Very early in life, I was attracted to the notion of “being your own boss” — creating your own business and being an entrepreneur. I didn’t know the word “entrepreneur” back then, but I understood what being your own boss meant because my father was a business owner.
My father grew up on a farm, and when I was still a young child, he and my mother bought a farm west of Cleveland near the town of Milan, which is the birthplace of Thomas Edison. And so, I became a farm boy too.
Fertile ground for important lessons.
In my family, I was the middle child of seven siblings, with a big age gap between both my older and younger siblings. There were no children my age on neighboring farms either, which meant I spent a lot of time with either my mother or my father, or by myself.
“The sweet spot of entrepreneurial success is autonomy.” #DanSullivan
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I really enjoyed the time I spent with my father. Our farm was a produce farm, where we grew sweet corn, tomatoes, string beans, and other vegetables for market. I would often accompany my dad to the farm equipment store, the feed store, and the fertilizer store. My favorite, which we did regularly, was going in the truck to sell the produce.
This was where my entrepreneurial education began. Especially when I started school, met other children, and learned what most of their fathers did for a living, I could instantly see how my dad was different.
Their fathers had jobs working for other people — in those days in Ohio, mostly blue-collar jobs, which were steady and came with steady paychecks. My father was his own boss and could decide what was best to do each day, which definitely appealed to my young mind, but his earnings were anything but steady.
And, as any farmer will tell you, it’s a tough business. It’s hard physically, of course, but most of all, it’s hard because of the risk. Mainly, you’re always at the mercy of the weather. You can have too much rain, not enough rain, an early or late frost — and the most dreaded, hail. Even with greenhouses, a 15-minute hailstorm can destroy the entire complex if the hailstones are big enough. It’s devastating.
This is true of all entrepreneurs. The risks are great, but in my experience, the payoffs are even greater.
Even as a child, I was sold on the freedom of this type of work life, despite the many risks that came with it. I was determined to follow my father’s path. My thinking might have been crude at that age, not to mention naïve, but I’ve never forgotten my observations and what they taught me.
A life-changing opportunity.
My time with my father was life-changing. He was an amazing role model at a time in my life when I had hours and hours free to observe him going about his work.
The freedom payoff I could see my father enjoyed made a big impression on me and set me on a path to achieve that for myself. As soon as I was out of school and had enough experience in the marketplace, I made the decision to take what I was already doing for someone else and create my own business. I would be my own boss.
Forty years of entrepreneurship later, with all of its attendant ups and downs, I’m still hard-pressed to think of a greater or more satisfying life.