What’s the best advice your dad gave you? When I put out this question to our entrepreneur base, over 100 responses came into my email inbox. I set aside a morning to read each story. By the time I was done, I felt even more inspired as a business owner — and thankful for the sage wisdom of fathers everywhere.
In honor of Father’s Day, we’re shining a spotlight on the most valuable advice entrepreneurs took to heart from dear dad. Here are the words from dad that paved the way for their children to grow up and become entrepreneurs.
1. Always reach for the stars!
“The best advice my dad ever gave me was two-fold. First, he said, ‘Always reach for the stars. If you don’t make it, you’ll at least reach the moon. If you only shoot for the moon, if you don’t make it, you’ll just fall right back to earth.’ I was an innate high achiever but that became my mantra – to aim high and hold myself accountable.
Second was, ‘It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what you think.’ If you believe you did your best or you did what was right for you, then don’t worry about others. There will always be critics. The only critic you’re truly answerable to is yourself. As someone with typically higher standards and expectations for myself than others around me, this can work against me. But it has worked for me much more often. When I’ve encountered people who’ve questioned my worth or my capability because I’m Black or a woman, I’ve been able to largely ignore them. I’ve always been able to go around or over them as needed.” — Tiffany C. Wright, Founder, The Resourceful CEO
2. Learn to do everything yourself, at least once.
“The most valuable lesson my dad taught me was to always learn to do everything yourself, at least once. As a kid, whenever I needed help or needed something fixed, I either had to learn how he did it or I had to do it myself as he guided me. He said that doing this guarantees I can survive on my own, and I will never be in a position where I’m stuck and have to rely on someone.
This lesson was so important in my life because it made me knowledgeable about everything I do. It gave me confidence that I can survive on my own. This was even more prominent with my business. When I left my full-time job in 2017 to pursue my passion, I had no idea how to run a blog as a business since I was only doing it for fun on the side. I learned all the ins and outs of blogging from scratch using only free resources and without hiring help. This kept my expenses very low and, at the same time, gave me incredible knowledge and advantage.
Learning to do all the work doesn’t mean I have to do everything forever. It showed me which aspects of the business are my strengths and weaknesses and which ones I enjoy doing. When I hire external help, I’m in a better position to review the work and costs involved instead of just accepting what’s presented to me due to lack of knowledge. And in the worst case where I can’t find help, I know I can still do it myself.” — Raymond Cua, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Travelling Foodie
3. Look where you want to go.
“The best piece of advice my dad ever gave me was ‘Look where you want to go.’ If you’re looking where you don’t want to go, you’ll end up there.
The first time I remember him sharing this was when I was learning to ride my bike without training wheels. But it has resonated with me ever since in so many other areas of my life. So many of us focus on what we don’t like, don’t have, or don’t want instead of what we do like, do have and do want.” — Audra Kershner, CEO and Founder, The Ambitious Dollar
4. If you need a helping hand, look down at the end of your arm.
“My dad used to tell me, ‘If you need a helping hand, look down at the end of your arm.’
This simple one liner is something that has stuck with me over the years. In business it relates to bootstrapping and doing the hard stuff yourself. There are many things that you have to do as an up-and-coming small business owner that you cannot afford to hire help. For many, these things stand in the way between their dream and reality. No one is going to help you with the hard, non-glamorous stuff. If you need a helping hand, look down at the end of your arm.” — John Holloway, Co-Founder, NoExam.com
5. Love what you do, and you will never be disappointed.
“I am a certified health coach and small business owner where I provide – private chef services for the whole family. Unfortunately, I lost my dad this past year due to liver disease. I watched him fight for his life until his last breath. My dad was from Argentina. He was a merchant marine who then owned his own business. Since day one, the most valuable piece of advice he taught me was to fight for what I love. Love what you do, and you will never be disappointed. He also always emphasized traveling the world — hence his job.
This influenced me tremendously. Three years ago, I left my corporate job to travel the world and start my own business. He was so proud. After traveling I never thought I would become my own boss or see this business succeed, but he believed in me. I am so thankful I went for it. Now, I continue to live my dad’s life lessons. I continue to achieve anything I have ever dreamed of and live life as he did — simply a celebration. After losing my dad I never gave up, I continued to push. Due to his fight I now cook healthy meals for families all around New York City, trying my best to get mom, dad, and the whole family right on track!” — Sabrina Moller, Chef and Certified Holistic Health Coach, platedate.
6. Be honest.
“The best advice my dad gave me, and that has served me extraordinarily well as an entrepreneur, was to be honest. When you’re starting a new business, there are constant temptations to take shortcuts or to not be as transparent as you could be. You don’t get externally rewarded for anything other than growth.
In reality, honesty will affect all your relationships: your partners, your investors, your vendors, and, critically, your customers. This advice was never explicitly told to me either. It was demonstrated to me over our time together. It’s still so resonant and something that I take pride in demonstrating to my kids. Thanks, dad.” — Mike Catania, Founder and Chief Operating Officer, PromotionCode
7. Learn every aspect of your business.
“The most valuable piece of advice my father taught me that paved the way for me to become an entrepreneur is to learn every aspect of your business.
You don’t have the be the expert of it all, but you should know the ins and outs of your business in case someone quits. This has helped me become very knowledgeable in what I do and all aspects of the industry. My confidence has grown because I took the time to learn various aspects of my business and the publishing industry. I am seen as an expert and resource in my field.” — Ashley King, Book Publisher, Get It Done Publishing
8. Build long-lasting relationships.
“Here is the best advice my dad gave me. Build long-lasting relationships with people, help others, and always show gratitude. The taxi driver today can be a millionaire tomorrow.
This advice taught me to forge relationships with my clients above and beyond my business. The relationships I built are the reason behind my success. I become friends with people who work with me. I try to always be there for them when they need me without asking anything in return. Empathy and the ability to connect on a human level outside of business are the key components of building a genuine connection.” — David Morneau, Founder, inBeat
9. If they can’t play fair in the sandbox, go make your own.
“The best advice my dad gave me as a small woman of color, ‘If they can’t play fair in the sandbox, go make your own.’ And I always do! It’s the same lesson I teach my daughters.” — Fiona Gilbert, CEO, Quanta Therapies
10. Take action.
“I grew up in Brazil and moved to the United States about 25 years ago to pursue my dream of starting a business. Fortunately, it has worked out well and a big reason for my success is the advice my father has given me.
The best advice I received from father was to take action. Many people talk about business ideas they have. They tell their friends about their great ideas. But they fail to follow-up on these possibilities. Ideas are cheap and abundant. Action is what counts. My father used to tell me that it’s possible to over plan. You don’t want to overthink things. And even if you put together a great plan, things will always change along the way. Instead, get started quickly and adjust as you go. The reason most people don’t succeed is they talk themselves out of getting started. This advice has helped me a lot through my career. It’s one of the reasons I started a company with my business partner. I took action.” — Ricardo Mello, Co-Owner, Manhattan Miami Real Estate
11. There are three 8-hour workdays in 24 hours. Pick which two you want to work, and you will be successful.
“The best piece of advice my dad ever gave me was this quote. ‘There are three 8-hour workdays in 24 hours. Pick which two you want to work, and you will be successful.’
This has impacted me greatly because it takes so much time to start a business from scratch. There are no road maps or courses out there to help you along the way. It’s just you. This quote radiates the grit it takes to become a true entrepreneur.” — Gene Caballero, Co-Founder, GreenPal
12. Be the first to show up and the last to leave.
“My entire life, my dad has always challenged me to be the first one to show up, and the last one to leave. Whether it be in the classroom, office, or sports field, my dad instilled a diligent work ethic transcending to my business at a very young age. It was engrained within me that no matter what a person’s background, education, or innate ability — discipline wins.
As a business owner, this lesson is one I cherish in every aspiration. When I started my marketing agency, I had a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Studies and leased office space. I sought out opportunities in the workplace, resources, mentors, and colleagues to create the company I have today. This work ethic propelled me to succeed in all I do. Today, it sets me apart as one of the top agencies in my state in under a year.” — Ashley Monk, CEO, It Media
13. Without the storms, there would never be any rainbows.
“Something that my dad has always said is that ‘Without the storms, there would never be any rainbows.’ Without hardships or struggles, you will never see the true beauty or success of something.
It has always stuck with me over the years. Even now, I catch myself thinking it in tough situations. I am very lucky that my dad has always wanted me to be who I wanted to be, and I am grateful that he could share his truth and wisdom with me. The way I do business is always with kindness and compassion. You never know who is going through a storm, so you have to be supportive where you can.” — Andrew Roderick, CEO, Credit Repair Companies
14. Never slam any doors shut.
“The most valuable piece of advice I received from my step-dad was a week before his death. I asked him what his thoughts were on me leaving a steady paying job with full benefits to work alongside my husband and run our own creative agency. He said, without hesitation, ‘I think it’s a great idea. Just don’t slam any doors shut, ever.’
It’s important to leave things on as good of terms as possible. In case you ever need each other again there isn’t any bad blood or animosity. His advice was perfect in two ways. The first because he was a successful entrepreneur himself. To have his blessing without any hesitation and to know that he believed I had what it took was more important than I realized at the time. The second reason his advice was so powerful was that he was right. You don’t know what is in store in the future. Leaving the door open for possibility rather than shutting it is best for everyone. His words and advice were simple, but I go back to that conversation often. I remind myself I have what it takes and to be open to possibilities wherever they may come.” — Genia Castro Waller, Project Coordinator & Co-Owner, Graphic Finesse
15. If it is to be, it is up to me.
“My dad taught me a quote that I have applied to my life and my business. ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’
He used to always say this when I was trying to achieve something. He wanted me to know that I could do anything if I believed in myself. I have this advice written down on a piece of paper on my desk as a daily reminder.” — Shaun Taylor, Founder, Moriti Safaris
16. Do your research.
“The best advice my dad ever gave me was do your research. Now, my business is all about researching ways moms can make legitimate money from home. It’s so important when starting anything new — business, parenting, or new adventures — to first do your research.” — Whitney Bonds, Founder, TriedandTrueMomJobs
17. Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.
“Nearly five years ago, my father, Jim Connors passed away when I was a senior in high school. Fast forward, and the company I started in college now employs six full-time individuals.
My dad was a book of wisdom and I find it helpful that I still hear his voice to this day. The best pieces of advice I received are as follows: ‘Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.’
My dad would always talk about when he got out of college he had to drive up and down the East Coast searching for a job. When I first got my business started, I drove all over North Carolina attempting to drum up business. Little did I know, by following his blueprint I would be able to create jobs in the midst of an unprecedented economy.” — Brice P. Connors, President, BluePrint Business Communications
18. Experience new things.
“My father always encouraged me to experience new things. To step out of my comfort zone and see what was out there. He told me I would never know what I was capable of if I didn’t try. His best advice to me was to commit to venture into the world of business, a career path in which I am now succeeding.
Significant steps require a lot of courage. Because my father always stood behind me should I fall, I developed the ability to take bigger and bigger steps towards my goals and achieve the confidence and success I have today. I am not afraid to make bold decisions or try new concepts and strategies because my father instilled in me the desire and ability to be brave. — Sarah Franklin, Co-Founder, Blue Tree AI
19. Treat all people with respect.
“My dad taught me to treat all people with complete respect and kindness as he did. He always tried to help people in need. This advice served me well in my entire life and my business.
The more you help other people without expecting anything in return, the more you get as people tend to return favors. Besides, helping others makes your life happier, healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful, providing you with a sense of purpose.” — Hardeep Johar, President, Stone & Tiles Shoppe
20. Surround yourself with positive people.
The best advice my father gave me has never let me down. It has served me well over the years, not only in my businesses, but in my life. When I left for college, my dad simply said to me, ‘Surround yourself with successful and positive people, and always be kind to others.’
Those words have reverberated with me, time after time, throughout my life, especially after the early passing of my father. These profound words have helped me eliminate toxic people in my life, so that I could continue to move forward in positivity. I continue to surround myself with successful people, and learning from the successes of others, which has benefited me in the success of my own businesses. Being kind to others has given me the ultimate feeling of peace. The advice from my father has been golden.” — Patricia Love, Empowerment Coach For Women
21. There is gold everywhere, but not everyone is trained to see it.
“’There is gold everywhere, but not everyone is trained to see it.’
This quote is originally from Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. My dad loved this book and was an entrepreneur himself. He enjoyed reminding me of this quote, among many others, as I was growing up. Back then, I thought it was another classic dad saying. As I matured and eventually started my own business, this phrase became one of the core drivers that got me to where I am today.
This phrase reminded me that there are always opportunities out there. Every day you can make something happen. You can be successful. Most importantly, this quote taught me to believe. Believe in myself and believe that abundance is all around us!” — Alex Capozzolo, Co-Founder, Brotherly Love Real Estate
22. It’s not a business until you sell something.
“My dad always said it’s not a business until you sell something.
I think at a time when startups can be a bit overhyped and glorified, this little piece of wisdom helps keep you grounded as an entrepreneur. It also helps you appreciate every sale! My co-founder Amanda and I keep a watchful eye on cash flow and operate super lean. In a fashion tech business, focused on sustainability — from a cash flow and environmental perspective — with on-demand, no-minimum US production, my Dad’s words have trickled down directly into our business model. Now many of our customers do the same! We help brands test and launch products pre-selling and manufacturing on-demand so there’s less up-front risk and we only manufacturer what sells.” — Gemma Sole, Co-Founder, COO, N.A.bld and Nineteenth Amendment
23. If you don’t take any risks, you don’t get to drink champagne.
“My dad taught me a lot over the years but if there’s one thing that stands out as it pertains to business it’s this quote: ‘If you don’t take any risks you don’t get to drink champagne.’
What it meant to me is that if I don’t make that leap and take the risk of starting my own business, I won’t get to enjoy/meet my goals and the things I want out of my life. I won’t be in a better position without taking some risks.
This inspired me immensely. It freed up any fear I had of taking risks and let me to explore entrepreneurial opportunities early on. It allowed me to keep calm through failures. That quote and meaning behind it kept me motivated. It still holds true in my decision-making process when expanding, growing, acquiring other businesses, and starting new ventures. Thanks Dad.” — Mony Gueorguiev, Founder, Maidily
24. Live your best life.
“The most valuable lesson I learned from my dad was his sense of adventure and commitment for his family to live our best lives. As a devoted family man and career city government employee, my dad instilled in me the importance of staying true to myself and following my heart.
It was not easy telling my dad that working in corporate America would only serve as a stepping stone to my destiny as a public relations entrepreneur. We made a deal. I would work for the city government for at least 10 years and then he would support my decision to strike out on my own. It was a wise decision. I earned an MBA, paid for by the employer, and I was eligible for lifetime (reduced) retirement. He knew that the long-lasting perks I gained would sustain me no matter what entrepreneurship had in store for me. His wisdom taught me to negotiate and compromise. In the end, I was able to get what I needed, not just what I wanted.” — Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, Owner, Platinum Star Public Relations
25. Don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control.
“My dad has one saying that he has probably repeated to me a thousand times: ‘Don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control, because you can’t control it. And don’t worry about the stuff you can control, because you can control it.’
I’ve always tried to apply that in business and life! It’s so easy to fixate on issues that are beyond your control. It’s also unproductive. As an entrepreneur, I can’t afford to waste my time doing that when there are an infinite number of ways I could be productively spending my time to build the business. Any time I start to focus on the wrong thing, I hear dad’s voice in the back of my mind reminding me to redirect my attention.” — Alex Willen, Founder, Cooper’s Treats
26. Be yourself!
“My father has given me many pieces of advice over the years that have been valuable when it comes to either business or managing a team. One of the absolute best pieces of insight he offered is simple but often dismissed: ‘Be yourself.’
When you’re trying to build a brand or create a company, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘Well, this is how so and so did it.’ Or, ‘This company is doing it this way so we should do that.’ The temptation to be someone or something you’re not, but you believe people will like can be overwhelming. If you want to create a unique brand that resonates with others, knowing who you are, what makes you special and what only you can offer can be a key differentiator from others in your space!” — Jennifer Palumbo, CEO, Wonder Woman Writer, LLC
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