Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hey Dad, you're fired. How giving my dad the big adios began my real biz career.

As a kid I used to do all sorts of work around the neighborhood. There was decent money in doing the drudgery the adults weren't interested in. 

One element of my "empire" was a lawn mowing business which included a variety of clients both young and old. Usually the young people were too busy, or too lazy, to do it themselves. The older people had often reached an age where it wasn't probably a great idea to be operating heavy equipment. 

In the middle of this range was my dad. An aerospace engineer with a crew cut, a man who proudly wore his pocket protector complete with mechanical pencil. He could mow the lawn, but I guess he figured he'd let me do it since he was paying me virtually nothing. 

Things went along pretty well for about a year like that. Then I got to thinking. In general, I spent more time messing with my dad's yard than any other client. Completely unlike my other clients he complained constantly; regardless of how painstaking I was in my efforts. The crowning blow was the paltry sum he was paying me. It was less than half what any other client paid.

The day was approaching for me to confront my dad. Soon I would be due to cut the lawn, and I had decided it wasn't worth it to be paid peanuts by my most persnickety client. 

Finally I approached him and said, "Dad, I'm not cutting the grass anymore." 

I fired him. 

Just like that. 

Well, I tried in any event.

This opened a discussion which included his thrift, my mowing abilities, his excessive criticism, and a range of other things. Fortunately, we managed to keep it civil. In fact, it lead to an awesome lesson for me.

By being willing to face the music of dismissing him as a client, I managed to renegotiate the price, and reset his expectations. Two things that matter greatly to me, and I think he walked away satisfied as well.

For me the central lesson was that you get what you ask for, not what you hope for. Nobody cares a stick about your silent suffering. No super heroes are coming to rescue you. You'll have to set yourself straight.

By asking for what you want you have a much better chance of getting it. If you're willing to walk because the other party won't acquiesce, you chances are even better.

Over the years, the lessons of that day have served me well. From negotiating with clients to discussions with my kids, being clear about what you want and what you're willing to give provide a framework for all parties to walk away from the table satisfied. 

Luckily, you probably don't even need to fire your dad to figure that out. 


Unknown said...

What a powerful story. I love the wisdom here: "By asking for what you want you have a much better chance of getting it. If you're willing to walk because the other party won't acquiesce, you chances are even better."

Test said...

Thanks Skip. One of many lessons provided by my father. :-)

James said...

Lawns... let the grass grow :) I prefer making hay while the sun shines. Thankyou for your wisdom.

Dipsy Tripsy said...

Comment by: Stephen Walker

Hi Tim,

I couldn't and wouldn't ever fire my dad.

He has taught me well all of my life. He has ingrained in me the values of good society.

He has almost always out-competed me at sport. He is my hero and always will be.

AND, I hope, that one day my kids will feel the same about me.

Unknown said...

You can buy best electric lawn mower

Unknown said...

I realize that nothing is fair but I'm still trying. I just want to do my best and what is possible