Listen To Your Father! What Dad’s Timeless Words Of Wisdom Can Teach Us About Business And Marketing

By June 15, 2012 June 26th, 2015 Marketing Insights & Strategy
Listen To Your Father! What Dad's Timeless Words Of Wisdom Can Teach Us About Business And Marketing

That’s dad and Daddy’s Little Girl doing Disney in the early 70s. The halter should give it away.

Mom gets a lot of press on this blog. I often turn to her not only for words of wisdom but for her quite useful complaints when it comes to websites and marketing.

But what about dear old dad? Surely he’s had something wise and wonderful to teach. After all, we were his six kids, too. We depleted his bank account, grayed his hair and wore him out. Sometimes we even made him proud! He was the one we feared when we were bad and expected ice cream from when we were good. Sometimes he grounded us, sometimes he let us ride on his shoulders and always he told us to be the best we could be.

In honor of Father’s Day, it’s only fair that dad gets a turn on the chopping block… er… blog for his lessons and insight. Some of his dadisms were a bit, shall we say, unique. But they still have a lot to teach about business and life.

Dadism 1: Don’t Cry, You’re Not Bleeding

Moms kiss stuff and make it better. Dads tell us to tough it out. I bet a lot of my dad’s gray hair came from worrying about us but if there was no blood involved, he would tell us to get up because we were just fine.

With five boys in my house there was always an accident of some sort happening at any given time. Falling off bikes, falling on rollerskates (yeah, I’m that old), getting hit in the head with a whiffle ball or badminton birdie. Blood? No? Get up, you’re fine. And he said it with a smile.

It’s hard to tell this without a comparison to mom, so I guess she’s going to get more press… but I remember that whenever we so much as sneezed, mom would fawn over us with tissues and coos and lollipops. If you wanted sympathy you’d go to mom. If you didn’t want sympathy… if you just wanted to get on with your life without a fuss… you went to dad.

Lesson Learned

Not everything in life is a catastrophe. Sometimes you can just get up and keep going.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

Not everything in life is a catastrophe. Sometimes you can just get up and keep going. Oh, wait. I think I just said that…

Seriously, there’s a compelling argument to be made that we need to stop treating everything we do as the be-all end-all. And that we may just benefit from not taking everything and ourselves so seriously.

I once had a client who obsessed so much about whether his email campaign was perfectly worded, perfectly laid out and had the perfect balance of information, product and call-to-action that his campaigns were literally weeks delayed every time.

He could’ve taken a “No blood? Keep going.” approach and sent the darn emails, imperfect and all, made a few mistakes and gotten back up and done the next one.

If we’re surrounded by coddlers and cooers we tend to wallow in our own self-pity. We suck up the attention and milk it as long as it lasts. We do the “woe is me” and lament our misfortunes and nurse our wounds.

I can tell you from experience not only being a kid, but teaching them for 12 years that when a kid falls down and an adult rushes in with sympathy and kisses, that kid will cry every time. But when the same kid falls down and someone says, “Get up, you’re fine” that kid does, with nary a tear.

Even as adults, we respond to the behavior and emotion of others around us. So even while the world is getting hysterical, you can still get up and maintain your cool.

Instead of worrying about every bump and fumble and misstep, we should stop, check for blood, and move on. Unless you’ve done something truly devastating and you’re bleeding sales, customers or reputation, your stumbles and falls are not that big of a deal.

So, screw up once in a while. You’ll be fine. Get hurt. You won’t die. You can take the knocks. You don’t need a lollipop. Stop whining. Oh, and smile.

Dadism 2: Go Ask Your Mother

This was quite possibly dad getting back at mom for all those times she told us to “wait until your father gets home.”

Funny thing was, in my family dad was usually the softie who gave us whatever we wanted. Mom could take a harder line. Mom said no and meant no. And when she did, assuming there were no grandparents in the room, we went to dad.

Dad agreed to let us stay up late. Dad agreed to let us eat one more cookie. Dad agreed to drive us across town to our friend’s house and pick up lunch and twelve more friends along the way.

Mom said, “What?!”

But when dad didn’t want to say no… or presumably didn’t want to get in trouble for saying yes… he sent us back to mom. And of course we already knew THAT answer.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don’t. If you’re smart, you can get what you want more often by knowing where to look.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

This one is a double-play. First, it teaches us that if we don’t get the answer we want we can always try another route.

At its most basic, you can apply this to all your prospecting and marketing efforts. You meet a prospect. You talk. You think things are going well but for some reason the deal never closes. You could give up, or you could go to dad. Figuratively, of course, but if your first attempt fails, try another route.

Instead of sitting around waiting for a miraculous “yes”, try setting up a coffee meeting where you can address your prospect’s concerns and hesitation personally. Befriend your prospect on Facebook or LinkedIn and start a non-threatening conversation.

Sometimes people need more than a meeting and a proposal. Instead of knocking on mom’s door, try dad – he just might answer.

Same goes for your marketing. Not reaching people via Twitter? There are dozens of social channels to choose from. Not doing well with your email newsletter? There are dozens of formats to choose from.

You’ve got options. If you’re lucky and smart at the same time, you may even be able to hit up grandpa. And you know he always says yes.

Second, it teaches that sometimes we have to accept that we’re simply at a dead end and it’s time to move on. You’ll know when that happens, just as we knew that dad’s non-answer was really a pretty definitive answer.

When you’ve exhausted your options, accept the result and move on.

Dadism 3: Don’t Curse The Darkness. Light A Candle Instead.

I honestly can’t remember any specific way that dad said this, I just know he said it a lot! This was the uplifting counterpart to “get up and tough it out”.

Growing up Italian, there was a lot of complaining going on in my house. We said things like “Madonna Mia!” and “Fanabla!” Or so it sounded to young ears that were often admonished for repeating.

Some exclamation of irritation would erupt for anything from a broken dish to a broken arm, too many mosquitos or not enough olives.

And dad liked to follow up with a reminder to light the candle instead.

Lesson Learned

Stop your bitchin’ and do something about it.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

There are a lot of people in the world who could benefit from this bit of advice! And that includes me.

It’s easy to complain about stuff but not as easy to do something about it. So we often take the easy road. Oh, that annoying client! Oh, that horrible meeting!

Chances are, where there’s a complaint, there’s something that needs to be fixed.

Think about your annoying client. What can YOU do to improve the relationship? Produce work on deadline? Set expectations for a project? Communicate more clearly? Mitigate concerns and fears?

Very few people are just truly miserable to deal with. If a client is being difficult it’s because there’s a flaw in the relationship or the communication somewhere and it’s your job to figure out what it is and fix it instead of complaining about it.

And for those few miserable people? You have a solution there, too. Fire them.

When something irritates you, rather than taking a knee-jerk approach and shooting off a wisecracking tweet or a snarky Facebook update, stop and get to the root of your irritation. If you can identify the problem you can fix it and you won’t need to complain. Unless, of course, you’re like me and you just do it for fun…

Dadism 4: You Can Start Dating When You’re 30

This may sound archaic to anyone under 30, but growing up, boys were not allowed in my bedroom. Boys were not allowed in my house if there were no parents home. Boys could be friends but they could not be boyfriends.

As long as we’re long past TMI, I might as well tell you that I was 17 when I went on my first real “date”. I remember getting together with some friends (one was a boy) on Valentine’s Day and said boy gave me a gift. Said boy also asked me out on a date. Officially. As in, wanna see a movie?

Well, this caused not a little angst and hand-wringing but in the end I went. But if dad had his way, he would’ve punched the guy in the face, bought me a teddy bear and waited until I was 30.

Lesson Learned

There’s a time and place for everything. Sometimes you have to be patient.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

Making sales and winning customers is a lot like dating. You can jump in too soon and botch the whole thing, or you can build up to it slowly, be patient and chalk up a win.

You know how there are always some people who jump into dating with two feet and are pretty much ready for marriage before you can take your hat off, or want to do nothing but tell you their life story five minutes into dinner? Kind of annoying, right?

That’s how a lot of businesses treat their prospects. Especially since the advent of social media, suddenly businesses think they can sell all the time. Their Twitter streams are full of come-ons and their Facebook pages are all about “mememe”… or in their case, “themthemthem”.

They could take a lesson from dad and wait a while.

Get to know someone before trying to sell them your amazing widget or life-changing service. Court your prospects a bit before going in for the hard-sell. We all want to get to the good stuff but rushing is more likely to get you punched in the face by dad than to win you a new customer.

Dadism 5: If You Walk Like A Duck And Talk Like A Duck, People Will Think You’re A Duck

This was the equivalent of mom asking us if we’d follow our friends off a bridge, but in more direct terms.

Rather than use it to head off our whining about why we couldn’t do something, dad injected this particular wisdom after we’d already done something stupid.

He pulled this out particularly if he disapproved of either our clothing or our friends. He especially liked to use this on my brothers when grunge was popular. He’d look at my otherwise intelligent Straight-A brother, shake his head, and say, “If you walk like a duck….” And trail off leaving the rest to play out in our heads.

Lesson Learned

Perception is reality. People will judge you on your appearance and behavior, whether it’s a true reflection of you or not.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

If you don’t believe that, ask a guy who wore a hoodie to an investor meeting.

We all like to believe that it’s what’s inside that counts. We believe ourselves above being so petty as to judge someone by how they look or that first hello.

But we do. We make flash judgments even before we know we’re doing it. And people judge us right back. If we’re fortunate, we have a chance to let people get to know us and see past our dirty sneakers or gruff handshake. But sometimes we don’t get that chance and we get stereotyped, rightly or wrongly, for how we look, how we speak and how we behave.

When you meet with a prospect, pay attention to your attire and body language. Be someone that someone else would want to do business with.

Try this trick: before you answer the phone in your office next time, smile. It’ll put you in the right frame of mind for talking to a client or prospect. Nobody wants to hear a grumpy “hello” when you pick up the phone. Maybe you’re having a bad day, but don’t be a duck about it.

See, dad had some great stuff to teach, too! I hope you enjoyed these lessons and can think of a few of your own. I’d love to hear what your dad had to say so tell me in the comments.

Then remember to thank your dad for being so awesome and have a very Happy Father’s Day!