. It’s more than just a responsibility. It’s a mission.
· Serving with a Heart of Love
What does it mean to serve with a heart of love?
For a simple definition of love, I always go back to the Golden Rule. From a business service perspective it has to do with thinking about how you’d like to be treated if you were your own customer.
Service here revolves around getting in your customer’s shoes, seeing things from their perspective, viscerally understanding their problems and concerns, and taking on their urgencies as your own.
It’s going the extra mile to make sure customers are taken care of properly, and always being there for them.
There’s a foundation here.
It’s rootedness in the belief that you’re serving something greater than yourself.
My dad has always had a strong belief in God. I recall a passage in scripture that discusses serving your employer (or in this case, your customer) as if you were serving the LORD. This may help to elucidate the meaning here.
Additionally, you strive to always give your customers, your employees, and your colleagues the benefit of the doubt. You give people a chance.
In the same vein, forgiveness is also paramount.
· Mastering Your Craft and Information
A huge part of service in business is the commitment to being an authority in your field. By doing so, you can help ensure that you provide your customers and employees with the information they need to succeed.
One key way that my dad kept up with industry news was through numerous ongoing conversations with colleagues. It seemed like (at least state-wide) he was often the first (or second) with the latest news on hot deals or strategic opportunities.
As you make this a habit, people begin to see you as the “one with the scoop.” In terms of networking and providing better service, this can only help.
· Prioritizing Action
For a time, a friend of mine worked for a company that became a bit overly-concerned with metrics (as opposed to creativity and action).
Of course, we all know that in the pursuit of goals, etc., it’s important to have a precise way to measure productivity. However, there’s a balance to be struck.
When you spend more time tracking and planning than you actually do producing value, making connections, or being creative, an adjustment in course may be necessary
When thinking about my friend, I wondered what my dad would say if he had been asked to prioritize metrics over getting a deal done. In his younger days, he may have jokingly said something like:
“What the #$!^&(@# are ‘metrics’?!”
My dad has often given action precedence over verbalized strategy and data analysis. One time, I remember asking him how he came to some of his business decisions, and he said “Sometimes I just sort of fly by the seat of my pants.”
It’s a mindset where you focus on what’s in front of you, learn by doing, call it as you see it, apply as pragmatic of methods as possible, and trust yourself.
This is not to say that this approach should be used all the time. Precise tracking and a step by step strategy are just as important.
However, if we find ourselves stuck in the “paralysis of analysis” mentality, it may be beneficial to ask: “What the #$!^&(@# are ‘metrics’?!” and then assertively take some bold, decisive action instead.
· Managing Connections Appropriately
A big part of leadership and service is an awareness of which skillsets you have, and which you don’t. At times, when you know that a task or project lies outside of your area of expertise, it likely could make sense to refer your customer to someone better suited for the job.
My dad has always kept a list of reliable individuals at his fingertips who he could turn to if need be. Typically, when a customer would ask for a product or service my dad didn’t have, he would reach out to one of his connections to see if they could help.
The process entails bringing together particular needs with the right skillsets and tools. Through this strategy the customer receives the best possible service, and you strengthen your connection with others in similar industries.
· Making Each Trip Count
Whenever we would make deliveries or pickups, I remember my dad checking to see if there were other deliveries or pickups that we could make in the same vicinity.
The overarching message was, if you’re going one way, make sure the return trip is value-added as well.
I believe my dad learned this from an old mechanic friend of his. While growing up, his friend told him that, if you’re going to one end of the shop to pick up a hammer, and you need to empty the oil bucket, take the oil bucket with you as well so you can empty it when you get there.
That way, you’re not making two separate trips.
Broadly applied, and with a little creative thinking this principal may allow you to maximize your time and multiply your service opportunities.
· Using What You Have and Making Circumstances Work for You
One of my personal favorites has to do with using what’s right in front of you. Often, we cannot choose our circumstances. But more often than not, we can make them work for us.
Additionally, with the right attitude, and a little flexibility, we may begin to see opportunities that we were unable to see before.
This entails utilizing a selective perspective when it comes to circumstances and opportunities. You can decide what things to use, and which to disregard.
And there you have it.
I’ve made this Part 1 in a series because I know there are other lessons, values and principles from my dad that I haven’t thought of yet.
What are some things you’ve learned from members of your family? Maybe there’s an experience that you applied and modified to fit your particular circumstances?
Please comment below, and let us know what you think.