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Business Lessons Learned From My Father

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Learn By Watching

Learn By Watching

My father started his business in 1960. It was a gas station and auto repair shop and it continues operating today under the ownership of my brother. My dad never sat me down and gave me these lessons; they were learned by his example. I now realize that what I was observing growing up has affected how I run my business.  I have listed a few examples of what I learned below.

Treat customers right, they pay the bills. He developed a good relationship with most of his customers and they were treated like friends. He did a good job with creating friendships with his customers and the evidence was the many instances of getting small but thoughtful thank you gifts throughout the year. He would get baked goods or even homemade wine from his satisfied customers. When he would get a plate of cookies or some other baked goods he would always make a big deal about it. He would later tell them how good it was. My mom is an awesome baker and I can attest that there were times when the goods he received were not that great but he always went overboard to thank them.

Small gestures of kindness can make a big impact. I can remember several times he would ask a parent if he could give a can of pop from the pop machine to one of their kids waiting in the car. He knew it cost him just a few pennies (this was back in the 70’s) but the impact was huge. To ensure a lasting impression he would get the key out and open the machine up and let the kid grab a can of his choice. He knew that someday that kid would have a car and need gas and repairs. At that moment he just got a customer for life. This relates to another lesson I have learned from him.

Be willing to invest long term in your business. He understood the lifetime value of a customer. He did not look to cash in on a customer when they were at his mercy. If there was a problem with a customer’s car he would fix what was needed at a fair price and that is where it ended. He wasn’t looking to sell them something they didn’t need or use fear to make a sale. This practice really upsets me when I see it in use today by unscrupulous auto repair shops. By treating the customer fairly he developed a long term relationship and I saw many kids grow up and start taking their car to my dad. Many times they would do this even when they moved out of town. Some of the busiest days for the shop were around holidays when kids would come back to town to visit their parents…and to get their car worked on by a man they could trust.

These lessons won’t guarantee success, but it’s a good start. Have a great week.

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