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Business and Life Lessons from My Father

The tributes to Tim Russert on today’s morning television were so moving, I thought I’d take a shot at compiling a short list of my own favorite bits of advice imparted by my Dad. “Little Art”, as he was known for many years to distinguish him from his cousin, Art Mac (“Big Art”) was an enormously successful business man. He built an empire of discount stores and retired by the age of 60. He’s now a healthy, tennis playing, travelling, driving 81 year old with a big heart and love of life. But bigger still is his love and support for his family, his friends, his synagogue and community. A broad-chested baritone, he sang as the Cantor for our local Temple while I was growing up; the same Temple where he served as Building Chairman, Brotherhood Chair and President. I imagine that my older sister and brother got a lot more business advice from my Dad than I did, as my sister was the eldest and my brother went into business with my Dad for many years. Still, it was always clear to all of us that we needed to challenge ourselves to do better than others. (All of us have both College and Graduate Degrees.) It was equally clear that family was critical: so each of us have three children and long marriages–ours for 29 years and my sister and brother each for 39 years and counting. My own parents will celebrate their 63rd this year. A lot of my Father’s Advice, I think, not only serves me well, but informs the outcome in my mediation practice in so many ways. So here’s my list (with my own interpretations):
1. Forget About it. (There’s no point in holding a grudge.)
2. Your Handshake should be better than any written contract. (All of your business dealings should be built on trust and fairness.)
3. Once you’re in a position where you need to hire lawyers, you’re already in trouble. (Negotiation is always the preferred solution in business disputes.)
4. It’s a small world, and people have long memories. (Don’t do anything you’d be ashamed of later.)
5. Count your blessings. (Don’t let the day to day stuff get you down.)
6. Never count anybody else’s money. (Jealousy will get you nowhere.)
7. What difference does it make? (Don’t be petty.)
8. You can be successful by being decent, honest and kind. (You don’t need fancy degrees and a legacy of power or money to succeed in business.)
9. It pays to treat “your people” as you would family. (Everybody deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.)
10. Humor goes a long way. (When all else fails, crack a smile, or even a bottle of gin if you need to thaw cool relationships.)
11. Hard work pays off. (You can do what you set out to if you believe in yourself and work at it every day.)
12. Don’t count on luck to get you out of a jam. (Luck is something you can only look at from hindsight. The rest is fortitude, and perhaps prayer (when it comes to health).)
13. Just show up and be there. (In the end, that is the most pure sign of loyalty and caring).

Happy Father’s Day to all of my readers, and to my No. 1 subscriber, my Dad!


Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

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