I grew up as the daughter of an entrepreneur. My Dad, Charles L. Grandey was an independent insurance agent and his agency was located in our home. This picture of our Chevrolet Impala (I believe) depicts the life of a business person vs. family guy. Magnetic door ads were just beginning to be used in the 1960's. My Dad, an innovator and always at the forefront of marketing, ordered these sweet rolling ad banners from a local print shop and everyone knew when he was driving around town. The ski rack on top was for me, as I loved to ski and the road to Mount Mansfield in Stowe, VT was always open!
Dad was rarely without his fedora (wool for winter and straw for summer). He was a big part of our community, a member of Rotary, on the administrative board of our church, civic committees including the Water and Light and Soil Conservation. I never thought of him as having a political agenda -- he just volunteered to serve his community wherever he could. I'm sure there were many heated discussions at some of these meetings, but people respected each other's opinions and worked for the good of the community.
My father probably always hoped my brother would follow in his footsteps as an entrepreneur, taking over the family business. As fate would have it, my brother was more into education. He would never know that I was the one with the entrepreneur gene in the family!
Some of the many nuggets of information I learned from Dad included:
Put your customers first and show up when you're needed
As an insurance agency in Northern Vermont, he insured a lot of family farms. Every time the local volunteer fire department's siren sounded he walked up to the fire station to find out where they'd been called and would drop everything to be present at a barn fire to reassure his clients that all would be OK. Sometimes I went along for the ride, as the community surrounded the affected families.
Don't judge or assume
One night at dinnertime, someone knocked on the door to our home (not the office) and Dad welcomed the visitor in, leading him to the office. I remembered that he was wearing green work clothes, dirty farm boots and smelled badly. After he left I probably made a rude teenage comment about him and Dad looked at me and said, "Don't ever judge someone by the way they look. Bennie is our area's first millionaire. You never know someone's real story. Bennie was a chicken farmer whose farm was just outside town. You honestly had to roll the windows of your car up when you went past the coops. He had an inground pool and laundry hanging on the line and he gave land to all his family to farm.
This is the most difficult lesson I learned from Dad. He worked very hard, won multiple awards for his agency growth, brought in a partner who later purchased the business and business name of Grandey Insurance Agency. He also missed a lot of family events, rarely took a vacation and had 3 heart attacks before he was 60. After his retirement and selling the agency, he took up antiquing and enjoyed having a little shop, talking to customers, doing some picking - it was just his style. Luckily, he lived until he was 86, but it was not without the family trying to help him avoid the "stress" of self-employment. Today we have many ways for entrepreneurs to reduce daily stress - yoga, meditation, holistic health services, etc. We don't always pay attention to ourselves, though. Working hard is OK, but we must pay attention to the toll it takes on ourselves and our families.
I honor my Dad, miss his quiet strength and sense of fair play, community, and commitment to providing a good life for his family. I miss his humor, like the time he made my guy friends shovel the porch roof after a landslide of ice and snow fell on it the day after he knew they'd been partying. They did it because it was Charlie who asked, not because they wanted to be freezing their **sses off in zero degree weather.
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.