5 Tips for Running a Successful Business
Lessons from My Dad, Jon Lutz
I grew up in a small town right next to a funeral home – just a blacktop driveway between us. If I peered out my curtains, I could see the front porch from my bedroom window and the Batesville casket truck pulling up out back. It was a different way to grow up for sure, but this unique world gave me a front row seat to kindness, service, humor, and hard work.
You see, my dad Jon, along with his business partner Darryl, served my hometown of around 5000 as a funeral director for forty years. Our big old Craftsman sat to the funeral home’s left and gave my dad easy access to work and family. As I grew up, I got to witness him bridge the two. I would sit on our porch swing and peer over to the funeral home, hoping to get a little wave and a “Hi, Jen Jen!” I would see my dad opening doors for little old ladies (he knew every single one by name), catching up with friends who came to pay respects, and leaning in earnestly to hear a neighbor’s troubles or hurt.
His actions at the funeral home poured out into everyday life, as well. When I was in elementary school, I can remember a valuable lesson I learned at a gas station. Yes, a gas station.
I was waiting in the passenger seat as my dad filled our tank. I heard him say, “Hello, Bob! How are ya?” A man replied with a hello and headed in to pay.
My dad leaned into the car, “Jen Jen, did you hear me say hello to that man?”
“Did you notice he didn’t say my name back?”
“I guess so.”
“See, I know his name, and the next time he sees me, I bet he will know my name, too. Always learn people’s names, call them by name, and then if they don’t know yours, they will find out. Next time, they will call you by name, too.”
He didn’t call people by their names for show or gain; he learned their names because it was the kind thing to do. It was community.
Over the years I’ve never forgotten the lesson at the gas station, and there were so many more. As I work with clients now, I can feel everything my dad taught me inside. I’m not as good at it as him, but it makes me so grateful to have such a kind, hard-working, funny dad to emulate.
I asked him to share his advice for running a business and serving clients, and I have permission to share them with all of you.
Here are his five tips in his own words. I think there are lessons here for all of us. Thank you, Dad!
Be a good listener (not one of my strong points). Listen more than you talk and be truly sincere. Spare no effort to be helpful.
Be impeccably honest and forthcoming in your dealings. Explain all financial questions clearly. Say what you will do and do what you say. Do not sugar coat any situation; people have to trust you if you want them to have your confidence. At the same time, be flexible with your customers, but let them know you expect the same (in a nice way). Bust your butt to do all you can for them. No matter how busy you are, try to be clear and patient in your conversation. They have to know you are sincere and helpful – slow down!
Be humble; don’t get too impressed with yourself. You will make mistakes and you must be aware of them. Make amends and apologize! Ask God for forgiveness when you fail. Don’t think your work is the best that can be done, but it’s the best that you can do. We can all always be bested, so be humble.
Be dependable. I think I covered this some already because dependability goes along with humility. Work hard to accomplish your work to the best you can do. You won’t always succeed; try to realize we are all infallible and make mistakes. Just be yourself and do your duty as best as you can. That’s all anyone should expect.
Fairness & Humor
Be fair. Treat your employees with sincerity and friendliness and expect honesty and loyalty from them. Get rid of anyone who lies or is dishonest. Pay your employees well and respectfully as they deserve or they will leave you. Dedicated employees can make your life a lot more fun. Speaking of that, make work fun, too. No matter the seriousness of the situation, keep your sense of humor. My life’s work as an undertaker was rewarding. My clients were my true friends. It was serious work, but funny things happened at the funeral home that made me realize I had to keep a sense of humor. You must know that to survive the sadness of situations.
Whatever vocation you are in, whether it is a teacher, electrician, CEO, or parent, I hope you can glean a few items of wisdom from my Dad. I know I sure did.