I am the daughter of an entrepreneur. My dad was born in 1908 in a small Vermont town near Burlington. By the time he was 16 he had $1,000 in his bank account, an unheard of sum of money for a teenager in those days. I guess you could say my father had a strong work ethic. Although he did not go to college, he was a very smart man and after he graduated from high school he worked at a large dairy farm, becoming a manager within a few years. Eventually, he ventured out on his own by purchasing a small farm in northern Vermont where I was born.
Dad gave up farming when I was six to become an independent insurance agent and we bought a big Victorian house on Main Street in the village so that his office would have high visibility. At the time I was heartbroken and missed life on the farm, but soon learned that the fast-paced village life could have its advantages, especially as I grew older.
Dad opened his insurance agency in 1960 and his business grew steadily. I remember feeling that he must have known EVERYONE in town, as there seemed to be a steady stream of customers walking through the door. Every morning Dad drove to a local restaurant for coffee and toast. He bypassed the booths that I would have chosen to sit in his favorite spot at the counter, enjoying small talk with everyone who walked past.
At the time, I don’t think I appreciated my Dad’s entrepreneurship. Heck, he didn’t even have LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or a website. Despite that, I can truly say that I have learned a great deal about business, customer service and the importance of hard work.
- WORK FIRST, PLAY LATER. My first job was working in Dad’s office where I learned the fine art of customer service. I filed, answered the phone, greeted customers and watched my dad work. His work ethic was very strong and his clients were very important to him — sometimes at the expense of family time. Being self employed takes an enormous amount of time. I try to remember to keep balance in my life — not always successfully, I’m afraid.
- SPEND WISELY, SAVE. Maybe it was a result of surviving the Great Depression, or maybe a bit of being a Vermont Yankee, but Dad was a bit of a penny pincher. What amazed me was that he kept a ledger of every expense he made for business and our household. He never missed a day of recording in this large black book. I still have trouble finding time to balance my bank account, but I try to spend wisely.
- GIVE BACK QUIETLY. Dad was a Rotarian, an usher and administrative board member of our church, volunteered for town offices and looked out for neighbors. I do enjoy volunteering and getting to know people involved in the community.
Dad died in 1994 and I never got a chance to tell him how much he meant to me. I hope he knows.