5 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Learned From My Late Father

The head of an online marketing firm shares the experiences with his dad that impacted his career and his business.

learn more about Jonathan Long

By Jonathan Long

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

March 14, 2010, is a date that I will never forget -- it is the day I lost my dad to cancer. There hasn't been a single day over the past five years that I haven't thought about him and reflected back on the time we spent together, the laughs we had and the lessons he taught me -- both directly and indirectly.

Here are five lessons I learned from my dad over the years that will remain etched in my mind for the rest of my life.

1. There is no substitute for hard work.

I started working at a very young age. I wanted a dirt bike as a kid and my dad saw it as an opportunity to teach me a valuable lesson. While my mom wasn't too keen on the idea, my dad said I could get one, but I was going to have to work for it.

Related: 5 Lessons From a Father to a Son

He was a photographer and that meant on most weekends I was attending weddings with him, lugging equipment and setting up lighting. I was getting up at the crack of dawn, loading up the car and arriving at the venues before anyone else to get set up. While most kids my age were sleeping in and watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was working hard -- I wanted something and he made sure I understood that it was going to require hard work.

Those are some of my best memories as a child. I got to travel with my dad and get dressed up. He always made me feel like I was an important part of his business. I also learned my Rob Gronkowski-like dance moves at a very young age -- there was always a girl in the bridal party that had a bit too much to drink and felt the need to bring me out on the dance floor.

2. Winning in business is a lot like winning in baseball.

My family's a huge baseball family. My bothers and I played growing up and my dad coached us in little league. He also preached to us about how baseball was the greatest game on the planet.

I don't think there has ever been a more intense coach -- and not in the "crazy parent" type of way. While other coaches just went through the motions, my dad was all about strategy and having a plan. He always said going into a game without a plan was setting the team up for failure.

The same can be said for business. If you just attempt to wing it without a well thought out plan and strategy you are going to fail.

3. Give back as much as possible.

I don't necessarily mean monetarily, either.

My dad was very generous when it came to helping other aspiring photographers. This was before the days of digital cameras and Photoshop -- back when developing film was an art form.

He would talk about techniques and offer tips and suggestions to experienced photographers and those just starting out. If someone had a genuine love for photography or an interest in learning, he was willing to answer any questions he could.

Related: 25 Business and Life Lessons I've Learned Since My Mother's Death

He also had a soft spot for the homeless, especially veterans. Very rarely would he pass someone without making a detour to get them some food. I don't think I was much older than 10 years old the first time I witnessed it.

I remember him saying, "I don't give them money because they can use that to buy alcohol and drugs. By giving them food I know it will actually help them," like it was yesterday.

His influence definitely rubbed off on me. I find myself willing to talk about online marketing to people that are genuinely interested in it, even if they are not clients, just because they share the same passion that I do. I also often find myself putting a meal in the hands of the less fortunate when I can -- and as selfish as it might sound, it makes me feel connected to him every time I do it.

4. Love what you do.

My dad was a photographer because he absolutely loved it. He picked up a camera after serving in the Marines and fell in love with it. He was completely self-taught and was always working on his craft. He did it because he loved being behind the camera and creating art. He wasn't chasing money -- the fact that he could earn a living doing what he loved was a bonus.

I started Market Domination Media because I truly love online marketing. I'm sure I feel the same way about being able to help brands grow online as my dad felt about being able to take pictures for a living.

5. Always make time for family.

No matter what, my dad was never too tired or too busy to play. He was a big kid at heart and was always up for a game of catch in the yard. I don't think he ever said no. If I was playing basketball with friends in the evening, he was out there too, challenging us to three-point competitions.

Every entrepreneur is guilty at one point or another of becoming so consumed with work that family is put on the backburner. I was lucky that I got to speak to my dad before he passed. The last 14 words he spoke to me before his body shut down replay in my mind daily.

You take care of your mom, brothers and sister for me. I love you.

Our families should always be number one -- our businesses can still be winners, even in the second-priority position.

I want to end this with an entry that was left on his obituary. It is something I look at every day because it sums him up so well.

I miss you dad.

Related: What My Father's Early Departure Taught Me About Business

Jonathan Long

Founder, Uber Brands

Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, a brand-development agency focusing on ecommerce.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Business News

I Live on a Cruise Ship for Half of the Year. Look Inside My 336-Square-Foot Cabin with Wraparound Balcony.

I live on a cruise ship with my husband, who works on it, for six months out of the year. Life at "home" can be tight. Here's what it's really like living on a cruise ship.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

Amtrak Introduces 'Night Owl' Prices With Some Routes As Low As $5

The new discounts apply to some rides between Washington D.C. and New York City.

Business News

The 'Airbnbust' Proves the Wild West Days of Online Vacation Rentals Are Over

Airbnb recently reported that 2022 was its first profitable year ever. But the deluge of new listings foreshadowed an inevitable correction.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business Solutions

Master Coding for Less Than $2 a Course with This Jam-Packed Bundle

Make coding understandable with this beginner-friendly coding bundle, now just $19.99.