Recently at my dad’s 80th birthday party, I reflected on some of his life experiences and what they’ve taught me about business. I hope you find some inspiration, too.
Champions come in all shapes and sizes
My dad had a difficult childhood growing up in an orphanage in the 1940s and 1950s. There was a lot of discipline in the orphanage and unfortunately not a great deal of food. When my dad left the orphanage at the age of 17, he was six feet tall and weighed around 45kg.
Although Dad really wanted to take part in sports as a young person, he was so self-conscious about his floss-thin body that he avoided it as much as possible. Until one day, as an adult, he went to an athletic meet and noticed that the hurdles champion was also really thin.
From then on Dad decided to run around the block, even flashing his knobbly knees by wearing a pair of shorts! Not long after this he entered his first amateur meet where he won his hurdles race and came second in another.
To me, though, even if he came last in every race, he was a champion simply by having the courage to turn up on the day and give it a go.
The small business tip I’ve learnt from Dad’s life experience is that business people who achieve their goals aren’t necessarily the most confident or skilled, they’re just the ones who turn up on the day and take action.
Even champions were self-conscious beginners once, so at some point, we all just have to begin.
Be creative and resourceful, even if it’s somewhat weird
As little kids, Dad and his seven siblings would make their own toys from seeds, rocks and all manner of things; they owned very little so if they wanted something they had to be resourceful.
That same sense of resourcefulness carried into his adult life. Dad has made a compost bin out of an old washing machine, tamed tree branches with a steering wheel club lock and created a labyrinth of veggie patches with some old fence palings.
The small business tip I’ve learnt is that resourcefulness serves a few powerful purposes: it can save you a lot of money, it forces you to think creatively and laterally, and it drives sales-increasing innovation.
Watch out for snakes
Many years ago my Dad was overseas, and on one particular day we’d decided to use his station wagon. We were packing some things in the boot when we saw a coiled up snake… a brown snake!
After staring at it from a safe distance for ages, wondering how in the heck it got in there, we realised that it was actually dead.
When I spoke to my dad later that night I told him what we’d found and how scared we were. His response was: “Oh that plastic thing! I put that on the passenger seat to ward off car thieves.”
After initially laughing (in a somewhat shocked and hysterical way) I wondered why he didn’t just use his steering wheel club lock for car protection? Oh that’s right, it was in the backyard grooming the Jacaranda tree…
The tip I’ve learnt from this life experience is that in business and life, there are snakes and there are fakes – look out for both!
As quirky as some of my dad’s actions are, every experience has taught me a priceless life lesson, even if that life lesson is what not to do (I decided to get a car alarm, Dad; they were all out of rubbery reptiles at the auto shop!).
What small business tips or life lessons have you learnt from your dad or mum, or anyone else for that matter?