When I think about how far I have come from a boy growing up in Shreveport with humble beginnings to a retired manager from the Department of Energy with several national achievements, including books, I must thank my parents for raising me the ‘right way.’ I know my father, Edward Elias, left an immeasurable influence on my life. He was old school… hard, stern, and purposeful in making sure that his children did not land on the wrong side of life.
Several years ago, I spoke at my father’s funeral, and I could not hold back the tears. God had given me a great mentor to guide me through manhood; God was now taking him back. My dad had achieved so much despite his lack of formal education. He had set a standard for me… my measuring stick. I felt my father’s shoes were too large to fill; however, I could not hide from my responsibility. It was my turn. Would I falter under pressure? Passing the family’s collective experience to the next generation is a necessary part of building strong leadership within families. How can families preserve this rich knowledge base? Who is going to remind us of the old ways?
With that said, I’d like to share one special story about the power of a good father’s influence on a boy’s business perspective. My father worked for the public library system in Shreveport for several decades, and he was faithful. The workers all called him ‘Elie.’ My father was also entrepreneurial. He had a lawn service on the side. In many cases, he would leave one full-time job to work a part-time job. He never complained. I now recognize that good parents sacrifice a lot for their children, even to their own detriment. In this discussion, I will share 5 business principles I learned from my own father.
When I was in junior high school, my father got me a job working for a wealthy family with a huge home. My father had several yards he was serving. I can remember him push, mowing large yards (1 acre) for $20. To me, that was cheap. He would perform a lot of work for small sums of money. Well, I started working for this family. I was a boy Friday. I worked all sorts of odd jobs outside, including cleaning out flower beds. It was really a lot of work and hard work. In the middle of the day, my father would visit me. The wife of the home would come outside and bring us water and prepare lunch for me… peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would thank her. I could tell that, inside, my father was laughing at me. I ate sandwiches.
My father knew I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Despite this fact, I ate those sandwiches and thanked the wife. I would work at least five hard hours. At the end of the day, the wealthy owner would come out and hand me $6. This wealthy man was extremely cheap. He thought he was doing me a favor by giving me an extra day (he was paying me a $1 per hour). However, I can remember that the minimum wage at the time was about $3.15. My father knew that this was crazy to work a teenager this hard for nothing. Yet, my father never said anything to me about this situation. The following are the lessons that I learned from my father:
- Always work hard, even when people are not watching you.
- Master a skill to the best of your abilities.
- Create a product or service of value and someone will always pay you for it.
- Always be respectful and polite to customers, even when you think you are being taken for granted.
- Always know your worth. People will often pay what you suggest. Make sure you are not underselling your value.
From working with my father, I learned some hard business lessons in life. In fact, that situation drove me to always get paid what you are worth in any job situation. I learned that I had to value my expertise and that some people would take advantage of you if you do not understand your value. That experience with the wealthy family taught me a lesson that I could never get at a business school or from a management expert. I learned this lesson from a hard knock.
My father, in his own way, was grooming me for the decisions I would later have to make as a man. No! I know he never imagined that I would be an engineer. He would not have thought I would be an author of several books. He probably never envisioned as a business owner. But—my father knew that I would need to have a basic understanding of life and how to manage as a man regardless of what happened to you. My father, Edward Elias, made a lasting impression on me as a man and a hard-working business owner. This business savvy will have a lasting impact on future entrepreneurs in our family. Knowledge is wasted if it isn’t used. I have always tried to pass on this simple wisdom of my father to everyone that I happened to meet. R.I.P my dear father!
© 2019 by D. D. Green
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