Business Lessons From My Mother

February 25, 2018 Lynn Abaté-Johnson No comments exist
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Business Lessons From My Mother

My mom 14 months after her last chemo treatment
My mom, Rosemary Hakim, 14 months after her first chemo round


My mom is wise, generous, and kind – and she knows her way around business, and money-making.  I know she wouldn’t want me to reveal the particulars about her finances (she’s still grumbling about the extremely personal details I revealed in the blog I wrote while she had cancer), so I won’t.  But she is a smart cookie when it comes to business building and investing.  She’s done ok for herself; on her own for the past 40 years….let’s just leave it at that.

Inherent in every moment of my mom’s life, there is evidence of basic business principles she raised us with, lucky for me. Her father, who emigrated from Baghdad, was also a great teacher.  He led our family with a gentle, yet firm approach to the family business, and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the business lessons my mom has imparted:

1.  Cash is 'King' (and so is the Customer)

I think this originated (in our family, at least), with my Grandfather, but I’ve also heard it attributed to my Grandmother.  It doesn’t really matter who it came from.  My mother is a stellar example of investing wisely, and spending only what you have now, in cash.  And, of course, we come from a long line of  "the customer is always right" thinking. I'll stick with that. It's worked for me so far, and there's just less drama in a customer-centric business anyway.

2.  Time is Money

My mom drills this home to us every chance she gets, especially when we sit at family meals discussing ---what else?  Business.  Being a born-and-bred entrepreneur, I’ve learned this lesson over and over again.  So, aside from devoting time as a volunteer for organizations and causes I care about, I know that my mother is right.  I feel perfectly comfortable making a life and a living doing exactly what I love to do, and being compensated accordingly.  When I volunteer my time in my community, it’s always a labor of love, and I am particular about where my time is invested, and with whom.

3.  Knowledge is Power

Well, it’s a cliché because it’s true, right?  The more I know, the more I realize I am still learning.  I LOVE to learn, I’m hungry for it, and this is what leads me to set aside time each and every week to study my business/industry, and bring in new and challenging lessons.  My mom is still a voracious reader, question-asker, and note-taker (I’m always trying to get her to take notes electronically, but go figure, she’s way more comfortable with pen and paper).

4.  Create a simple "system" that anyone can learn and implement

I mentioned my mom’s bout with cancer (it was stage IIIC ovarian and it was a doozy).  The minute we got her diagnosis, without shedding a tear, my mom just gave me "the look" that said – "it’s time to get into production mode", and that’s exactly what we did.  Luckily, I’m the first-born, and have two sisters and a brother locally, who, unwittingly became, along with our mother, my "business partners" in this new "venture".  Only, instead of an income-generating business, it was the business of kicking cancer to the curb.  It took longer than any of us expected, but we are coming up on the three-year-mark of my mom’s diagnosis and (knock-on-wood) so far, we are all living in a dis-ease-free zone.  We simply strategized and organized, creating systems that we could duplicate as we expanded our team of helpers along the way.  (If you are curious, feel free to message and ask me about those systems)

5.  Be adventurous/fearless/relentless

My mom is a big believer in taking risks, especially if the potential payoff is huge.  Yep, I got that lesson loud and clear (it's one reason I am so in love with startups).  I can’t imagine living life any other way.  Even in her personal life, my mom has been part of three studies, starting way back with the Women’s Health Initiative.  Her latest was the Clinical Trial (GOG 0252) where she had an aggressive de-bulking cancer surgery and then an even more aggressive chemotherapy regimen, which nearly killed her, but luckily, also killed the cancer.

My mom is the epitome of a success story in my life because she leads with love, and gets results.  She's a pit bull for follow through, and I guess that's why I have become one as well.

And, although the experience of dealing with dis-ease slowed her down for a couple years, she seems to be coming back even stronger, and more beautiful, than before.

To me, it’s a miracle that my mom lived to have another chance at life, caring for her five children and 10 grandchildren (and now, a great-grandson).  The miracle is not wasted on me.  I’m learning, still, how to be a better business person and hopefully, a human who makes a difference in the world. For my drive, tenacity, thirst-for-knowledge, organizational and community-building skills, my mom gets the credit.  Thanks, Mom!

Are you dealing with a business issue or health challenge in your family?  How have you applied timeless truths to your personal and business journeys?  Let me know if you need any resources to tap into.  I've built up quite an arsenal and fortunately, my mom is still here to give advice.

My mom and I right around the time we had to stop the chemo.
My mom and I, right around the time we had to stop the chemo the first time, in June of 2011. She could barely function and was going down hill.

UPDATE: My mom took her final breath on May 1, 2017.

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