Mother’s Day was this month and I can’t help but think of my mom, Dorothy Fulton. She lived a glorious 92 years before passing away last spring. Besides all of her amazing maternal qualities, it has occurred to me lately that she also knew a thing or two about small business.
Maybe her entrepreneurial mindset came from being the daughter of a small town family doctor in Upper Michigan who delivered every baby in town. Or maybe this came from an Ivy League education at Barnard College/Columbia University where she majored in home economics. Quite possibly, at least some of this knowledge came from being married for 25 years to my dad who ran a very successful tire distribution business in Florida.
Whatever it was, my mom turned out to be my best coach as a small business owner and then as an executive coach. Here are just a handful of my learnings from mom:
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. While Steven Covey might have first written that in his best-selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, my mom was the poster child for great listening. All it took for her was to ask a number of the right questions and off I would go sometimes for hours at a time. She would just sit there and nod, smile on occasion, and allow me to keep talking.
- A great question is far more powerful than a good answer. Complimenting my mom’s amazing ability to listen was her innate curiosity. She asked fantastic questions. I never felt like I was being interrogated. I never felt defensive. The questions were soft and yet caused me to think much harder than I was prepared to do so at times. I rarely felt any judgment attached to the questions. Just a thirst for knowledge and the love of a mother.
- Emotional Intelligence. My mom could get along with anyone and everyone. Her EQ (Emotional Quotient) was off the charts. She had a way of making anyone feel important or special. She was highly empathetic and could sense how I was feeling at any given moment in time.
- Problem-solver. My favorite definition of Marketing is as follows, “Marketing means solving customer problems profitably.” Mom was a professional problem-solver. I would oftentimes share issues or decisions that I might be facing and then I would return to see her the next week and she would not only have a solution but sound reasoning or logic to accompany her decision. In her later years, mom lived in a retirement community and I would marvel at the ease in which she would deal with some of the problems she encountered in that facility without raising a stink or causing an uproar.
- I once read best-selling author Jim Collins describe leadership as follows,”The art of getting people to want to do what must be done.” I’m not sure my mom ever read that book or took that class, but she was very good at getting family members, friends, and colleagues to do things that we didn’t always want to do or know how to do… and do it. She never raised her voice. I never felt threatened or manipulated. I just did what I was told. I was terrified of disappointing her.
So on this Mother’s day, I raise my glass and toast Mom for all she taught me about small business and life. On this special day, Moms MATTER.