Business Lessons from Mom & Dad

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It’s no secret that I grew up in the staffing industry. My parents started their first staffing firm in 1968. They grew and sold two different staffing firms, developed software for the staffing industry, and worked on a roll-up M&A strategy in the 1990s.

As a kid growing up, dinner conversations were always about business. At the time, I never realized the value of these conversations (actually, I found them really boring), but luckily for me, I was listening. And as it turns out, a few of those lessons stuck.

Here are 10 of my favorite words of wisdom from Mom and Dad:

Make a recession the other guy’s problem.

I always LOVED this bit of advice. Unless you are a big, international company, a recession doesn’t directly impact you. It may impact your clients. And the rates you pay at the bank. But unless the entire staffing industry goes out of business, there are still people buying staffing services. Your challenge is to find them…and win them over.

Of course, in the current market, this piece of advice might be more about recruiting. How can you make the shortage of talent the other guy’s problem? How can you find the people who are willing to work, position yourself as their best career option, and get them to find and apply to your jobs?

Short on candidates? You need more clients.

This bit of counter-intuitive advice has helped our clients make a lot of placements. When you’re in the middle of a severe talent shortage, you need to be able to place every candidate you find. So if you have a candidate you have not placed, you need more clients!

Family comes first.

Your company may pay the bills, but in the long term, family (and close friends) are the only ones who will really be there for you. When making business decisions, make sure they are good for the business, good for the client, good for your employees…and good for your family.

Treat people on your team like family.

My Mom was an amazing manager. She was caring. She took a personal interest in everyone on her staff. And she pushed people to be their best. I don’t think I’ve ever really learned how to be like Mom in these areas, but at Haley Marketing, our team members are definitely part of the family. We’ve always tried to do our best to foster a family-friendly culture, and in turn, our people have made Haley Marketing a Best Place to Work in Western New York.

Develop a natural curiosity about everything.

Successful people take little for granted. They question everything they see. They ask “Why?” They seek to understand how the world works…or at least how people think. The more curious you are, and the more questions you ask, the more you will expand your perspective. And that broader perspective leads to more innovative thinking and better outcomes for all your stakeholders.

Bet on yourself.

I have a confession. I am the world’s worst investor. I never make money on the market. But investing in yourself is different. It’s the one thing you can totally control. And as long as you have clear goals, a commitment to excellence, and the drive to never give up, your investment in yourself it the one that is most likely to pay off.

Be a terrible employee. Don’t follow rules…forge new paths.

My Dad always told me he could never work for anyone else (actually he did, early in his career, but not for very long). He didn’t like rules—or the inefficiency of Corporate America. I personally experienced the same thing early in my career when I worked for a regional bank, and my boss told me to “slow down, because you’re making other people (and me) look bad.”

At Haley Marketing, we’ve always tried to challenge the rules (we’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission). By always looking for new and better ways to do things, our team has developed many innovations over the years, and those innovations have delivered millions of dollars worth of value for our clients (and our firm).

Know your numbers.

My Dad always kept a post-it note over his desk that read: “Revenue is vanity. Net income is sanity. And cash flow pays the bills.” Despite having a Wharton MBA, I’ve never really been much of a numbers guy, but I have learned to focus on the numbers that are important. While we don’t do a lot of financial analysis at Haley Marketing, we do keep close track on the KPIs that have the biggest impact on our service and profitability.

Consistently do the right things (actions) and the results will follow.

When I was a teenager, I can recall a bit of a crisis of conscience. I had the (foolish) perception that you had to be willing to do anything to succeed in business, even if it was unethical. I’m not sure where that paranoia came from because my parents both showed me the value of honesty, integrity and doing the right things—even when it’s painful to do so. Whether or not you believe in Karma, I have personally witnessed example after example where doing the right thing pays off tremendously. (I’ve also snickered when I’ve seen people who are nasty or dishonest get their just desserts!)

The best business partner is your spouse.

My Mom and Dad were business partners for more than 30 years, and while most people seem to think it’s crazy to spend every workday with your better half, I could not imagine it any other way. My spouse, who is my co-CEO, is the best partner I could ask for. Without our joint vision and efforts, we would never have become a Best Place to Work, Inc. 5000 award-winning firm, and a successful leader in marketing for the staffing industry.

 

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