Dad passed away on my birthday last year. Father’s Day had an unusual emptiness this year. The day was full of mixed thoughts and feelings. Dad may be gone, but not forgotten. His advice and examples that he set through the years live on.

I spent time on Father’s Day organizing my garage and tinkering with things like dad used to. Dad was very organized. He believed, that “there’s a place for everything and everything has its place”. Tinkering and organizing gave me time to think about dad’s favorite hobby. Dad was a philosopher.

Dad was constantly thinking and sharing advice. For instance, dad believed in understanding history because it could prevent us from making the same mistakes again. A good example is the wars caused by religious differences. Dad also spent time understanding people by talking to everyone. He never knew a stranger. Dad learned a lot through his 92 years of listening.

Recently a friend asked me what I’ve learned in business through the years. I believe the question could have been rephrased to say, “what should we learn through the years” or maybe even “how did dad live his life through the years?” Here are some basic things I’ve learned in life and business.

The benefit of age allows us to develop a stronger “sixth sense” to guide us to improve. We can look back at what has worked well for others and ourselves. If we learn from the past and constantly make adjustments, there is hope to live a very good life.

It helps to copy the traits of happy people and ignore or avoid the negative people. A positive person I admired at an early age was Monsignor Schuster, our parish priest at Ulysses, Nebraska. He could brighten any room with his heartwarming smile and encouraging words. His life was full of forgiveness and happiness. Imagine a world full of people like Monsignor Schuster that are kinder and gentler.

I’ve learned the plumbing and HVAC industry is like most businesses that get lost in the grind of competition and jealousy. It doesn’t have to be like that. We have a lot in common and there is room for everyone to do well that do the right things for the right reasons.

If I could be granted one “trade type of wish” it would be for everyone in our trades to work closer together for the betterment of our customers. Our true job is to protect our customer’s health by providing quality plumbing and HVAC. My door is always open to competitors so we can share our knowledge. Yes, I respect you and want to hear your opinions.

I’ve learned to accept the fact there is everyone from great customers to customers that make poor decisions. The informed customers make it easy to do the right things in business. For instance, removing tree roots from sewers is only a temporary fix. Tree roots indicate a broken pipe. Roots will continue to enter the pipe at an even faster pace. My goal is for customers to ask if they do not have all the answers.

A challenge will always be charging the right amount that allows businesses to remain profitable, but yet keep customers satisfied they were treated fairly. Some customers would like the work for free, but most have a realistic understanding of overhead costs. Ninety percent of plumbing and HVAC companies fail within 10 years; typically, poor accounting practices in billing are the cause!

An important thing I learned in business through the years is to put myself in the shoes of my customers and try to understand what they are feeling. All companies make mistakes. The responsible companies listen and make adjustments so they can rise above those mistakes.

I’ve learned to avoid discussing politics and religion; especially in the climate of politics today. Hopefully, there will be a day when political parties will set aside their differences and act more like kindergarten kids that have learned how to get along. Open and honest communication could help this country heal.

It’s important to “have no regrets”. Life has been very good by giving me forty-three happy years of marriage, three beautiful daughters, and this last week we gained one more grandchild. We are at 15 now!

It’s also important to say thanks to all that make life better. Thanks for all you do! Those are some things we should learn, but we are also very human.

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