Friday, July 11, 2014

Lessons From My Dad

 
Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned came from listening to my dad at the dinner table each day while I was growing up. He was a co-owner of a machine shop that made parts for such items as telephone equipment, helicopters, and the Minuteman missile. Needless to say, his lessons—spoken and unspoken—had a profound impact on me.
 
Running a business is 24/7. My dad talked about the routine and the not-so-routine events of his business day. He talked about some of the challenges he faced and the solutions he devised. I remember the amazing looking machines (drill presses and such) he put together to make the parts he contracted to sell. He lived his business and he shared it with his family.
 
Taking risks is routine. By definition, being a business owner means taking risks. My dad took a big one when the company built a factory in the Bronx. He put everything on the line to get it done (I was young but looking back I believe our house was used for collateral). But I learned that taking risks is just something you do.
 
Employees come and go. In small businesses, employees become a sort of family, where personal matters—births, graduations, wedding, deaths—are shared with everyone. But no matter how close owners feel to employees, employees may not share the same feelings. They may not even feel loyalty. Some may even leave to start competing companies (a group left my father’s company en masse to set up their own machine shop not far away). Still this shouldn’t stop owners from working to create good feelings in the workplace.


    Dealing with the government is part of daily operations
. I recall various interactions he had with the Defense Department, OSHA, IRS, and the NLRB. To be a government contractor with the Defense Department, he had to go through an FBI background check. He talked about how it went. He talked about the company’s IRS audit. And more. I learned that it was just routine to deal with the government, and something that could not be avoided, when running a business.
 
Conclusion
My dad died many years ago. I wish he could have seen the developments in technology that happened since then and the changes they made in the way business is run today. He would surely have embraced them. Maybe he does see them?

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