It is sort of an interesting life growing up the child of an entrepreneur.
The perspective that it provides seeing someone give so much to their business can really set an example for a child. Especially the dedication and commitment that a small business (or any size) owner must put into their organization to see it flourish.
As an adult looking back the lessons were invaluable. They have shaped the person that I am. However as a child of means they fueled resentment and anguish. If you could, I’d have you ask my father about the time that I told him I never wanted to work hard like him when I grew up; I was 16.
For now you will just have to imagine his look of astonishment when I said it. Let’s just say that as a father of two girls there is nothing I look forward to less than the idea that they may someday not appreciate how hard I have worked to provide them a great life. But I digress.
The Son of a Logistics Mogul, Ehem…Trucker
My Father was the owner of a logistics company (Trucking). I think as I have grown older I have used the term logistics because it sounds so much more eloquent than saying my father was a truck driver.
While his business was substantial and he rarely actually drove a truck, deep down my father was a trucker.
The man pretty much ate, drank and slept trucking. At least outside of the waking hours where he played dad, coach and in more recent years mentor and role model.
When I was 20 years old I had a few major changes going on in my life. First I was about to become a father and second I was transitioning from “Fraternity guy soccer player sometimes goes to class guy” to “Better hurry up and finish college so I can get a job and take care of my family guy” (take a breath now).
The funny thing is I don’t know if it is typical or not at 19 or 20 years of age to not be thinking about what you want to do when you grow up, but that was pretty much my exact situation.
I was going to school to get a degree in Marketing. Not necessarily because I wanted to be a marketer, but because I knew I didn’t want to be an accountant or a psychologist etc etc…
To me the Marketing degree kind of felt like the “Business” catch all. Come to find out that a “Business” degree suits that a bit better, but nonetheless with the general coursework you complete in your undergrad you get a taste of all of the business cross functions. So I figured I was all set.
But again, what was I set to do? I had no idea, but I figured I could put on a suit and go get a job in business. As I look back, it doesn’t just sound naive that I thought that way, it sounds just plain stupid.
I may have not known what I wanted to do, but call it the “child of an entrepreneur in me,” I had an idea.
Let’s Work In The Family Business!
Why not go to work in the family business? Isn’t that part of the deal for the next generation. I could skip the interviews, the office politics and the corporate ladder and come in as “The bosses son.”
Word on the street was that bosses son paid extremely well and the hours were good. (Related: I discover later in my career the failings of nepotism)
Perhaps it was the summation of my circumstances, but it was right in the midst of this enlightening time that I went to my father and said, “Dad, I want to get into the family business.”
Mind you this is the 4 years more experienced son that “Never wanted to work as hard as Dad.” However, bygones be bygones, dad, while somewhat skeptical was open to the discussion and he offered me the opportunity to come in and start working for the company.
As anyone who comes from a family business will tell you, when you grow up in a family business you are introduced and indoctrinated at a young age. Many of the office workers and drivers of dad’s company were with him for years and years. So they had seen my through my phases. The cute kid phase, the awkward pre-pubescent phase, the jock phase, skater phase, alternative phase and full circle to jock phase again.
The one phase that they weren’t familiar with was the highly motivated worker phase. In fact, when I came to work over summers during junior high or high school I had established a bit of a reputation as the son that found everything to do but work.
Nevertheless I was ready to be taken serious. When I told my dad this he was glad, because in order for me to become part of the family business I was going to need to start at the bottom and work my way up from there.
“Oh” and he then said, “You will also need to go get your CDL because you will need to learn to drive a truck.”
At the time I didn’t get it. I was his son and I wanted to be in management, not drive a truck. Why in the world would I have to drive a truck?
A Lesson That Will Follow Me Throughout My Career, and Yours!
Let me tell you what my dad knew that I didn’t at the time: If you think you want to run a business. And I don’t care if it is a pet store, a restaurant or a trucking company, you better understand every part of your operation.
Far too often whether second generation or first, owners start businesses and they hand off facets of their businesses to be run by others. Not because they are really delegating, but because it isn’t their strength. After years of being in business, mostly small and mid market, I can tell you emphatically that this is too risky. You have to know all sides of your business. Not just the ones you feel good about. It is when you understand your entire business that you can successfully delegate, never before. Dad made sure I understood this.
My time with Dad’s company was short. It turns out I had absolutely no interest in driving a truck and really no interest in trucking.
Ironically, In the few months I spent working for him I helped him I helped develop his digital presence and then ultimately helped him package his company up so he could sell it. Since then I have spent my career as an entrepreneur working in technology and I have even grown some businesses with Mergers and Acquisitions.
I have taken great pride in becoming proficient in every facet of every business I have served. And that more than anything else I have done has served me well.
So while the family business may not have been my calling, there is a lot to be learned from good ‘ole dad.
Question: Do you know the in’s and out’s of your business?