715.607.0478 tj@tjtisonpropels.com

I recently sat down with a man who spent the majority of his life running his own business.

man with cane

He has since sold his business and retired decades ago.

I asked him what three things he learned in all of those years as a business owner.  Before social media, KPI’s, Six Sigma.

When business was all about rolling up your sleeves and making happen by the sweat of your brow.  No seminars, no books on leadership, no business consultants (gasp!).


I expected to hear some deep insights from a lifetime spent on his labor of love.  Something that would change my business, and give me wisdom to help other’s change theirs.  Here’s what I got instead:

1. It all comes down to the people.

If you take care of your customers and your employees, you will always have a good business.  If you don’t have people, you don’t have a business, plain and simple.  If you make your business about anything except for people, you’ll be miserable and so will your business.

2. The government makes it difficult to do business.

If the government didn’t stick their nose in every business. If they made things easier for the honest and kept it hard for the crooks, the business world would be a better place.  Business owners who work hard and want to do the right thing are punished because of those who do the wrong thing, and that ain’t right.  They change their mind every four years about how and what they want businesses to do.  The hoops you have to jump through keep getting smaller and they’re always moving.

3. He’d never do it again.

#1 & #2 I have heard before and even written about.

#1-It’s true that it’s all about people.  If you haven’t learned that one yet, you need to learn it fast.  We can control what we make our business about.  Customers don’t buy from a business, they buy from other people.  Employees don’t work for a business, they work for people.

#2-Also true, the government does make it difficult, and one person can ruin it for everyone else.  That’s why I believe we need to know policy, influence it where we can, and be involved in our political system.

#3 I wasn’t expecting.  Never do it again?


  • He liked his work, but didn’t love it.
  • His business took precedence over his family.
  • He didn’t have much to show for all his hard work in the end.

What can we take away from the hard lessons learned by one who has gone before us?

1. Choose Passion.

It’s one thing to like your work, it’s another to be passionate about it.  I recently heard a business owner say that weekends are too long for him.  He is so in love with what he does that by Sunday afternoon, he is itching to get back to work.  He is passionate about what he does, he enjoys doing it, it feeds his soul.

[Tweet “Choose a business that feeds your soul instead of one that sucks the life out of it.”]

2. Choose family over work.

This is a hard one for most of us who are driven and passionate about our businesses.  But the fact is that your business can wait, and your family cannot.  Your work will still be there, but one day your kids will be gone.  Be relentless in making and protecting time with family.

3. Choose making a difference over making money.

Money is great.  We all need it to survive.  But it won’t last.  What will last is the impact we make on lives through our businesses.  Whether it’s a product or service that you provide, make sure it has an impact beyond your bank account.  After all, you can’t take it with you, you can only leave something behind.

I don’t know about you, but when I am in my later years and some whipper snapper asks me what three things I learned from owning my business, I don’t want #3 to be on my list.  Sure there will always be things I wish I did differently, but I want #3 to be,

“Given the chance, I’d do it all over again!”

How about you?

Does #3 make you stop and re-evaluate your business?

I challenge you to ask a “seasoned” business owner to list their three things.  Let me know what you find out.