What My Father Taught Me About Getting Started in Entrepreneurship
This article originally published June 18, 2015.
When we think of the word "entrepreneur," images of iconic business leaders typically pop into our heads, such as Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban or Elon Musk, just to name a few.
What so many of us fail to appreciate are the tens of millions of entrepreneurs around the world, most of whom may not even associate themselves with the common interpretation of entrepreneurship. These men and women simply want to work, make a living for themselves and their families, and understand that pursuing business on their terms provides them control of their careers, lives and destinies.
It is in that type of business person that rests all of the inspiration and motivation the vast majority of aspiring entrepreneurs need, because most of us will never reach the pinnacles achieved by those who grace the cover of Entrepreneur or Fortune magazines.
My dad is one of those people: A hard working and successful business guy who started his entrepreneurial path later in life to take control of his career. So, on this Father’s Day, I would like to offer aspiring fathers everywhere a few tips from the one man who set the bar for me as a dad-preneur.
It is never too late to start.
My dad was a product of corporate America, spending almost his entire career in one job. While in his 50s, his company was acquired, and rather than make the transition and start a new career, he boldly decided to opt for early retirement and start his own business.
There is no formula for entrepreneurship, and I believe that timing is probably the most critical variable to consider for success. Whether you are young and have a great idea or older and have the experience, entrepreneurship means that you start when the timing is right. It actually might surprise most that the average and median age of several surveyed company founders when they started their current companies was 40.
It's OK to play it safe.
When my dad quit his job and pursued his own business, he had a family with two young children. For that reason, he ended up buying an established small business that had an existing client base and cash flow. He negotiated the terms of his acquisition and was able to finance the business over a few years. By doing all of this, he took a calculated risk to assure his family did not suffer.
When it comes to timing, fathers face the toughest decisions about starting a business. How do you, after all, balance the responsibilities of fatherhood with the passion of entrepreneurship? In the end, if you prioritize and manage family first and have backup mechanisms in place -- such as a spouse willing to work or a fallback job -- you will find that the responsibilities of entrepreneurship fall into place
You do not need to reinvent the wheel.
My dad started his entrepreneurial endeavor by acquiring a vacuum and sewing machine repair business. He understood that, at the time, this was an ongoing business that turned out regular cash flow, and he was very good at using his hands. He succeeded not because he developed a revolutionary way to do his business but because he simply worked harder and better than his competition.
I believe that many dads give up on the idea of entrepreneurship, believing that they missed their time or that they simply do not have the original idea necessary to start a business. There is no shame in acquiring a business or franchise that capitalizes on your strengths, taps into your passion and ultimately provides you the opportunity to take control of your destiny.
Age is a powerful asset.
One of my father’s skills that most inspired me was his ability to negotiate. He taught me what it means to find win-win solutions and that giving in at times to the right people would return long-term benefits. This skill, as well as a great many other skills applicable to his business, was learned through many years of practical work experience.
Older entrepreneurs are typically endowed with experience, a strong work ethic, a professional network and hopefully a little security in the form of savings and other financial cushions. These assets, sometimes more important than an idea, are all you need to get started.
The biggest overall lesson from my father, who is well into his 80s and still repairing sewing machines and vacuums -- mostly for customers with whom he created strong relationships over the years -- is that you should not necessarily look to role models or formulas or top 10 lists for inspiration to start. You should just start, especially if you think the time is right, and use all of the these resources and anecdotes to keep you motivated along the way.
Happy Fathers’ Day.
Do you have an inspirational story about your entrepreneurial dad? Please share it in the comments section below.
Related: 5 Lessons From a Father to a Son