Lessons I Learned From My Dad
By Marilyn Dayton
I listened to Maria’s story, trying not to cry, because in many ways, the story I heard paralleled my own. I too was greatly influenced, both personally and professionally, by my father. So many women I talk with share how their mothers have influenced their lives. I’m sad to say that mine was not a good role model. It was my father with whom I was close and it was from him that I learned the most, even though he had to learn the hard way.
My Dad had his demons, like we all do. He was forced into a marriage he didn’t want, and was stifled from following his passion – music. He developed a drinking problem and would sometimes disappear for days during the first few years of my life. He eventually managed to overcome his pain and make something of his life. I was eight years old when this happened and from his courageous transition, I learned early that no matter what pain you suffer in life, you can find the strength to overcome it and thrive.
It was around that time that he found a way to pursue his love of music on the weekends. But by day, he was a car salesman. He did not fit the usual stereotype though. He was a sweet, unassuming man who, upon seeing a customer approach a car on the lot, would simply smile and nod. Then he would turn away and take a look at whatever car he was near, peeking inside, looking at the paperwork on the dashboard, getting down on the ground and look at the undercarriage. Then he’d stand up, look for the customer, nod again, and dust off his pants and hands. He would slowly wander over to the customer, stopping to look at several cars on the way. He exuded patience and it was amazing to watch him through this process.
When he finally arrived at the customer’s side, he’d say “Hi, isn’t it a beautiful day?” And he’d smile.
“You look familiar, didn’t I see you at the Rod and Gun Club last weekend? My band plays there every Saturday night, it’s a great, fun time.”
Then he’d smile even bigger, reach out his hand and ask, “Where are you from?”
More often than not, and because my father knew so many people, it wasn’t long before he and the customer would discover a mutual acquaintance. They’d continue chatting for a few minutes and then my Dad would say something like, “Well, I see you are busy looking at the cars we have here on the lot. If you need help or have any questions, I will try my best to answer them for you. I’ll just be inside.”
He would shake their hand again, smile and walk away. He’d get about six feet, turn around and say, “Hey, the next time you see Joe, please say hello to him for me, would you?”
Inevitably, that is when the customer would ask for help.
In those years my father had more car sales than anyone else in the surrounding towns. He never put pressure on anyone and he went out of his way to make sure his customers were happy. He’d know ahead of time (because he checked the service list each and every day), when they brought their car in for service so he could stop by, shake their hands, and ask about their families.
And yes, while some might call this a sales tactic, he did it because he really cared. He lived his life with honesty, integrity, and patience, and he practiced friendly “relationship marketing.” He was also in charge of creating the advertising for the dealership, and I loved hearing him explain how and why he’d choose one particular advertising method versus another. And best of all, he invited me to brainstorm all the different, creative angles! And because I used to hang around and watch him, sometimes helping him with paperwork or doing odd jobs, I absorbed all of this.
I wasn’t even ten years old at the time, and there I was learning some of the best sales and marketing techniques in the world. Since then I have had many mentors, but my father was the first, and in many ways, the best. I follow his practices to this day.
“There are no small customers, treat them all with respect and find a solution for them.”
“Each and every person you meet is very important, so be sure to be kind and attentive.”
And as Maria says, “Marketing does not thrive without sales.”
As a marketing and advertising consultant, I’ve used what I learned from my father to help a lot of people over the years. But most of all, I am grateful to him for being such a great role model of how to overcome adversity and thrive. Thanks Dad!
s profiled on GRACE magazine website, www.graceforwomen.com