From Joan Isabella, StartupNation Radio consultant
My father is celebrating his 80th birthday this week. So I will try out my toast to him on you.
First a little background: When my parents married, they had two children in two years, but they didn’t (as they like to say) have two nickels to rub together. My Dad worked two jobs to pay the rent. Those jobs varied, but included parking cars at night and working as an efficiency engineer at the electric company. He went to work full-time at a steel fabrication business, and at some point borrowed money to buy the company the year I was born, 1959.
My whole life, my father was an entrepreneur. And looking back, starting up was in my blood and my upbringing. I never remember that exact word–entrepreneurship–used to describe his work. He was just the guy in charge. The guy a lot of people depended on to feed their families.
There were many good years. I spend my childhood summers on the Jersey shore swimming and rowing my own little boat. But there were recessions too. The fabricating work they did came and went with the economy. When municipalities didn’t expand their complexes or build new schools, his business suffered. My father wouldn’t take pay so that he didn’t’ have to lay anyone off.
At some point as an adult, I learned that my father had been offered a lucrative position by an extremely successful friend, but turned it down. He was his own man, and didn’t want to be the second banana to anyone, not even his best friend. In his hey day, he led his competitors in a successful campaign against the steel producers; he hammered out agreements with the unions and built a new facility for his company.
From my view he was a big man, though he stands barely 5’6” tall.
Mostly I remember him screaming at my swim meets. He never missed one. I could even hear him when my head was under water, and he was always hoarse for the rest of the weekend.
My Dad’s favorite song is Frank Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way.”
So here’s my toast: Thank you Daddy, for teaching us by example; for standing up for your beliefs; for being there to cheer us on. And most of all, for doing it your way. Happy Birthday.