I once heard a speaker named Frank Mercadante share his research on what makes the millennial generation (i.e. my generation) different from those previous. One of the attributes that stuck with me was who millennials consider a role model; more often than not, we pick our parents. Having put my Father’s Day card in the mail, I’ve been thinking about the lessons my dad taught me, specifically those that shaped how I try to navigate the business world.
For thirty-plus years, my dad has owned more than a dozen rental properties, on top of being a full-time pilot (has an entrepreneurial gene been discovered yet?). That means, for as long as I can remember, my brother and I had steady summer jobs mowing lawns and cleaning houses when tenants moved out. Many of Dad’s teachable moments came from these very tasks and have all had an impact on my still-young career.
1. The Devil is in the Details
One of the biggest lessons I learned was to pay attention to details. If my mower couldn’t get any closer to a house and the weed-eater was broken, I had better stop and pull the weeds out of the ground by hand; there was no excuse for having an unruly lawn. And before an apartment was really ready for move-in, someone (see: me) had to tighten every screw in the house – outlet covers, switch covers, door hinges, door knobs, kitchen cabinets, you name it. While it all seemed a little crazy at the time, I eventually came to realize that the final touch I left on a project was someone else’s first impression, and that goes a long way in building credibility and earning people’s respect.
2. Burn the Midnight Oil
I also learned that to meet a short deadline you sometimes have to sacrifice your short-term schedule. Repairing, painting and cleaning ten houses in a week isn’t easy, but when we had a plan, worked with a purpose and delegated tasks, it all somehow got done. The hours were long (and the summer temperatures in the 90’s), but I learned that sometimes you just have to put your nose to the grindstone and make it happen. There will always be an ebb and flow of high-intensity workloads mixed with a more normal workload, and it turns out, when you’re surrounded by the right cast of characters, a sixteen hour day can actually end up (kind of) fun!
3. Learn from Others’ Experience
Lastly, my dad taught me to make every new task a learning opportunity. Whether he was changing a spark plug, replacing a toilet flap or building a patio, I always got the hands-on tutorial so that I could one day do the job myself. In my current role, there are national events that move from region to region. If I didn’t take insights away from our team in Boston and apply them to Charlotte, I would be doing myself a disservice. I work with people who are smart, creative and driven, and knowing that I can learn something from every one of them makes my job that much more enjoyable. It also ensures that I’m expanding my horizons and constantly developing my business acumen.
I’m sure many people can reflect on their first jobs and remember lessons they have kept in their back pocket throughout the years. I’m especially thankful that my first boss was full of patience and business insight, and also a really great dad.
Do you have any lessons from your first job that stuck with you? Please let me know in the comments below.
*This is a re-posting of a blog originally written for LinkedIn Pulse on 6/12/14