Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Entrepreneuring Father, Son

I grew up the oldest son of an entrepreneur.  My dad left his secure job with Service Systems (now part of Sedexo), and started his own small business when I was 12 years old.  His venture capital of $50,000 came from a friend and businessman who owned a paper company.  My father started a commercial printing business, and after several years of 12-14 hour days, our family business employed over 15 people serving a list of prestigious corporate clients.  

After my father sold his business 10 years after starting the venture, some of our employees ventured out and started a similar business having learned the printing trade in that shop we called Port Of Printing in suburban Buffalo, New York.  My father, mostly unbeknownst to him, transmitted an entrepreneurial spirit to all he worked with. 

My dad taught me strategy, sales, and operations.  My mother and later a bookkeeper taught me accounting.  By the time I was 18, I was leading people, overseeing operations on the overnight shift, and learning how debits and credits and green sheets became financial statements. 

Recently, I have been reflecting on my own life strategy--how did I get here, and where am I going.  I have founded two non-profits, and at present manage a medium-size hybrid non-profit/for-profit entity.  I am contemplating yet another entrepreneurial venture with my own son.  The power of my father looms ever larger as I am working alongside two of my sons.

Despite stresses that often made the sparks fly between us at "the shop," my father taught me how to have a vision and risk everything to pursue a dream.  He taught me the work ethic that I have, in turn, passed down to my children.  My love for business, innovation, building organizations, and pursuing an MBA all came from him. So did the tendency to work too hard and enjoy life too little. 

Why did he go the route of entrepreneurship?  I often think about that at the beginning of February each year when I remember the day my dad died.  The articles below reminded me of my father.  So today, I share them with you.