By:  The Hair Society,
Principal Editor
The Hair Society

My dad always dragged me to business meetings. I remember one time in the seventies he had two visitors from Minneapolis come to see him. He was furious to find me not sitting in on the meeting. We lived above the studio back then and I was doing what every other 9 year old was doing – watching Gilligan’s Island. God he was mad. I can still hear him as he marched me downstairs where I would not contribute a squeak. “Don’t you know how much money we could make with these people?” Well, no, I didn’t. But I sat in on the meeting and listened while they talked biz stuff.

My dad was always doing that. He would take me with him to the post office in the evening to send out the wholesale orders. He would take me with him when visitors were in town and he had to treat them to dinner. And I wasn’t always listening, but sometimes I was. And as time went on and things developed I was able to have an archive of discussions past and outcomes present and be able to chalk up some experience. I have ignored my own experience and my own advise on numerous occasions and have beat myself over the head because of it, but thats human, right? I know its not smart.

1. The guy that says “There’s enough for everyone.” is looking to take every last crumb for himself.
2. Saying “Wholesalers are whores” is an insult to whores.
3. Never, EVER, trust someone that calls you “Brother” or “Friend”.

We are all still learning. If you tell me you are not then my first impulse is to feel sorry for you. But learning is not always fun. Maybe thats why we sometimes avoid it.

And now I find myself in my father’s spot. Having a son in the family business. In taking over the business that my parents built I made some changes, but strategically the model is still the same. And it has been a financially successful way to provide for my family, see the world, and help many people along the way. So when my son was very young I started to follow my father’s model again. I tried to take him to meetings and dinners. But this time there was resistance. My wife Tracey, his mother, would always intervene on his side: “He’ll be so bored, Michael,” she would tell me. “Well, yeah. So what’s your point?” But she always got him out of coming along.

Until he decided that maybe the family business was worth looking into. Now he did something that I failed to do. He actually graduated form hairstyling school. He knows how to work with hair. He knows how to service a bonded client. But the other stuff I can’t help but think that he missed out on. That maybe I should have insisted that “Dammit, he’s coming to this Transitions Group meeting and learn how to be bored to tears with the rest of us.”

I have to say that I am proud of how he is getting along. He has his clients and they love the way he works with them and chats them up (where does he get that?). I send him to meetings now. I get to stay home and deal with my bbq instead of airport security. I won’t embarrass him any more than I have to. And this is pretty weak beer compared with the embarrassing moments my dad put me through. But as a father its great to see my son moving along in a business that can bring so many people a greater enjoyment of life. One thing that really impresses me is how cheap he is. He will walk miles instead of paying for the bus. He already has more money stashed away than the majority of North Americans. And even with his Scrooge of a boss paying him minimum wage and his mother charging him rent. Being a saver is a great habit to have. And its essential as a businessman. When you are built like that you can afford to make a few mistakes. Rob Pemberton, an old friend of mine that I have known for over thirty years, is a V.P. at one of the largest banks in North America. When he is talking to his new employees he tells them, “Its easy to recover from a mistake in your 20’s. Its not impossible in your 30’s. But in your 40’s…you’re pretty much done.” He also has a saying, “Never force it, just get a bigger hammer”. A dictum for management if I ever heard one.

I remember being at a Thanksgiving dinner that my wife’s parents put together many years ago. Tracey’s from a Toronto Italian family whose relations and friends extend to the horizon. There was a family friend there, a father who was bursting with pride for his daughter. Tracey had just given birth to our first daughter so I was interested in what he was so proud about. This dad’s birthday present to his daughter a couple years earlier was giving her a loan (at one point below prime) for her to purchase her first car. And she had just paid it off. I’ll never forget his words that day: “Never rob your children of an accomplishment.”

When I hear that there are offspring in their 30’s that are still getting their cell phone bills paid by their aging parents I think of him. So maybe I didn’t do too bad. But I feel like I do not do as well as my father in allowing him to make mistakes. I did have a great opportunity in my 20’s to start up my own wholesale business and I cut my teeth on that. I look back with not a little satisfaction that some of the ideas that I tried in the early nineties have proven to be so successful and are now taken for granted. It would be great to find him that kind of vehicle and then just sit back and grind my teeth when I see him messing up.

One thing for sure, he won’t be bored.


Continental Hair

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