What I Learned From My Dad About Sales, Marketing, and Life

Christi Wharton

Content Marketing Consultant, 15+ Years of Digital Marketing Strategy Expertise

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What I Learned From My Dad About Sales, Marketing, and Life Blog Feature

Published on June 14th, 2019

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My dad, Eddie Dicus, was 54 when he died of cancer in 1992.

As we approach Father’s Day, he and everything he taught me comes to mind.

My dad was the most positive person I’ve ever known.

When asked how he was, the answer was always, “If I was any better, I couldn’t stand it” - and he meant it!

He loved people, and people loved him. His bigger than life presence and infectious smile filled every room he entered.

He was also a serial entrepreneur.

He started out in the family grocery business and went on to sell everything from campers/RVs, boats and motorcycles to appliances and more.

Even though he lived in a pre-digital world, there are many lessons I learned from him about sales, marketing, and life. Here are just a handful of them.

1. Visuals Are Important

My dad loved to put together eye-catching displays.

In the grocery business, his favorite department was produce (so many colors to work with).

He actually won a national award for his apple display. He knew how to display the brightly colored peppers and squash and tomatoes in a display that would make your mouth water.

Today, we still love eye-catching displays. Colors and placement in marketing are still important. In fact, over 84% of all marketing

strategies today use images, animated GIFs, graphics, video, and signs as visuals. Visual communication has more impact when passing information to people.

My dad understood this. It was important in the pre-digital age, and it is still important today.

Note: If you want to get more specific, see how the color green - as in cucumber - work in design.

2. Do What You Love

I also learned from him that you should do what you love and have a passion for.

When you love your job, love what you are selling, your enthusiasm shines through.

Our camper/RV business, for example, began after a family camping trip. We had such a great time, my dad wanted to continue that joy and share it with everyone!

He got the entire family involved in the business.  We were the marketing department - writing slogans, filming commercials, and helping with ad copy.

In her teens, my younger sister was the TV personality for the motorcycle business.

She became famous for ending every commercial with the line, “Out the door, ready to ride - come see us.”

We weren’t only the marketing department, though.

My older sister’s strength was with numbers.

She and my mother helped keep the books. My brother worked with the mechanic guys.

I did a little of everything - filming commercials, doing payroll, handling accounts receivable and accounts payable, running the cash register, visiting with customers and I was even known to push a broom when needed.

Daddy felt it was important to know your strengths and do what you do well, but always be willing to try something new if you had a passion for it. He always loved what he was doing and that made his work enjoyable for him and for us.

3. Work-Life Balance Is a Must

Businesses didn’t really talk about work culture back in that day.  So, Daddy was ahead of the curve in that concern. He made work a lot of fun.

In the grocery business, people enjoyed contests where they bench pressed 25-pound sacks of potatoes. Other workers faced different challenges to complete work or to meet goals.

There was always a great reward for meeting difficult goals or completing a challenging task, like treating the entire team to a nice dinner or a weekend at the lake. He always wanted people who worked for him to know when they did a good job and that they were appreciated.

Life isn’t just about work though.

He really understood the need for work-life balance.

On weekends, we would often take trips to the lake where he taught all of us kids and all of our friends how to water ski.

You could often find my dad grilling hamburgers for 6 to 20+ people who showed up at our house. All of our friends knew they were welcome.

He not only had fun at work and at home, but he also enjoyed seeing everyone else having fun.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

I suppose it would be great if everything in our lives was successful, but then we would never have those great, and sometimes painful, life lessons to learn from.

Daddy liked to remind us that the only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything.

Of course, understanding that we all make mistakes and sometimes fail, he taught us to be adaptable and to learn from our failures.

We learned to make changes when necessary to grow and keep moving forward. One of his favorite sayings was, “you can’t drive down the road looking in the rearview mirror.”

Fear of failure often stops us from trying new things and experimentation is important in marketing.

When we fail it is painful, yes, but by learning from our mistakes, we become better, not only in our fields but as people as well.

If we learn something, it was not a failure. It is your choice. As Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

5. Change Is Inevitable

My dad taught us that nothing in life stays the same. He had to learn to pivot, and so did we.

As the 1970’s oil crisis took its toll on people driving RVs for camping trips, he had to make changes.

He could see this as a problem, or an opportunity to try something new. He taught us to embrace change and see each new opportunity as an adventure.

Today, we still need to keep an eye on the economic and marketing climate and change accordingly.

Learning to pivot has been an important lesson in my own life. The way we live and do business has changed a great deal since my dad was in business.

Here at IMPACT, we make changes as well. We have made changes in our team structure and services, sometimes frequently. Being adaptable and willing to make changes is part of what will make us strong.

6. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

While change will happen, you should still have a plan.

This may be one of the most practical things I learned from my dad.

I love to plan and I always have to-do lists. Even with all of the technology available today, I still hand write my to-do list every day. I love checking things off.

In marketing, we always want to start our projects with a plan and strategy in mind.

Working the plan is what will help us achieve our goal.

As my dad would say, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever know when you get there!”

7. Never Stop Learning

dad-graduationDaddy loved learning.

My younger sister and I both have degrees in education. So, when we were in college, Daddy loved to ask us about the teaching methods we were learning so he could use them.

He had degrees in marketing and accounting and earned certificates from Dale Carnegie, but he was always looking to learn more. When he was 49 years old, he d even enrolled in theological seminary and earned a masters degree in religious education. He could never learn enough.

Today, we are at a time when knowledge is doubling every 12 hours! My dad learned by reading books or taking courses. Today, we have so many more options.

I know that I need to learn new technology and learning methods in order to do my job well.

My 80-year-old mother has learned to text to be able to communicate with her children and grandchildren.

We must continue to learn to be able to adapt to the incredible changes that are always happening to stay relevant and ultimately deliver the best experience to our audiences and customers. (see point 5 above).

8. Show You Care

My dad learned that caring about people is an important step in communication.

He would tell us that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That may not be original to him, but he lived it out every day.

To me, this speaks to empathy. When we really care about the people we are working with, whether it is in sales and marketing or with our co-workers, it shows. It’s the thought behind Radical Candor.  

When people know you care, they are more receptive to feedback and are more emotionally invested in doing well.

This is something you can’t fake. Really caring about a good outcome for a client, co-worker or friend makes for better more productive relationships.

Life Is Short

Of course, life is shorter for some than others. When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he made sure to have special time with each of his four children.

He talked about how he didn’t want to die, but how he was not afraid of it. He shared with us the things that were important to him as well as lots of laughter and tears.

While he shared many professional lessons with me (like those above), I think in his dying, he left some of the most important life lessons of all.

Live every day. Don’t waste time and energy on small things that don’t really matter. Make sure that people you care about, know you care about them. Enjoy today. It may be all you have.

My dad’s life was well-lived. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little about him and that you can use some of the lessons learned from a great man who was a great dad.

Happy Father’s Day from all of us at IMPACT!

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