As we celebrate dads this Father's Day, I asked business owners from a variety of industries to share their best business advice from dad.
While the lessons ranged from the tried-and-true to the profound, every business owner featured here has taken the suggestions to heart. Their fathers' words of wisdom have helped them weather the inevitable ups and downs of business ownership.
Learning From a Father's Legacy
For some business owners, their fathers' legacies teach them valuable lessons.
"My father was a prisoner of war in Vietnam," says Chris Lai, founder and CEO of MassVR, a virtual reality gaming center. "He escaped prison and successfully fled with his family across the China Sea on a small boat to reach the dream of a better life. His experience taught me to always persevere and build the business and life I want."
Other business owners find they learn from their fathers' examples, like Mitch Grasso, CEO of Beautiful.ai, which creates presentation software.
"My father, who owned his own precious metals company, died when I was 24. At his funeral, his right-hand man told me that he admired how my dad could have a passionate debate with him about a business decision and then ask him out to lunch," says Grasso.
"Like my dad, I try not to internalize disagreements or let ego get in the way," he continues. "Instead, I respect that people have their own opinions and quickly move on."
Maximus Yaney, CEO and co-founder of Kangaroo, a home monitoring system company, was inspired by his father's approach to life. When Yaney was young, his father refurbished old airplanes and flew them, also teaching his son to fly.
Yaney was inspired by his father's out-of-the-box thinking and courage when he left a career in real estate to start an aerospace company out of his 388-square-foot New York apartment. Yaney built a high-altitude, solar-powered drone, and later sold the business to a major company.
I learned from my father that the biggest reward usually comes when the risk is highest. Believe in your product, keep your head down and ignore the chatter.
—Gary Winkler, founder and CEO, Brothers Ice Cream
"When I started my aerospace company, for the first time in years, I was happy," says Yaney. "My father developed Alzheimer's during that period, but he remained lucid enough to be fascinated with my project. It was a great bonding experience for us."
Business Advice From Dad
A father's influence can have a major effect on business owners. Here 23 more entrepreneurs share business advice from dad, including valuable lessons and attributes that lead to success.
Respect Customers and Employees
"My father taught me to respect all people, regardless of age, ethnicity, wealth, gender and so on. He taught me to treat people with the same respect, compassion and empathy that I'd want if the tables were turned."
—Matthew Russo, co-founder, Elder Home Care
"The business advice from dad I got is that employees matter. It's important to consider how decisions affect them. Money should also never be the sole reason you're driven to succeed. What you build and the happiness it provides will bring your life more joy and meaning."
—Deepak Amin, CEO, Deep Indian Kitchen
Ethics and Honesty Are the Best Policies
"A lesson learned from my father that is the foundation of my business and personal life is honesty. My father was a career Air Force officer, and trust was mission critical for him. He considered a reputation for honesty a valuable asset."
—Michael B. Tantillo, founder, Clareo Centers For Aesthetic Surgery
"The most valuable lesson I learned from my father is to always do what is ethically right and to never, ever give up. Commit and keep going and growing."
—Giorgos Tsetis, co-founder and CEO, Nutrafol
"An important piece of business advice from dad I learned is to know when a business 'opportunity' isn't a good idea. Perhaps it compromises your ethics, is vastly one-sided—not in your favor—or financially costly. The opportunity might increase your top line growth but ultimately hinder profitability."
—Alison Gutterman, president and CEO, Jelmar
Hire Well, Delegate and Acknowledge Employees
"The best business advice from dad I learned is to surround yourself with highly competent staff and delegate to them often. This has allowed me to focus on the core functions of my position, which has fueled explosive growth."
—Andre Saad, medical director, The Woman's Health Pavilion
"My dad told me to surround myself with talented people I trust, who don't hesitate to challenge me. Having people around me whom I trust has made my business and life immeasurably better."
—Steven T. Rodemer, founder, Law Office of Steven Rodemer
"My father is a gifted artist and painter who immigrated to America. He taught me the importance of teamwork. My first job was painting all the corners of drywall, so he could finish with a paint roller. No matter how small a role is, it should always be recognized."
—Michael Zima, co-founder, Zima Media
"My father taught me to work hard and take care of my employees, because they take care of customers. I wouldn't be where I am today without my father and the lessons he taught me about dedication to my business and team building."
—Rusty Cochran, president, We Care Plumbing Heating Air and Solar of Southern California
Be Humble and Compassionate
"My father taught me that if you achieve success, never forget where you came from and always give back to those less fortunate than you. In short, leave the world a little better place than you found it."
—Anthony H. Gair, partner, Gair, Gair, Conason
"The biggest lesson my father taught me is to lead with empathy. He built hydroelectric dams in Ecuador, which takes months and is back-breaking, 24/7 labor. He put himself in the shoes of each of the people he managed, whether they were pouring concrete or designing the entire project."
—Manny Medina, CEO, Outreach
"The best business advice from dad was to always treat your customers with the utmost care and respect, listen closely to what they're saying, and always do the right thing with them in mind."
—Apu Mody, CEO, Lenny & Larry's
"My father taught me the importance of building relationships and to trust people with whom you work. This includes your team, partners and customers. Also stay kind and empathetic."
—Matt Cohen, founder and CEO, Kidfresh
Remain Driven and Determined
"Having resiliency, drive and responsibility is the best business advice from dad. Seeing these traits modeled so well in my father really shaped the way I approach challenges today."
—Gabriel Perez Krieb, CEO, Chosen Foods
"My father often said: 'Work smarter, not harder.' That's why I've made it my mission to empower people to take care of their health the smart way."
—Nathan Jones, founder and CEO, Xlear
"My father immigrated from Mexico at a young age, barely graduated from high school, earned his citizenship serving in the Vietnam War and went on to work as a packer and mechanic. He and I did odd jobs together. He taught me to work hard and haz lo bien, meaning 'do it well' in Spanish."
—Arnulfo Ventura, CEO, Beanfields
"I learned from my father that the biggest reward usually comes when the risk is highest. Believe in your product, keep your head down and ignore the chatter."
—Gary Winkler, founder and CEO, Brothers Ice Cream
"My dad said if you work hard, people will take notice and want you on their team. A very simple principle, but so true."
—Stella Johnson, co-founder, Budget Boost
"My dad told me life is short. The older you get, the faster time flies. Discover what's important to you, be true to your values and have the ambition to live that life as best you can."
— Sarah-Jane McQueen, general manager, coursesonline.co.uk.
Create Your Own Reality
"My father shared inspirational sayings: 'Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life' is one of my favorites. I also like, 'The universe works in mysterious ways.' My father taught me that if I live with intention, magical things will happen, and I'll manifest the reality I want."
—Sonny Patel, CEO, Insurmi
"The best business advice from dad is that I have 100-percent control over my own destiny. If I want something bad enough, I can find a way to attain it."
—Nicole Schraber-Sugarman, designer and founder, Ora Nicole
"My dad taught me not to let anyone's negative opinions and words influence my decisions. I have learned not to take on other people's lessons. They are theirs. I have my own to learn."
—Karin Clarke, founder, Mosaic Wellness
"The best business advice from dad I learned is to be proactive and figure out what I want and go get it. This means prioritizing and doing the most important things first. When I follow his advice, I'm successful."
—Joel Clark, co-founder and CEO, Kodiak Cakes
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