5 Business Lessons Learned While Working for my Dad

Happy Father’s Day and happy work-day to everyone.  Here is some of the business etiquette I learned from my father while working at The Staley Concern, a marketing firm in the central valley of California in 1995.

Ed Staley 1978 Ed Staley, Fisher Graphics, 1978

1. The client is first:  As a small business owner you are concerned with overhead, payroll and administration duties to name a few.  Your client has to know that you are just as concerned with the inner workings of their office as you are with yours.  This leaves your office work to the after-hours.  Monday through Friday is for your customers not for a small business owner.

2. Meeting face-to-face:  When my father needed something signed I or USPS could easily handle the task, but when his business needed to shine, impress or show the work, he was on his way over.  His clients ranged from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  It meant a lot of time in the car but now I was his co-pilot. Today, with Skype and cell phones (existed since the 1950′s), staying connected is easier but there is nothing like the shake of a hand and doing business face-to-face to truly understand your client’s needs.

3. No one can go it alone:  My father started his own business with a marketing degree and wanting more then to work for a large corporation.  He wanted to downsize and specialize but still needed graphic artists, production, market research and staff.  He went from being a cog to the engine itself.

His network was just as important as the work he created.  The central valley is a small network so he made sure to not undercut competition to be successful but to provide high-end professional work.  Over the years his competition would soon need his expertise and they would become clients because of good work not because of cut corners.

4. Good Customer Service is a rarity:  When picking up a out-of-house serviced computer I noticed the cover was bent and the screws didn’t line up. I mentioned this to the clerk so he took it into the back and proceed to pound it with a hammer in plain sight.  He was in his mid-thirties and when he brought it back to me, a 16 year old boy, I said “What are you doing? It’s a computer, not a car engine.”

“Well, it’s fixed now. Have a good day.”  I couldn’t believe the customer service he gave.  I told my dad when I got back to the office, I was fuming but he was glad I didn’t over react towards the sales clerk.  Later that day he wrote a letter explaining to the owner that he would pay for the horrible service he had received but he would never return to the store.

Months later I went back into the store for a small connector and didn’t have time to travel across town to their competition.  Above the work bench, behind the counter, was the letter my dad had written.  I guess the owner had posted it as a reminder to the people that work in the repair department to strive for better customer service. I remember my father’s advise back in the mid 90′s, “If you can combine customer service with the tech industry you would cut a path through the competition.”

5. It’s not always fun to be the boss:  Working long hours, going above and beyond and staying late is a requirement of all small business owners.  Reinventing yourself and keeping up to date on marketing practices, contracts and the latest social media trends can be exhausting so make sure it is something you love.

Eric Staley and Ed Staley 2013

Me and my father at my sister’s wedding in 2013.

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