The Dinner Table

I grew up an only child, if you are reading this and are one as well, then you know that having a vivid imagination was your best friend. Growing up in a middle-class town, most families tend to have at least 2 to 3 children and being an only child was somewhat of a rarity. For me, it never bothered me, sure I might have been spoiled a tad more as a child, however for me that quickly got old. Being an only child forced me to become very independent and mature at a faster rate. At 6 years old I apparently told my father no when he wanted to buy another ATV as the story goes. Even at a young age, saving was ingrained into me, who I got that from is anyone's guess.

As I was growing up the conversation around the dinner table after “how was your day at school, what did you learn?” tended to pivot back to the family business. For my family, my father owned his own construction company and my mother ran the books, at a young age I learned how a business operated.

Every evening my father would come home excited to tell my mother over dinner how he helped his client that day. It could have been the crown molding he installed for free, or how he made a custom wall mount for the new TV they bought for the addition my father was making for them (back in the 90’s and early 2000’s TV’s were still huge so hiding a TV that was 5 feet squared was not a small job). As my dad would finish the story about the help that he provided over and above the job that was originally quoted, he would take a sip from his Heineken with the smile of someone who knew they had earned their days pay. Now this was where my mother would come in and have to be the bearer of bad news, “we didn't put crown molding in the estimate that’s a $5,000 job you just did for free!”  in a tone as if he just robbed a bank or pushed an old lady to the ground crossing the street. 

As the years progressed and my little brain started adding up all these freebies my dad was handing out like hot cakes, I too, would chime in “why do you keep doing all these favors for free dad? They never even say thank you!” in my adolescent attitude. Now my father was no business guru, he was an immigrant who came over from the middle east to pursue the American Dream and his primary life goal was and has always been to help people. For himself being a craftsmen, building people homes was his way of doing it. He always wanted to provide value first and then (hopefully) get paid after the fact. It’s funny looking back now on how my father's business grew, it grew from one thing and one thing only - referrals. There was no social media, or online marketing, back then you had your logo and your number on your work trucks and that was about as much marketing as one did. My father never planned to do these freebies in return for a referral, he simply just did them because he wanted to, and guess what? That’s how he continued to get business. 

Now the homeowner had a story to tell his or her friend, on how this contractor quoted them a job to redo their 2nd floor and he built them a 2nd floor deck overlooking the pool just because he finished early and had some extra materials. 

This lesson took me 25 years to fully understand. All through my youth, my mother and I simply didn't get it, until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. His business grew because he helped simply because he wanted to help with no strings attached. No asking to leave a review on FB, or anything like that. Now did everyone refer him business? Of course not! However, in time a majority of them did because they had nothing but positive things to say. This has been a lesson that I have tried and continue to work on day in and day out. Now I have a bit more of a business focused mindset than my father, however, I always look to provide value first, I’m just a little quicker to spot the leeches and move on. 

In today's day and age, most are focused on their Yelp reviews, Facebook reviews, number of following vs followers on IG, and all the fluff. Now sure, having a ton of 5-star reviews on Yelp can help especially if you’re a small business owner. However, the real money is in the honest referral, the people that use your product or service.  Would they, without your nudging, tell a friend about what you do, provide or sell? You're nodding your head yes when the answer is most likely no. The more your product or service can help save your customers time, help them make more money or make them feel better about themselves, the more likely you are to have authentic referrals coming your way. Remember focus on helping them first, not your back pocket.  

More Value Task - You have two tasks here, first I would like for you to share a story of a lesson that you learned from someone you look up to that took you a long time to figure out. The second task is to thank that person, we tend to put up this hard exterior, show someone some love.  

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