The Business Mentor I Admire Most

Adapted from an essay written to support my admission to S.P.A.R.K., a Startup Weekend held with Technori in July 2011.

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Dad & I share a love of Diet Coke. We're out enjoying a day 'visiting customers.'

Diet Coke break.

As corny as it sounds, I already have my dream business mentor: my father.  He runs a small family business in Rockford, IL.  He makes metal parts, which is far from my traditional interests or ambitions.  However, there’s commonality that I relish.  He doesn’t have a love for formal financial statements; instead, he understands that if the checks don’t come in the mail – and he doesn’t have cash in the bank, he has issues.  He believes in standing behind his work, even if it means occasionally losing money on a job.  He works hard, charges fair prices, and seeks to establish long term relationships.  If his COGS are X, and the market suddenly starts charging 2X, he’s happy to make a fair profit on his X+15% and not gouge the customer.  He’s upfront with people, and stands by his word.  He’s not afraid to say “I haven’t got money to pay you this week, but I’ll call you the day a check comes in and I can pay you.”  During the lean years, he’d pay a few hundred dollars a week – whatever was left over after payroll – and slowly pay down his debts.  He’s talked customers out of doing projects if he doesn’t believe in them, despite it being work he could have charged for.  If he is unable to do a job, he’s happy to refer someone to a competitor.  It’s this honesty – and simplistic business values – that I try and emulate.  I may not be the most cut-throat, or make the most money as a result of this approach, but the relationships and good-will that is generated has gone a long way in making me who I am.