February marked the five-year anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year, there are painful emotions. Questions. Tears. But this year, there was also a lot of healthy reflection. Not only on her life, but how her life — instead of her death — affected me. And especially my businesses.
I'm an an entrepreneur. I have a passion to see things grow, and I love investing in people and watching them maximize their potential. It seriously excites me. My mother, Julie, loved that, too. We had a family business growing up and I learned a lot by watching her. I could never list all the things she taught me, but as I thought back this year, there are three things that stand out.
- Relationships matter. My mom made time for people, invested in them, shared both their victories and defeats. What always amazed me was how much she cared about the people in her life. She would stop whatever she was doing if someone needed her time or attention. Watching her live this way ingrained it in me. Whether it's an employee, colleague, business partner, or client, investing in the relationship is paramount. If someone likes you, they'll want to work for or with you. It's that simple.
- Outwork everyone...with excellence. My mom was a tenacious worker. She ran the finances and operations for my parents small business growing up, while running our household, and organizing and leading a number of church and school events. She never slacked. She never skimped. Completing a task wasn't enough — it was about doing that task at an extremely high level to ensure you did it your best. Before running my own companies I worked for several companies. I was blessed to move up, and move up quickly. Why? Because I refused the shortcuts. Today, our businesses are growing because of the example my mother set.
- Serve. Growing up, Christmas morning was memorable. Not only would we read the story of Jesus’ birth, open presents, and spend time together, but we would also do something very unique. See, before we were able to even start playing with our toys, Mom would load us up in the car and we would head down to the local homeless shelter where we'd serve a Christmas meal to hundreds of people. Each Christmas she made sure to take the focus off of us and put it on others who needed help. She showed us that the best gift we'll ever give anyone is our time and attention. This couldn’t be more true in the business world. Whether it's bringing doughnuts in for your team, being the first person to make those annoying cold calls, or taking time to help someone in your organization with something that doesn't affect you, giving your time and attention to promote another person’s needs over yours breeds trust, respect, and a high-functioning team. My mom taught me that the best leaders are the most gracious servants.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about my mom, and I'm overwhelmed to think about the effect she's had on me. I thank God for allowing me to be with her for as long as He did. The funny thing is, even though she's gone, she’s still teaching me things.
Thank you, Mom.
Adam Kail is the founder and CEO of Brothers Leather Supply Co. and Harrison Gray, an executive search firm. He resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Beth, and their three children. He has also partnered with I Am Second on a collection of premium leather products.