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When I was a teenager, my father and I shared some special moments together that I still remember. In them, he taught me valuable lessons about business, but as I got older, I realised he was teaching me some lessons about life.

The 10% Rule

In 1987, dad developed a hotel in Canberra called “The Garden City Motor Inn”. He operated the hotel for a few years before he sold it.

One day I overheard my father fielding a call from the hotel manager. After dealing with the issue at hand, dad smiled and said: “Greg, I’m very happy to field your calls whenever there are major problems – that’s my job. But let me give you a tip for your career, don’t just call me when you’ve got bad news.”

Dad chuckled and continued: “Half your calls to me should be to convey your excitement about some good news – a major booking we’ve received, a record quarterly profit or a great customer testimonial. I chose you to manage the hotel because you are enthusiastic and optimistic about the role. Don’t forget to show me that side of you.”

Dad was right. Business is a bore if we don’t also share our successes.

Communicate the top 10% and bottom 10% of news up the line. Don’t just focus on the bottom 10%. And never fear that you are wasting your manager’s time reporting your achievements. Good leaders delight in the success of their team and will relish your call.

Establish Internal Harmony

On one occasion in my late teens, I arrived home from university to see dad watching a BBC African wildlife documentary.

The footage was of two springboks fighting each other in the Kalahari desert. As they became absorbed in the fight, they did not notice the prowling lion waiting for his opportunity to attack.

Dad was enthralled: “See what’s happening here, son? That’s what happens to you in business if you get distracted by internal squabbles. You become vulnerable to attack by your competitors and by market forces.”

It’s one of the primary functions of leadership to establish internal harmony, especially at the top. Fail to achieve harmony at the top, and it almost doesn’t matter how good you are at product or sales – extinction is close at hand.

Be Bold and Have Fun

As a teenager, I occasionally joined my dad on his weekly trips from Sydney to Canberra – to visit his various residential development sites.

On one such trip, we stopped off at a small town called Marulan for a toilet break. Along the way, dad noticed a garage sale and decided to take a look.

He paused to examine a vintage bath tub with a price tag of $15.00 and the owner asked him if he wanted to buy it. Dad smiled and said: “I don’t really have a use for it but I’ll buy it for $5.00.”

When the offer was politely declined and we walked away, I was bemused and asked: “Dad, why did you bid on a bathtub we had absolutely no need for?” Dad replied: “Because it’s fun to negotiate and if he said yes, we would have donated it to the Salvos.”

Dad was teaching me three things: (1) negotiation is a game, have fun; (2) being bold is a muscle, practise on the small so you’re ready for the large; and (3) be charming and smile even when bold, you’re more likely to do a deal.


Written by: Adam Geha

Edited by: Wise Guys

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