8 Pieces of Entrepreneurial Wisdom From My Father

By | Small Business

Like so many little girls, I grew up idolizing my father. He was my hero: the smartest, hardest-working person I’d ever met. Although he never owned a business, he excelled at everything he took on and was adored by the employees under his command.

When I called to tell my parents I was leaving my steady, well-paying job to found a startup called ‘ZinePak, the first thing my dad said was, “That’s fantastic!” Not “How will you pay your rent?” or “What about health insurance?” He then proceeded to ask me what he and my mom could do to help.

Although Dad did help with lots of early aspects of my business, it was what he taught me in the 26 years preceding my startup adventure that have served me best.

My dad, Jody Jones, passed away unexpectedly three years ago this June, one week before Father’s Day. This Father’s Day—like every day—I know I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about my dad. But instead of being sad that he’s no longer here, I will celebrate his love and the lessons that gave me the tools to start and run a multimillion-dollar international company. Below are a handful of the rules that I try to follow every day.

  • It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. I was very young when my dad taught me what I like to call The Platinum Rule, and it’s served me well for more than two decades. By nature, many people are afraid to try new things or grant their blessings for ideas that stray from the status quo. Act first, ask later. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be by following this one simple mantra.
  • Always be respectful, to everyone. No exceptions. The service people around you deserve the same respect as the CEOs at companies you’re trying to land as clients. From the man cleaning the office to the woman running the show, everyone is working to provide better lives for themselves and their families and deserves your respect every day, no matter what kind of mood you’re in or how hard your day is going. People always come first.
  • Don’t blindly trust authority. Just because someone is older or more experienced than you, he or she isn’t going to be correct 100 percent of the time. Never be afraid to question someone’s judgment or ask for more information just because he or she is in a position of authority.
  • Look for the good in every situation, and you’ll probably find it. Very few things in life are all bad. If you make a habit of having a glass-half-full attitude, you might be surprised how often things end up going your way.
  • Never ever stop learning. Curiosity is one of the most important traits for an entrepreneur. The moment someone thinks he or she is the smartest person in the room, he or she is most vulnerable to making a huge mistake. Make it a personal goal to learn at least three things every day, even if it’s something trivial that doesn’t pertain to your business. At a minimum, you’ll have lots of fun factoids to share at parties!
  • Always take care of the people counting on you. Keep your promises, whether they are implicit or implied. If you tell someone you’ll do something, do it. End of story. This goes for clients, vendors, employees, partners, etc. This is especially true of employees, as they count on you for their livelihoods.
  • Know what you don’t know. No one is the best at everything. If you need help, ask for it. Trying to “tough it out” to do a task you don’t do well isn’t a good use of your time or anyone else’s. Similarly, it doesn’t make sense for someone in a CEO position to be doing tasks that could be delegated to an assistant or coordinator. It makes the most fiscal sense (not to mention common sense) to work on the tasks that can only be done by you and build a support team to help you with the rest.
  • Always stop to say “thank you.” “Thank you” is a powerful thing, and you never know how much the small gesture might mean to the recipient. Taking a few moments to acknowledge someone’s generosity, hard work, or extra effort will remind them how much they are appreciated.

When I find myself questioning a decision, I pause and try to imagine what my dad might do in the same situation. And although it sometimes takes more courage and strength of character than I think I have, I try to make the choice I think Dad would have made. Following in his footsteps inspires me to strive for excellence in everything I do—especially in the business he was so proud to help me launch.

I suspect that I am far from the first daughter to feel such pride and love for her father. I encourage anyone reading this who shares my sentiments to not only tell her father (or grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.) “I love you” on Sunday, but to also thank him for his sacrifices, wisdom and strength that have helped you become the woman you are today.

Brittany Hodak is the co-founder of ZinePak. She has been named to Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 list, Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list, and Billboard’s 30 Under 30 list. She won a prestigious Stevie Award for Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year, was a finalist in Entrepreneur magazine’s 2014 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year competition, and has been recognized at the United Nations as one of the Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs in America two years in a row. In 2014, ZinePak was named Empact’s “Most Disruptive Company” at the United Nations ceremony for its role in redefining physical music.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

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