A Grandfather’s Wisdom Holds Keys To Success
Earlier this month, my grandfather, who is still very involved in our company as an engineer and as Chairman of the Board, turned 90. I assure you that, despite his age, his role in the company that he co-founded together with my father over thirty-three years ago is far from an honorary one. In fact, he recently made a deal with my grandmother: she lets him come to the office every morning so long as he’s done working by noon – in time to take her to lunch. There’s peace in the world… but it wasn’t always so.
My grandfather started designing and building steel structures since the 1940s in Cuba. In 1960, after Castro’s communist takeover, he moved his family to Spain where he worked for eight years before finally settling in Miami. Regardless of the circumstances, or the countries where he has lived, my grandfather has owned his own business. I cannot think of a better mentor or example that I would rather emulate – not only because I’m his grandson, but because today I’m the president of the company he founded.
In my opinion, his professionalism, attention to detail and fanatical customer service are the hallmarks of his career, but several years ago I asked him what he felt were the keys to success in business. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “You need three things…”
Love What You Do:
When you consider all of the hard work, dedication and sacrifice required to start and grow a successful business, it’s easy to understand why this piece of advice ranked number one on my grandfather’s list. In his own words, “To be successful at something, you have to love what you do. If you don’t love what you do, forget about it.” Simple, yet far reaching – and he wasn’t referring only to business, but life. I’m reminded of a quote by the great Nobel Peace Prize recipient of 1952, Albert Schweitzer, who wrote, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Bottom line: Don’t settle for just any job. Do what you love.
More Than Consistent, Be Constant:
It took me a while to appreciate the difference between these two concepts, but my grandfather is convinced that it’s not enough to be consistent in business, that’s a given. According to him, those who cannot consistently deliver quality products and service are dead where they stand anyway. To truly be successful in business you must be constant. He said it perfectly in Spanish, “Ser instrumento pensante continuo de la compañía,” which basically means, never stop thinking about your business… Never stop searching for solutions… Never stop innovating or thinking of ways to improve.
While attaining balance in life is key, and enjoying time off to rest our mind, body, and spirit is essential, a business owner never completely disconnects at the end of the day. It’s like your household furnace or water heater: The unit may be at rest when not in use, but the pilot light is always on, ready to ignite and bring forth the much needed heat.
Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I’m not sure about those percentages, but for my grandfather, being present made his Top Three list for success in business. Being present means dedicating one’s full attention to the task at hand, or the person you are having a conversation with. Being present means having a genuine interest in your work and the needs of your customers. Like Woody Allen’s quote, being present means showing up before your competitors do, ready to meet your client’s needs. Being present is more than a passive act, it’s a choice of active engagement, and it connects you with the people you serve through the work you love. If that’s how you approach your business, you’re well on your way to success.
I’m sure that you too have learned a great deal from grandparents or other special people in your life – words of wisdom which you continue to think about and appreciate to this day. If you would like to share their insight and how it has shaped your approach to business, send me an email to [email protected]. We can all benefit from the experiences of such a wise generation.