As we celebrate this year’s Father’s Day, I would like to reflect on the lessons that my father, Osbert Mwaziya Sithole Piteri taught me. Now in his 80s, my father is still as resilient as ever, with a sense of humour and grace that comes with having “seen it all” in this life.
Father’s Day trails behind Mother’s Day with regards to revenue output. It seems consumers spend more on Mother’s Day, than they do on Father’s Day. The National Retail Federation, a body that tracks retail statistics in the United States, noted that consumer spend for father’s day was US$51 less than for Mother’s Day. Some psychologists believe that the reason for this is that men are less “fussy” about receiving gifts than their female counterparts.
However, the presence of a father figure within a family unit cannot be stressed enough. Countless studies have shown a positive correlation between the presence of a father and the positive growth of children. Conversely the United States Census Bureau, points out that the absence of fathers in the home is more likely to lead to pregnancy among teenage girls, incarceration or drug abuse. For example, according to the organisation, girls who grow up without fathers are seven times more likely to become pregnant.
There is also no doubt that fathers also tend to have a positive influence on their children’s growth. In his epic book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, Robert Kiyosaki writes about how his father (Poor dad) and the father of his best friend (rich dad) both shaped his thoughts about money and investment. This book is a must read for all parents out there.
Though some children tend not to follow in their parents’ footsteps some billionaires have had a positive influence on their children’s business acumen. Halma Aliko Dangote, the daughter of billionaire Aliko Dangote is the Executive Director, of the Aliko Dangote Foundation. She sits on several Boards in her father’s businesses. In Zimbabwe, the late Roger Boka’s daughter has carried on her late father’s legacy. The Perdue Farms are one of the leading producer poultry farms in the United States have a rich history of generational hand-overs. Arthur Perdue taught his son Frank, the business and upon Frank’s death in 1991 his son took over the operations.
Similarly, though my father has since retired, he taught me several life lessons that I now apply to my business. Here are some of these lessons.
A call to excellence
Every end of term brought “gnashing of teeth” in our family. Those who had done well “bounced” home to present their end of term results with joy. But some siblings delayed the journey home as much as possible. Every mark and every comment on the report card was scrutinised with thoroughness. If the comment was “Good” my father wanted to know why it was not “Very Good.” He required that we got the best marks in the class. Similarly, in the business world, we should always inculcate a spirit of excellence in our work. Though there is a lot to learn from our peers who have made it in the business fraternity, we do ourselves some justice if we learn what makes them produce excellent results. My favourite quote on excellence is from John Gardner, “Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well”.
Education is perennial
My father was and is still a believer in the power of education. To this end, he ensured that we got the best education he could afford. All of my siblings with the exception of one attended the best mission schools in the country. Though there are “rumblings” within the current SME space on how inadequate academic education as a catalyst for entrepreneurship, I still maintain that it has its place within the educational and social growth of a child. As an entrepreneur the academic education that I received from these schools has been extremely beneficial.
My father, imparted in me a lifelong passion for learning.
In fact, there is absolutely no excuse for an entrepreneur not to learn. According to the Entrepreneur Magazine, 50 percent of US companies fail in five years after their launch, simply because their owners lack specific business related skills. Several resources on the internet such as Udemy and Linked in Business are great resources to acquire business knowledge.
The beauty of managing time well
I spent my early years in an area called Charter Sawmill in Chimanimani. Back then it was not difficult to find land for small scale farming. My father had lots of these small farms doted across our area. Every day we were given tasks ‘‘mugwazo.” You then had to decide if you wanted to do it after school or before you went to school. (Wheat was particularly irksome to cut). Though playtime was doubly important you had to ensure that your “mugwazo” was finished before he came back from work. Similarly, in business I have learnt that time management is very important and more-so delivering on deadlines is also equally important. That famous “feel good adage” that states that there no hurry in Africa” should simply thrown out of the window. According to the Harvard Business Review, surveys have found that time management skills but at the same time among the rarest skills to find.
I know you all might not believe this, but there was a time we had “feet inspection.” Cracked heels and dirt always riled my father. Why did he insist on this? His brand as a teacher depended upon how his children looked. So smartness and social etiquette were enforced with the entire rigour that he could muster. His mantra as I remember was “Know who you are”. What does your brand stand for? Do you enforce your brand identity as rigorously as possible? The market should understand and know what your brand stands for and you should be able to enforce the brand.
As long as I can remember my father gave back to his community and family as much as possible. A lot of people within his family passed through his hands. The fruits of those sacrifices are quite apparent in his retirement. As a company, SODECO sets time aside to offer business development services to grassroots women. A well penned and genuinely crafted Corporate Social Responsibility statement is a true asset to a company’s growth. Among many benefits a company has the potential to increase its brand visibility and customer loyalty index.
Celebrating milestones and appreciating hard work
Every milestone that was achieved by all of us and my mother were duly celebrated. You knew you made him proud when he fished out your report card and read it to anyone who would dare to listen. Similarly, is important for bosses to celebrate and appreciate the hard work that employees put in. My former boss, Patson Gasura, owner at Topline Research Solutions a pan African Research Company, is very good at this. All milestones were celebrated and he took time to drop an email if you had performed well. Imagine what this does to boost employee morale.
Every year when my sister visits from overseas she makes time to celebrate my fathers’ birthday. Every time the same testimonies always come out. Even though my father is a pensioner he never misses paying his tithe. His reward system for good grades was also very consistent. If you failed to make the top 10, there were no clothes for Christmas. Maintaining consistent quality output and character is a must for all SMEs. SMEs in the manufacturing sector are sometimes blamed for inconsistencies in delivering quality outputs.
Though my father raised seven children, a couple of other relatives and his siblings, he also managed to build an enviable real estate portfolio. As businesses we should always be on the lookout for investment opportunities especially in the real estate sector and within the money market. Even if crises such as Covid-19 you know for sure that you will always have something to fall back on
In conclusion, I would like to encourage all fathers out there to start impacting future generations through training our children both life and business skills. To my father thank you for Life Lessons well learnt. I sign off with a George Herbert quote” One father is more than a hundred school masters”.