My dad became an entrepreneur when I was in my early teens, owning a wholesale computer parts shop. It was his dream to own a business, but the timing wasn’t necessarily on his terms — he started it after being laid off from his job with no advance notice and right after we came back from our family vacation.
It was a bit of a stressful time to say the least, but watching the events unfold, from purchasing an existing business, to seeing him grow his company, to the effect it had on our family life taught me a lot about money. Sure, there were lots of triumphs, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Both the good and bad times with my father’s business taught me some interesting lessons about money and business.
1. Creating systems can help you thrive
My mom and dad are on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to organization. I say this in the most loving of all ways: My dad is a messy person.
That meant his office desk is cluttered — papers everywhere, and Post-it notes buried under Post-it notes of reminders (I never dared ask if those reminders worked). The messiness and chaos unfortunately almost cost him money.
My mom was so sick of the mess that she would bring me and my sister to his office and organize some of his paperwork when she needed to update his bookkeeping. Whenever we would go through his piles of papers, we would find invoices he’d forget to pay or ones that customers owed him. Because he didn’t see these papers, he often failed to enter them into his bookkeeping software.
Once, we found a Post-it note to remind him to write out an invoice for thousands of dollars that was due a few weeks ago. If my mother hadn’t found it and asked him about it, he would have essentially given out all that inventory for free.
I’m not trying to make fun of my dad (he eventually turned his messy habits around and learned to love organizing), but this is an important lesson to note. If you’re not systemized or organized with your money, it could be costing you some big bucks.
2. Quality and consistency are key
My father prided himself by providing the best products and services. As a small business this was crucial because he was competing against larger companies that also sold the same things he did. I remember there were a few times he worked late because he had to switch suppliers to get better products or pack a shipment to customers when his vendors didn’t deliver them on time.
His perseverance worked. He eventually landed big contracts with local colleges because he was personable, got their products on time and made sure it was of the highest quality. What I learned from his experience is that quality and consistency is key. My father made sure to deliver on what he promised and then some. He also honed in on his soft skills to ensure that he really developed a relationship with his customers, many of whom became his friends.
In business, you need to find a way to stand out from the competition and it can be as simple as providing the best products and services out there. Figuring out can take a while, but it’s important to the livelihood to your business.
3. Never stop learning
My father bought the business in the late 80s, which was an interesting time for the retail computer industry. There were always new types of products available and customers demanded faster and better products constantly.
To help lower his overhead costs, my dad kept his inventory low. He only bought products when customers put in an order. He would spend his days learning about new products, figuring out which ones might appeal to his customers, and building relationships with his suppliers. That way, he was able to turn more profit by minimizing his overhead costs — he built relationships with suppliers so he could get items on short notice and at a discount since he was a regular.
There will always be new books, podcasts, products, and services that can help you better your money. Just because you think you have a handle on one aspect of your money doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I know that I’ve benefited from being a lifelong learner, and I hope you do, too.