Tag Archives: Reality checks

Lessons From Mom And Dad

Among the myriad reasons 2020 has been an absolute horrorshow is the passing of both my mother and father. Dad left us back in July and, as my sister and I have been saying would happen for years, Mom was right behind him 90 days later.

As I’m sitting here unpacking the boxes of stuff from their apartment, a lot of thoughts are crossing my mind. I don’t know if it’s a form of therapy or just a desire to share some lessons they taught me that I know are useful to any of us in business but today is about them.

I wrote some words for each funeral. I wasn’t able to attend in person because of the pandemic. In Dad’s eulogy, I wrote that

Those three senses – the importance of family, of taking responsibility, and of being humble – were things I know he tried to convey to the three of us.

In business, I would mean a family in the broadest sense. Your business family – your coworkers, your partners, your suppliers and most of all your customers are what’s important. I did expand on the responsibility part later on:

Any time I went to Dad with a question, the answer was inevitably the same: do what you think is right. It was never “do what’s expedient” nor what’s easy. Do what you think is right based on all the information you have…When we were wrong, Dad never asked why we made a bad decision but reminded us that we’d tried our best and we’d do better next time.

I’ve been in toxic work situations where bad decisions were followed by long periods of blame-placing and recriminations. The lessons learned usually led to paralysis. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make any bad ones. People were more focused on finding another job than on advancing the organizational goals.

In Mom’s eulogy, I expanded a bit on that lesson:

So much of what was true about Mom was true about Dad. Certainly the importance of family and of taking responsibility. “Actions have consequences,” she would remind us, both good and bad. Consequences could be pleasurable or, as I found out often enough, not so much…At the height of the Vietnam War protests, like many my age I informed Mom I was going to skip school for Moratorium Day and go march. Skipping school pretty much for any reason was not ok and doing so to participate in a march as a newly-minted high school freshman when I should be learning where the heck my locker was was even worse. Mom’s response was pretty much “do what you think is right.” Maybe she was looking ahead a few short years when her son would be draft-eligible but I prefer to think she was telling me to use my brain, make good choices, and be prepared to live with the consequences. If I recall I was informed those consequences would not involve her posting my bail had I been arrested.

This is perhaps my pet peeve, both in and out of business. Some folks just won’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault or bad luck or the weather or ANYTHING but their own doing. The pandemic, for example, wasn’t any of our doing. How we’re managing our businesses and our own health is completely our own doing.

Here’s the last lesson and it’s one my folks probably didn’t know they were conveying. My parents worked very hard their entire lives. Like many of us, they accumulated a lot of stuff. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer things as homes were sold and downsizing occurred. When they couldn’t live on their own anymore, more things were given away or sold. Finally, here at the end, my sister and I and their grandchildren received some boxes with pictures and mementos. Not much “stuff.”

I guess I’m trying to remind us that “stuff” doesn’t last. What matters are the memories in those pictures and the people who keep you and your memory alive. Try to remember that when you’re pushing yourself to make more money to buy more stuff. If there is a silver lining to the horror of this year, it just might be that we all got a little time at home to reflect on what’s important.

I’m thankful for the lessons my Mom and Dad taught me. I hope you find these few of them useful.

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The “Stuff Got Real” Moment

I’ve never jumped out of an airplane and I probably never will. I’ve had a number of friends who have done so, however. Most of them were excited about making the jump but even they had what I call the “Stuff Got Real” moment. OK, I usually use another word in place of “stuff”.

The moment comes when they reach the open door, feel the wind rushing by, and look down. That’s when whatever fear they have hits them. My guess is that there’s something in our DNA that says leaving a perfectly good aircraft when it’s several thousand feet above terra firma isn’t so smart but our DNA doesn’t know about parachutes.

That same SGR moment is something I deal with on a regular basis. The folks I work with to help them change their lives through business ownership inevitably hit the SGR moment as they realize that they can change their lives and live their dream. They have the money, we’ve found a business that they like, the numbers work, etc. That’s when they hit the open door.

No, they don’t see the ground. In some cases they know they have to leave a job even if it’s one they hate. In others, it means they have to invest (read that as risk) a chunk of their life’s savings in their new venture even if it’s a venture that dozens or hundreds of others have proven to be successful. It’s scary and because of that, quite of few of the people who travel this road with me vanish at this point. They quit returning calls and emails. They go back to what Thoreau termed their lives of quiet desperation.

Maybe it’s a good thing. Starting your own business, even one that’s an established business model with a known brand is hard. Sure, you’re given an operations manual and a marketing plan. You’ll be trained by people who have been running the business for years. You might even have a mentor assigned to you for a period of time to guide you. That’s all well and good but YOU have to stand in the open door and jump, even though you’re strapped to people who have made the jump many times before. You have to commit to the jump and not everyone can do that.

I tell myself when a prospective owner balks or disappears that they are probably part of the 99% for whom business ownership isn’t the best path. Lately, I’ve taken to warning folks early in the process that they’re going to face the SGR moment and I’m here to help as are any franchisors we decide to investigate. Hopefully, that helps when the wind hits their faces and just maybe they step through the door. Could you? Let me know if you want to try.

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9/11 19 Years Later

Flag of the United States

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No Foodie Friday post today. I try to keep those light and today is not really a day for lightness. I’m reposting something I wrote 9 years ago on the tenth anniversary of a day that changed this country and the world, and not for the better. As I read it again, not much has changed, unfortunately. Take a minute or two today and think about that day and all those who were lost and who’ve been lost since as a result.

 

Today, this isn’t about business. If you want to skip it and come back in a couple of days, I understand. See you Tuesday.

I’m publishing this on 9/11, 10 years after a horrible day changed the world forever. I’ve spent a good part of the day thinking about the subsequent decade and how it was so very different from the 4 others in which I’ve lived that preceded it and I want to use today to share some of those thoughts. I also know we don’t do politics here – I think today we will, although hopefully in a non-partisan way.  So here are a few things I remember most about 9/11/01.

First, how beautiful the weather was that day. My commute brought me into Grand Central Station and as I walked into the sunlight and smelled the air with the smallest traces of Fall in it, I thought about how the weeks after Labor day are the best time to come to NYC. I now think about 9/11 every time it’s a really nice day.

I also thought how nice a day it was going to be for flying. A few work colleagues and I were going to San Francisco that afternoon out of Newark. We were originally going out on a morning flight but realized our meetings were later the next day so we changed flights a week earlier. Spooky.

Finally, the main thing I recall about 9/11 was 9/12.  And 9/13.  And many days thereafter.  It was about how for one of the few times in my life, the entire country came together as one.  No Democrats, no RepublicansAmericans.  I felt it in the emails and calls I received from concerned folks from all around the country and from other countries.  As a New Yorker, you saw it in all the folks who came to help from all over.

That all changed later and was, in retrospect, probably only a Band-Aid on some wounds that began to fester some time in the 90’s.  But MAN, it felt good.

That’s what struck me today – how those wounds have turned gangrenous and how utterly incapable we as a people seem to sit together and discuss how to clean up the economic and social messes around us, much as we cleaned up that other mess 10 years ago.  The memorials today showed me that we still have the ability to unite in a common good under a flag, but only if we stop yelling, start listening, and try to feel what we all felt after the unspeakable horror of that day:  that we have to find a way to clean this up and fix this.  Not as Democrats or Republicans – as Americans.

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Filed under Reality checks, What's Going On