Monday, August 2, 2010

Things I Learned from my Dad

Chris Leyerle and his Dad, John
Port Hope, Ontario

I've learned many things from my Dad.

He was my first employer, putting me to work in our yard for what seemed to an 8-year old boy a fine wage, 15 cents an hour. In Canadian dollars no less. I mowed the lawn, raked leaves, shoveled snow and stacked firewood. Rarely I got to help on some of his yard projects, which were generally a whole lot more fun (cutting down trees! building a deck!)

He gave me a small notebook and showed me how to track my hours worked. I would bring him the notebook every few weeks, which he would review and from which I would get paid. Like so many on payday, I would then hurry off to the store (on my bike) to buy myself a treat--in those days bubble gum and trading cards (Batman! Rat Patrol!) I saved anywhere from a quarter to a half of what I earned in a "passbook savings" account.

After a year or so, however, the 15 cents an hour income didn't seem nearly so handsome. I screwed up my courage (for my Dad could be a bit intimidating in the classic paterfamilias way) and went to ask for a raise.

"Why should I give you a raise?" he asked me.

I was not prepared for this question.

So I said the first thing I thought of: "Because I need more money?" I was unsure, so it sounded rather much like a question. I wanted more money, but naturally I wanted his approval as well.

"That might be a good reason for you, but what I asked you is why I should give you a raise. What is my good reason?"

Well, I had to think about that. Later that day I came back to him with a better answer: it took me less time to mow the lawn than I did when I started, so I was actually getting paid less for the job than I used to get. I was more efficient and did a better job in less time. I did more things, and there was more time to get more done. It was a big yard and there were always more things to do. My time was worth more--to him.

I got a raise to 25 cents.

As an entrepreneur I realize my Dad taught me many things that are part of who I am and how I work every day. Honesty. Clarity of purpose. How to develop a value proposition. How to think first about what the other guy wants, needs, and cares about. Continuous improvement. How to have confidence in asking for what I want, and to find and explain the way it benefits both my customer and me.

Thank you Dad.

John Frank Leyerle, 11/18/26 - 8/2/06, RIP

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