When I think about how far I have come from the humble beginnings as a boy growing up in Shreveport, LA, to a retired manager from the Department of Energy with several national achievements, including books that I’ve authored, I must thank my parents for raising me the ”right way.” My father, Edward Elias, in particular, was an immeasurable influence on my life. He was old school… hard, stern, and purposeful in making sure that his children did not end up on the wrong side of life.
Several years ago, I spoke at my father’s funeral and I could not hold back the tears. God had given me a great mentor to guide me through manhood. God was now taking him back. My father had achieved so much in his life, despite his lack of formal education. He had set a standard for me. He was my measuring stick. I felt my father’s shoes were too large to fill. However, I could not hide from my responsibilities. It was my turn. Would I falter under the pressure? Passing the family’s collective experience on to the next generation is a necessary part of building strong leadership within families. How can families preserve this rich knowledge base? Who is going to remind us of the old ways?
With that as introduction, I’d like to share one special story about the power of a good father’s influence on a boy’s business perspective. My father, who was called Elie by all who knew him, was a faithful employee of the public library system in Shreveport for several decades. He was also entrepreneurial. He had a lawn service on the side. On many cases, my father would leave one full-time job to work his part-time job. He never complained. I now recognize that good parents sacrifice a lot for their children, even to their own detriment. The purpose of this article is to share five business principles I learned from my own father.
My father had several customers whose lawns he serviced. I remember him push mowing large yards (an acre) for $20. To me, that was cheap. He would perform a lot of work for small sums of money. When I was in junior high school, my father got me a job working for one of his customers, a wealthy family with a huge home. I was a Boy Friday. I did all sorts of odd jobs outside, including cleaning out flower beds. It was really a lot of work and it was hard work. In the middle of the day, my father would visit me. The wife of the family would bring us water and prepare lunch for me… peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I could tell that, inside, my father was laughing at me.
He knew I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But I ate those sandwiches and thanked the lady. I would work at least five hard hours for a dollar an hour. At the end of the day, the wealthy owner, who was extremely cheap, would come out and hand me $6. He thought he was doing me a favor by giving me a dollar for an extra hour. However, I can remember that the minimum hourly wage at the time was about $3.15. My father knew that it was crazy to work a teenager that hard for nothing. Yet, my father never said anything to me about the situation. These are the lessons I learned from my father:
My father taught me some hard business lessons in life. Working for that wealthy family, with my father as my infomal mentor, taught me that you should always get paid what you are worth in any job situation. I learned that I had to value my expertise, and that some people would take advantage of me if I did not understand my value. My experience with that wealthy family taught me lessons I could never get at a business school or from a management expert. I learned these lessons from the School of Hard Knocks, taught my father.
In his own way, my father was grooming me for the decisions I would later have to make as a man. I know he never imagined that I would become an engineer. He would not have thought I would be an author of several books. He probably never envisioned me as a business owner. But my father knew I would need to have a basic understanding of life’s lessons and how to manage my responsibiliites as a man, regardless of whatever situation I would find myself in. The lasting impression my father made on me as a man and a hard-working business owner was invaluable. I will be certain that this business savvy will have a lasting impact on future entrepreneurs in our family. Knowledge is wasted if it isn’t used. I have always tried to pass on the simple wisdom of my father to everyone that I happened to meet. R.I.P my dear father!
© 2022 by D. D. Green
About Dr. Daryl Green:
Dr. Daryl Green provides consulting, guidance and management training for today’s small businesses. He and his wife Estraletta are the owners of AGSM Consulting, LLC, based in Tennessee. Dr. Green is a noted researcher and business professor in Oklahoma. Prior to his academic carrer, Dr. Green retired in 2016 from the U.S. Depatment of Energy, where he worked in the Environmental Management Program for over 27 years. He is the co-author of the books, A Call to Destiny – How to Create Effective Ways to Assist Black Boys in America and Real Dads, Real Leaders: Over 40 Stories To Help Men Be Better Dads. Additionally, Dr. Green is the executive producer of the DVD “Saving Our Sons: Dealing With Black Male Underachievement.” If you would like to schedule a media interview or more information about this article, please contact Dr. Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.drdarylgreen.com.