When I was 7 I worked in a multi-million pound electronics company
I learnt everything I know about business from my dad.
With his ‘laugh-on-demand’ negotiation technique, witty sarcasm, and a knack for remembering the little details of his customer’s lives, my dad has always been able to spin a simple conversation into a fruitful transaction. The archetype of a Lebanese entrepreneur, he has customer romancing mastered to a fine art. And I’d like to use this article to throw my dad a little nod of appreciation.
Whilst introducing my brother and I into his own business as mere children, it wasn’t long before we knew everything there was to know about the mystical world of electronic components.
At the tender ages of 7 and 5, we would work on order forms and load semiconductors into shipping tubes. We would pack invoices, and slobber-close hundreds of white envelopes with our little Lebanese tongues. I would tell my school friends that my dad sold flyback transformers, I had no idea what they were. But I was certain it had something to do with saving the world.
Even when we’d finish our tasks, my brother and I loved going to work because my dad possessed such a fine array of stationary. We would gather supplies like magpies, and spend long afternoons working on a diverse arts and crafts portfolio for our lucky parents to enjoy.
I would dutifully cut and staple different types of foam packing boards into smiling robot faces, and we would use reams of printer paper to draw pictures using Red Leaf marker pens. And when we needed a break, we would wheel ourselves around on his spinning chairs, simultaneously sniffing pens until we were dizzy and, quite possibly, high.
But the best part of all?
Listening to my dad answering client phone calls.
In fact, I’m convinced that my own crazy stint in software sales was entirely driven by a desire to get a little closer to this enigmatic dad-man, forever sat behind his big old desk. I was in awe of the crazy, energetic, managing director that made people shout with laughter down the phone.
Were work phone calls really that exciting?
You see, at home, my dad was serious and sullen. Always slumped in his favourite chair, holding onto the remote control like it was a morphine drip, and shouting at us to “shut up and play somewhere else!”
But when he was on a call at work, it was like he came alive. His manners: impeccable. His tone and delivery: delightful. His attention to his customers: flawless.
No matter how angry or upset he was, as soon a he lifted the phone out of its cradle, his voice took on the relaxed and cheerful sing-song of a man with everything under control.
“Hello, Nikko Electronics! How can I help you?”
I remember my brother and I imitating him endlessly. My dad’s “hello” was slanted with a Lebanese accent that blessed the end of his salutation with a few bonus ‘o’s’ so that his greeting was always smooth and hellooooo…
easing right into a sale.
And you know what? This stuck with me. The way he spoke on the phone really got inside my head, and became one of the defining features I cultivated and worked on in my own professional life. Funny that at such a young age I was so impressionable, but being able to talk to people on the phone is a fantastic soft skill that has continued to serve me even as a I transition into my career as a coach.
Having a good tele-side manner in the era of lazy emails is one of the few things that will always separate you from your competition when everything else you provide as a product is exactly the same.
Of course, times have changed and I don’t know anything about my dad’s work anymore, long gone are the days when I’d sit on the floor, helping to pack orders. Memories though, last a life time, and that is why it is so vitally important that we learn from the people around us, and cherish the valuable lessons that they teach us.
Value in itself can be found in anything and at any time of our lives, whether we are children experiencing something for the first time, or as adults reflecting on our past mistakes.
For us to reap the benefits of this passive learning opportunity that we receive throughout our lives, we need only to step into each new day with intentionality, and always maintain; a hunger for personal education, a mind open to change, and the ability to show up with authenticity in all that we do.