One of the most important factors in my success as an entrepreneur has been the mentors in my life. I strongly believe in the power of mentorship as a tool for growth, both personal and professional, and perhaps no mentor taught me as much as my grandfather did. I owe a great deal of who I am, my values, and my business success to him.
My family was far from wealthy, and my grandfather made a great many sacrifices to provide for his family. He worked hard as a custodian at a high school, but the lessons he taught me have applied to my business and my life as a whole, and they’re principles I now live by.
1. Lead by Example
Almost every lesson I learned from my grandfather was simply through observation. He lived out his principles and allowed his actions to speak for themselves. While he sometimes did teach me things using his words, what inspired me to follow him was how he behaved and the way he treated me and other people. It’s a lesson that’s particularly valuable to me now as a business leader because I understand the importance of living the values you want your team to display. Leadership is much more powerful when you set an example and inspire others to live up to it.
2. Give Generously
It can be easy to underestimate the value of generosity, especially when many of the most common forms of generosity, such as giving to charities, don’t allow you to see the real good you’re doing in people’s lives. My grandfather was a very generous man, not only with his time but also with gifts. One of my favorite memories is how he used to buy jewelry and trinkets that he’d keep around his house to give to people whenever they visited. The gifts may not have had much monetary value, but they delighted people, and he loved to give them.
Generosity benefits both the giver and the receiver. Even the smallest gestures, like my grandfather’s trinkets or taking the time to pay someone a compliment or treat them to lunch, can make a big difference in the way people perceive you and the environment you foster as a leader. Be generous with your time, your knowledge, and your money — you might be surprised to see how it comes back to benefit you later.
3. Always Do What’s Right
One of the core values of my company is “Do what’s right, always.” To me, the person who exemplified this value was my grandfather, and his actions were what inspired me to encode it into our company’s values. I think he’d be proud of how I live that out. As a leader, the pressure of my job sometimes means the right thing is not always the easiest thing to do. But I strive to do the right thing in all my business decisions.
Doing the right thing means being considerate of everyone, regardless of who they are. My grandfather made a point of treating everyone with respect, no matter their job, age, or anything else. As a leader, I treat everyone within my company with the same level of respect, no matter what level they work at in the business. Respect goes two ways, and you have to show it if you want to receive it.
4. Stay Focused on What’s Important
My grandfather didn’t chase money or success — he was very content with his modest lifestyle and took joy in the things that really mattered, like his family and health. Many entrepreneurs struggle to make time for what matters most in their lives because of their natural drive to work and ambition to achieve and grow. It’s easy to get bogged down in work and forget about what’s truly important to you, the things that make life worth living. For me, that’s my family, which is why I schedule regular time to spend with my wife and kids. If something’s not on my calendar, it usually doesn’t happen, so I prioritize them by making them a regular part of my day and week. Not only does this strengthen my family relationships, but it also keeps me happier and healthier, which allows me to stay focused and do my best work.
5. Leave a Legacy Worth Remembering
Building a legacy starts at a young age. A legacy isn’t just the physical things you leave behind or your greatest achievements — it’s your day-to-day actions, the things you do consistently, and how you make people feel. When my grandfather passed away, my fond memories of him made me wonder what people will think about me when I’m gone. My grandfather’s legacy is his values, his generosity, and the way he treated people and made them feel valuable. That’s the kind of legacy I want. At some point, everyone has to face the thought of what they’ll leave behind, but as a leader, you’ll leave part of your legacy with every person you lead. So how are you making a positive impact on those people’s lives? How will they remember you?
Reflect on the influential mentors in your life — those whose wisdom has left an indelible mark. The profound lessons gleaned from individuals we hold dear often mold our character in the most profound ways. In my journey as a business leader, the invaluable insights passed down by my grandfather have become the guiding principles behind the operation of my company. His influence has been instrumental, paving the way for the success I’ve achieved.