Face Your Baby Tigers, and Other Great Advice From Dad

When Akhila Satish was learning her multiplication tables, 8×7 presented a challenge: “I used to always want to skip it,” says the CEO of productivity research company Meseekna. But her father would encourage her to tackle the problem head on, so that a small problem didn’t become a bigger problem down the road.

Satish says she learned from her father that problems are easier to manage in the beginning “in the same way that a baby tiger may be scary but is far less of a challenge to handle than a fully grown tiger,” she says. “But if you let things fester, they have the potential to turn into fully grown, hungry tigers that are very difficult to manage.” 

Parents are often a great source of wisdom; many of the lessons they teach stay with us all the way to the corner office. In honor of Father’s Day, Inc. spoke to a few CEOs about the best business advice they received from dear old Dad.

Be Realistic–but Don’t Give Up Too Easily 

When Arion Long started Femly, a company dedicated to providing organic, eco-friendly menstrual products, her father offered advice about the struggles she would face as a black female founder.

He suggested she look for a mentor, thoroughly plan out her business, and expect to work harder than most. “You don’t have to be perfect, but keep going. The sky is not your ceiling,” she says, recalling his advice. “He really wanted to make sure that he was giving me solid advice that was socially and culturally relevant to my situation.”

Take Ownership of Your Ideas–Even When They Fail

Hank Frecon, CEO of video engagement tool SourceDigital, says the greatest advice he got from his father came when he’d dug himself into a deep hole–literally. Frecon’s father owned a farm, and, as a teenager, Frecon set out to build a trout pond. He used the family’s only bulldozer to clear out some land, but the job took longer than expected. It was late into the night, raining hard, and the temperature had dropped into the 40s when the bulldozer got stuck in the mud.

Frecon complained, telling his father he wanted to give up. His father replied: “I don’t care if you’re cold and tired–this was your idea.”

“The lessons here are several,” Frecon says. “One, if you want to lead, you can’t just be an idea person. You also have to be an execution person, even when the going gets tough. Two, if your idea fails, you can’t just stand by while someone else deals with the repercussions of it. You have to own it. Three, sometimes the only way out of something is to dig in harder and faster.” 

Optimism Is Mandatory 

Amir Mostafavi is the CEO of SouthBlock — a chain of juice bars in the Washington, D.C., area. Mostafavi’s father once owned a video rental store, and Mostafavi recalls a time when his father was hit by a car driven by a customer upset over a late fee. 

“My dad was back to work in a matter of days — broken tailbone and all,” says Mostafavi. When he asked him if he was upset at the irate customer, the response surprised him: “‘No, I forgive him,’ he said. ‘Holding onto that hate only makes you angry inside. The only way to find peace is through forgiveness.'”

Mostafavi says this principle has encouraged him to live a more positive existence, both in his personal life and in his professional life–and that his father’s outlook has helped him create an empowering, positive culture within his company. 

Running a business is a tough job, and entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. So this Father’s Day, try asking Dad for some advice–the reply just might be life-altering.  

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