Dads, Daughters & Five Important Business Lessons
Special note: I wrote the piece below three years ago for HuffPost. I unearthed it for Father’s Day this year. Funny – almost 1,000 days later, it’s still the piece that people cold email me or cold reach out to me about, especially sales and marketing guys. Having started a business since writing this post, I have a renewed appreciation for not only what I learned at the Tom Thumb on that hot, summer day described, but also why my Dad respects Zig Ziglar as much as he does.
I recently re-read Ziglar’s book, “Selling 101.” It got me thinking more seriously about selling by design. But, we cannot really do any of that if we don’t have the relationship to do it. The trust, awareness, compassion and respect in and for the relationship is really what business should be more about these days. Life, really; life should be more about that these days. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. x. mts
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There’s a super special connection that lives between dads and daughters. It’s why we think it’s funny to watch tall, brawny fathers crumble at the sweetest and pinkest of birthday parties. Or why that scene in Father of the Bride where Annie Banks shoots hoops with her dad at two o’clock the cold morning of her wedding is more heart-wrenching than the actual ceremony.
That bond has something to do with the realization that neither father nor daughter will ever fully understand what it’s like to be the other. But, deep down, they’ll always want the same thing for the other – to be happy and to feel proud.
I feel both of those things when I figure out something new that’s work or business-related. And that has a lot to do with what my dad taught me (and teaches me still) on a lot of different occasions, but one in particular.
My dad is the classic sales and marketing guy. Growing up, our family lived that sales and marketing lifestyle – we lived all over the country; Dad traveled for work constantly while Mom held down the fort; we grew up thinking all families entertained clients and co-workers over dinner; and my sister and I recognized Tom Peters’ book jackets and listened to Zig Ziglar motivational audiotapes.
One early-1990’s summer afternoon in Plano, Texas, Dad and I drove to the local Tom Thumb grocery store. We parked and slammed the car doors shut. I was probably yapping about neighborhood friends or scrapped knees or whatever wasn’t fair that day. In an instant though, Dad took off running through the parking lot. It was clear he’d seen something worth running towards. And, so, I started running. I think about it now, and there was almost a Wes Anderson-like quality to the scene – father, followed by daughter, in full-on 1990’s apparel, running through a grocery store parking lot. We reached the covered entry way of Tom Thumb, only to catch our breath fast enough for Dad to stop a man who was walking into the store, the man we were clearly chasing. And that man was Zig Ziglar.
What transpired next had to have only been a 5-10 minute conversation. I stood there, listening to Dad thank Zig for his work and watching families navigate awkwardly around us with rickety grocery carts as the store’s automatic doors slid open and closed every couple of seconds, releasing waves of air conditioning. That is, until Dad turned to me – and introduced me to the Zig Ziglar. As much as I faintly remember saying hi, shaking his hand, and making the connection between his face and the image on the cardboard audiotape box in the car’s console, I remember more vividly the child-like awe and joy glazed over Dad’s face that afternoon.
Though I’ve been to college and business school and I’ve worked some sort of job for the last fifteen years, I’m convinced that everything I believe in about business I learned from Dad that day.
- Run after it. Yes, there’s got to be speed and agility. But, what trumps speed and agility every time is purpose. Purpose fuels speed and agility. Run towards something with purpose.
- Introduce yourself first. That’s it. Put your hand out there and say your name first. You want to wait for the person every time for the rest of your life? I hope you like waiting.
- If there’s an opportunity to thank the people who changed the way you do business, do it. These moments are either so unbelievable rare or so blatantly-the-boss-sitting-right-next-to-you obvious. Either way, so thank you. Now.
- Pay attention. You have a responsibility to do something with every freaking moment. To get out of the car and to see who’s 100 feet away walking into the grocery store. Pay freaking attention.
- It’s always about people. Everyone says this. I get it. But, I’m tweaking the understanding of this – my Dad wanted to meet Zig Ziglar, yes; but, he also wanted nine-year-old me to meet Zig Ziglar. I’m 30 years old, and I’m still writing about that.
I think about it now, and it’s actually a pretty funny image – Zig Ziglar, my dad, and me standing in the covered entry way of a suburban grocery store. But, it was really important to Dad; it made him really happy; and he just went after it. Pride goes two ways.
There’s sometimes a misconception out there about young women mulling over a fresh business idea. That they can’t make it happen without asking their dads for money. Don’t get me wrong – that does happen. And it’s okay. But, it’s not a blanket true statement for all women in business. Because there are dads out there who teach, are teaching, or want to teach their daughters to feel strong and confident to make those decisions or to build that business, career, life because his daughter trusts herself. And that’s a whole deeper level of happiness and pride.