I remember it like it was yesterday. We had just gotten back from a vacation in Hong Kong when my father got the news. He was fired from his job. As in, his employers had already replaced him with someone else. My parents looked at each other and walked into the home office, closing the door while my sister and I tried to listen in.

“I guess it’s finally time to start that business I talked about,” my father said. I never saw my mom’s face – only that she nodded and placed her hand on my father’s shoulder.

It’s been more than eight years since that incident, and I’ve seen some highs and lows in my father’s business. As much as I’d love to say that he was raking in the dough, there were some painful moments. Luckily, I learned a lot from his setbacks.

1. Know and Declare Your Worth

My dad didn’t get fired because he was a terrible employee. Rather, he got fired because he was too outspoken about illegal practices at his last job. Far from being a bad employee, he put in tons of time and effort into that job – working overtime with no extra pay and even using his own car to make deliveries. He was a trooper!

But he stopped being a doormat when that job was taken from him. He stood up and made something of himself.

When he started his own business, he did everything he could to land customers and build relationships with vendors. He worked all hours of the day. There were times when he would let a few invoices go late or give things away for free. This meant that those clients kept taking advantage of him. But over time, he learned what it really meant to be profitable, and he started enforcing due dates on payments and cutting off troublesome customers.

I saw him standing up for himself and demanding what he deserved. Today, I do the same.


2. Get Organized

No lie, I never saw my dad’s desk. It was piled high with papers and random product samples. My mother, sister, and I would go into his office and help him file papers every few weeks, only to have it messy again by the next session. This meant that he often missed invoices he needed to enter into his bookkeeping software and forgot payments to his suppliers. Once, he almost lost thousands of dollars because he forgot to invoice a big client.

Finally, he realized that he needed help and asked my mother, an accountant, to help with his paperwork. Together, they organized his desk and created systems for his paperwork. Magically, the business began running smoothly, and he felt less stressed as a result.

So what can you learn from this? Simple: organization is crucial for any job, not just a business. When I first started out in my career as a teacher, I made sure that my desk was clean and that everything was filed away. It helped to clear my head and focus on one thing at a time.

Don’t say filing paperwork and cleaning your desk isn’t helpful, because it is. The more organized you are, the more productive – and, dare I say, more successful – you will be.

3. Create Clear Boundaries

My father let a few payments slip by – in some cases, letting friends pay cost price. Not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing, but doing it more than a few times means that the business is no longer profitable.

There’s nothing wrong with saying no, especially if it means putting food on the table.

I thought that I was good at enforcing boundaries until I let an ex-boyfriend take advantage of me. It was a painful lesson to learn, and seeing what my dad went through only cemented the fact that saying no will help you thrive in your financial life.

A Final Thought

My dad may not know this, but I’m thankful that I got to see those ups and downs during his time in business. Of course, I can only speculate as to whether or not he was happy that he had made the leap into business. But in that process, I certainly learned a few valuable lessons from Dad that I’ll take with me to my grave.