Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Wisdom of our Fathers

Happily, I am not writing an obituary.  I have just returned from visiting my father, who is recovering from a fall that led to a hip replacement and a stroke.  In March, he will turn 95 years old. I spent much time with him at the rehab center. As I sadly left the center to return to Israel, he strongly informed me that he had many birthdays in front of him and not to worry. Whether this is true, neither he nor I can know for certain but optimism is the key for most successes in life, including living.

My father is not a great talker but expresses himself through action. Considering his business success, his life journey provides keys for success for any entrepreneur that wants to make it. He began as a journalist at the AP, where he learned how to write well and under pressure, an important basic skill.  He did his underpaid and overworked apprenticeship in public financial relations (preparing quarterly and annual reports and investor relations) with a large firm in New York, learning the trade. Before he struck out on his own, he had mastered the basics of the business.

Armed with this knowledge, optimism and a small nest egg, he set for Los Angeles and set up his own company. The market was ideal as Los Angeles was an affordable, growing city at the time.  Moreover, he carefully chose his clients, looking for solid reputations, intelligent management and long-term perspective and avoiding well-paying but notorious companies. He was careful in his promises and but gained a reputation for honesty and efficacy, which led to more customers. Ultimately, he created the largest private Financial PR company in the West Coast. Careful consideration and planning made that possible.

Yet, money was not the only factor motivating his actions.  Offered the opportunity to also manage another office in Chicago, he declined it because he did not want to spend half a week away from his family.  As he grew older, he retired gradually, initially selling his shares to this partner but keeping an office, followed by renting an office in a building near his home, until he eventually withdrew from the whole business.  However, the knowledge and skills he attained have helped him remain an astute investor, always looking at the management and industry and checking the numbers very carefully.  Many a pension fund manager would envy his results. More importantly, managing his portfolio has given him a reason to get up in the morning and raison d’etre for being even as he became handicapped physically. As in sports, it is as important to know how to retire as is it to start the career. Family and personal happiness are of no less importance than income.

In short, an entrepreneur must apply preparation, careful action and long-term planning to achieve success, then and now.  I cannot say that I did so nor did I understand or even appreciate his success.  Alas, it is often too late until we appreciate the wisdom of our fathers.

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