A Good Name
I remember starting my first business venture as an adult in my small hometown of Hayward, Wisconsin, back in 1982. I felt, for lack of a better word, a lot of privilege in being the son of Gwen and Owen Smith, my parents. Both my parents grew up in Hayward and my dad was a farmer and later a businessman. He operated an excavating company and bought and sold real estate. My parents had established a good name in the community over the years. That good name went a long way in helping me to get good opportunities. It helped me quickly gain trust that might not have been immediately available to everyone. I am so grateful for that foundation they laid. On it I started my entrepreneurial journey.
My Own Name
And then I remember thinking to myself, I don’t just want to be known as Gwen and Owen’s son. I want to make my own name for myself too. It did not take long for me to learn that the family name had opened the door but it would be my own competency and character that would keep that door open. In my business I was only as good or trustworthy as my last interaction with my followers. Eventually my employer, employees or customers would not care about the family name or the great reference from a friend or past employer. All they would care about is who I was, or more importantly, who I was becoming as a person and leader. Then I would start to establish my own name and reputation.
What I Learned
It is good to take full advantage of who you know and their willingness to give you a foot in the door. In this world we need all the help we can get. But don’t put too much stock in how far that name or reference will get you. All too quickly, you will be required to stand on your own two feet and start making your own name. Your own good work ethic, good character and a humble spirit are definitely needed for success. Even these won’t necessarily guarantee you success, but they will guarantee that you won’t leave the person who gave you the “leg up” looking like a fool.