August 1, 2014

Everything I know about Business I Learned from my Father

My professional journey has been an interesting one and less than traditional. I suppose that is because I was not raised in a traditional household. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was vastly different from the households my schoolmates grew up in. Looking back it was the best of all possible worlds.

Easter 1968 with Daddy at the Nite Kap Motel

Easter 1968 – Poolside with Daddy at the Nite Kap Motel

Back in the 60’s when I was growing up, my parents worked at home. That wasn’t a very common thing in those days. I grew up in a small town that was on a major truck route. My parents were motel managers and we lived on site. Wow – what a life! I had a pool in my backyard and my parents were always home. There were always new people to meet and old friends returning. I think that was the best part – the returning guests. They were like family coming to visit. I still have a teddy bear (I’m 52 now) that was given to me by one of our regular guests. At the time I got it, I must have been about five; it was taller than I was.

My father was a true entrepreneurial spirit and he instilled his sales and marketing savvy in me. Whenever my school had a fundraiser, I didn’t have to go door to door. My father showed me how to neatly display the candy or magazines or whatever I was selling. He taught me how to share the information and ask for the sale. I’m sure I sold a lot of magazines to lonely truckers who were missing their own kids. I learned sales and marketing from a master of the game without even knowing it.

He also taught me generosity, gratitude, and compassion – disguised as “Customer Service.” Every year we have a Rodeo in town sponsored by our Elks Lodge.  Now if you are into that sort of thing, it’s a really big deal here. Everyone’s a cowboy for the weekend and there are more decorations in town than at the Holidays. Every hotel within 50 miles is booked a year in advance. When I was a kid, the only way to get from one end of California to another by freeway was through our town. We often had travelers who stopped for the night on their way to somewhere else. If they came in on rodeo weekend and they came to my father, he would call every single competitor in town to find them a room and if he couldn’t then we cleaned out a store room and set up a roll-away bed. He did whatever he could to make sure no one was turned away. Sure, it was a smart business tactic. People who had to go to a competitor came back to us on their next visit or they referred their business associates and friends. As a business man, he saw that value to the bottom line but that was only part of it.

My father was driven by a passion to make people feel welcome, appreciated and comfortable. He wanted them to feel like our home was their home, even if just for the weekend. When they felt that, he felt it. He received by giving. He taught me that no matter what we do, whether seemingly trivial or on a grand scale; if we do it with a giving heart our lives will be filled with joy.