I began working with my father as a young boy, and this early experience provided me with a life-long foundation of valuing service to others.
I was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, where our family owned the local drugstore. My great grandfather built the store in 1920, and my dad joined the business in 1958, the year I was born. There were many family owned businesses back then, so it was the norm for kids to start working at an early age. I loved to work, and I especially enjoyed working alongside my dad in the Pharmacy.
Every evening, my dad and I would deliver prescriptions on our way home for dinner. I was his “runner.” I knew by the way that our customers welcomed me, that the service we provided was very important to them. Wyoming winters are long and harsh, so my dad drove an old 4×4 Jeep to make sure we could always get across town with our deliveries. People knew that they could depend on us. I learned at a very young age, the importance of serving your community.
Our town was a ranching community, and we extended credit to the local ranch families, knowing that they would charge their purchases all year, and pay us in the fall. Sometimes a harsh winter would hit, but my dad never worried about getting paid. He would just carry them until they got caught up. He never doubted that people would pay. I remember a few times when customer accounts got very big, and they went for several years without paying. Then one day, they would walk in and pay the entire balance in full. My father believed in trusting people.
We had several key employees, who worked for our family for many years. They were all treated like extended family. They were invited to our home for Thanksgiving and other holiday parties. Years later, just before I was headed off to college, I volunteered to drive one of our former employees to the VA Hospital in the next town. He was terminally ill and could no longer care for himself. When I dropped him off at the hospital, he shook my hand with a tear in his eye, knowing he would never leave there alive. He had worked for our family for many years, and I never realized until that moment, that we were the only family he had left. Sadly, he died a short time later, but looking back, I am glad I took the time to drive him.
Living my life in service to others came naturally to me as a result of modeling after my father. Values like honesty, integrity and service to others were a regular part of living and working in a small community. I did not realize then, how much this experience would influence my career as an adult.
I was a natural salesman. Not because I was a “deal closer,” but rather I was a “relationship opener.” My first career out of college was working as a Loan Officer for a fast-growing Savings & Loan. I moved up the ranks very quickly, and was always willing to share my ideas and skills with my fellow Loan Officers. Soon, I was working directly with the CEO and Executive Vice-President, developing strategies for sales training, marketing and recruiting.
I love the old Chinese Proverb,
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.”
“Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
When your motives are based on “teaching people to fish” and “providing a valuable service to others,” the resulting business will thrive and grow.
The greatest lesson I have learned, is that running business is not just about making money, it is about serving people.