I come from a long line of entrepreneurial spirits. My great-grandparents were farmers and general store owners, both my grandfathers sold insurance, most of my aunts and uncles are serial entrepreneurs, and my father runs his own law practice. So I guess it’s in my blood to make my way in this world as a business owner. (I’m also genetically predisposed to be a workaholic, but that’s something I’m learning to manage!)
When I was growing up, I didn’t plan to be a business owner. I didn’t consciously set out to become an entrepreneur. But on some level I always knew that it was possible to create a business doing what you love, setting your own schedule and being your own boss. Sure, I started out in the corporate world like most of my friends. But by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was out on my own, running a successful freelance writing business from the spare bedroom in my apartment. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that bold move took a lot of courage and faith. I have my dad to thank for that.
Five Things my Dad Taught Me About Being an Entrepreneur
1. Working gives you freedom to make your own choices. Even though he lovingly handed out $20 bills whenever I asked, my dad always supported my efforts to earn money of my own. My teen resume includes a morning paper route, telemarketing, babysitting, waitressing and a brief stint at McDonald’s. It probably took more effort on his part to transport me to these jobs than it was worth for the money I earned. But he taught me at an early age how to earn and manage my own money – which gave me the independence and responsibility I craved.
2. Keep your eye on the ball. A huge baseball fan, my dad was always watching a game and cheering for his Buccos. It’s no surprise that he taught me to play softball (despite the fact that I was clearly not gifted with hand eye coordination). He was patient with me on the days I sat in left field playing with my hair. And even more patient teaching me to swing the bat. I remember feeling frustrated that I kept missing the ball and he made everything sound so simple: “Just keep your eye on the ball, Theresa. You can’t miss.” Easy for him to say! But his voice stuck with me whenever I was at bat – or whenever I was trying to do something I didn’t think I could do. He reminds me that it’s probably much easier than I think — and that I should relax, focus and believe in myself.
3. God will provide for you. There were plenty of times in my childhood when I wished we had more money. I wanted to go on school ski trips, buy more than one pair of school shoes and have a full collection Benetton sweaters. But my father always reminded me that God gives us what we need – that he provides for us. I’m sure my dad could have taken a different job or saved the money he spent on four Catholic school tuitions, but he chose to put faith and family first. That is a lesson I carry on in my business every time I have to make a choice about how I spend my time or my money.
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ask any of my friends from high school to describe my dad and they’ll tell you about his sense of humor. He was always cracking jokes (mostly inappropriate ones that annoyed my mother!), making silly faces and letting off steam through laughter. His idea of recreation was playing 18 holes with a group called the Worst Avid Golfers (WAGS). I remember going to visit him in his fancy lawyer office downtown, with wall-to-wall bookshelves and lots of men in business suits. Everyone was so serious. But he always had a laugh for me. He even spent his lunch hours with a bunch of friends who called themselves “The A**holes.” He certainly knows how to laugh at himself, which is probably why he hasn’t burned out after 40 plus years in legal practice.
5. Mistakes happen; forgive yourself and move on. I have no idea how my dad survived teaching me to drive. I grew up in Pittsburgh where there is no such thing as a flat open road. And I learned to drive on a station wagon that didn’t exactly favor the uncertain and uncoordinated skills of my younger self. But dad was so patient with me. He never raised his voice or even appeared to be nervous with me at the wheel. I’m sure he was praying the entire time. And when I came home with dents and dings in the car, he frowned, hugged me and moved on. He even forgave me when I drove the car into a house. Yep – right into the living room. He still jokes about it, asking me how fast the house was moving when it crossed over into my lane. To him, this was all part of the learning experience. He was grateful I survived my fender benders and he never made me feel horrible for them. So I learned to accept the fact that I would make mistakes – big ones! – and I needed to forgive myself, learn from the experience and move forward with wisdom and grace.
Thank you, Dad for showing me the way, leading by example and believing in me. I love you. Happy Father’s Day!