Lessons Learned

Last week, I lost my Dad. He had been in the hospital for a couple weeks and in the ICU for the last few days of his life. On Mardi Gras Day, he went to be with my Mom.

Dad with his grandson

Dad & my son in front of a replica of my Dad’s first car

So, you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing, right? Well, my Dad inspired me in many ways and a lot of my business principals are based on lessons learned from my father. In fact, the red queen I use in my logo is a nod to my dad, who taught me to play chess and always think 3 steps ahead – a lesson I’ve carried all throughout my career.

Some 50 years ago, my dad was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. He lived much longer than expected and I attribute that to his ability to find humor in just about every situation. In honor of my Dad, I would like to share a few lessons learned from him that I think apply to marketing your business.

1. Bad things can happen to you, so be sure you have insurance. In marketing terms, this means more than just insuring your business – it means building a great relationship with your customers and audiences so that IF something goes wrong, you have a nest egg of good PR to draw on. If you are old enough to remember the Tylenol scare, you will recall that J&J weathered that storm in no small part because it had a solid reputation in the marketplace.

2. Think ahead and think through the alternatives. Just as in chess, there are a number of moves you can make with your business. Each option has potential reactions from your competitors, customers and/or vendors. Being strategic in your marketing requires that you think through the possible risks and rewards of your actions.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Dad never let his situation get in the way of having fun with friends and family. He found ways to laugh at himself even up to the very last day of his life. I always admired how his sense of humor drove him through the tough times. When things get difficult in your business, remember that this, too, shall pass. Keep in mind that there are people with bigger problems than you, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT ALWAYS a train!

4. Don’t listen to what other people tell you about your destiny, your path, or your future. Many doctors told my dad he would not live past the age of 45 or 50, yet he was 78 when he died. When my Mom died 8 years ago, many people thought he would have to go into a nursing home because she had been his caregiver. But he didn’t. He persevered, adapted, found resources to help him remain at home and outlived every single prognostication made for him. There will always be naysayers or people who want to tell you to give up or that you can’t accomplish your goals. It’s best to ignore them and find some people who support you and will help you do more than you ever imagined possible.

5. And finally, stay close to family and friends. There is no substitute for that kind of support in your business or your life. My dad always encouraged me in my business and gave me sound advice along the way. His faith in me sustained me when I was feeling unsure about my plans. My dad had friends and family throughout the country that he stayed in touch with, and who reached out to me and my brother after his death. Dad would have been humbled by the number of people who said they were inspired by him, respected him and cared deeply for him. You can’t buy that kind of support, but you can let it slip away if you don’t tend to your relationships. The same is true for your customers, too.

At the Oscars, J.K. Simmons wrapped up his acceptance speech for Supporting Actor with these words: “Call your mom, call your dad…Don’t text, don’t email. Call them on the phone and tell them you love them.”

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