33 Years Worth of Learning, One Day at a Time

Last week, a friend encouraged me, for at least the second time, to write about my experiences and my lessons learned while working my whole life in my family’s business. For those who may not know, I started working alongside my father when I was ten or eleven years old, helping him pack and ship shoes to customers.

As I grew, I worked after school for several years during high school and when home on breaks away from college. I graduated from college on Saturday and Monday morning I was at work where I always knew I wanted to be, working for my mother and father in our wholesale women’s shoe company. I never worked anywhere else for a day in my life for the next 33 and a half years. And never wanted to.

As I type out this post, I can see clearly I will never get everything I want to say written in my usual 5-600 words of text this week. So let’s call this week’s installment, 33 years worth of learning, one day at a time – PART 1 .”

Obviously, from a very early age, I learned innumerable lessons from my dad. The earliest lessons I learned from him stuck with me throughout my career and will be with me until the day I die. I remember vividly a few of the lessons my dad told me over and over again, but unquestionably I learned the most from him by watching what he did, not what he said.

He had an uncanny ability to make people feel like they were the most important person in the world, because to him, they were. Especially his customers. There was nothing he would not do for someone that had trusted him with their business. Not that he was not shrewd. I will never meet anyone in business smarter than he was. And I should say that my mother was right there with him, in every way.

He was witty and he was quick. He was one of the funniest people I ever knew and loved to make others laugh, sometimes at his own, or more often and mine or my mom’s expense. He also had an uncanny ability to look at a problem and come up with solutions that frankly were amazing. Quickly.

If he had any enemies, I never met them or heard about them. He didn’t know many strangers either. If someone didn’t know him, they knew of him and his reputation. And of all the things I admired and had to be proud of about my mother and father, their reputation is the one thing that I am most proud of.

Perhaps the industry we worked in was so unique, where even competitors are friends and customers and employees were more like family. Nevertheless, what has made my family’s business thrive and survive for over 40 years is their reputation.

Honesty, integrity, loyalty, fairness, friendly, service-oriented, genuine, supportive, and first-class. Those are all words people used to describe us and still do. How can you not be proud of that? Even people that work in the company today that barely or never knew my parents continue to carry on that legacy, long after they have been gone from the company, now under the leadership of my brother.

Those qualities don’t age, they are not susceptible to changes in trends, the economy, or any social or political upheaval. It is something we all need to aspire to so that when we overcome our current worldwide pandemic – and we will – we are ready to serve, ready to grow, and ready to inspire others. 

QUESTION: How can you (or have you) work these qualities into your personal or professional career? Feel free to comment below. Be sure to share and subscribe to this weekly podcast so you will be notified each time new content is published.  

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