Board Director | Advisory Board Member | Interim CEO

Working with Dad: 13 Rules for Success

father-sonWorking with your Dad in a family business can be the best decision you have ever made or the worst experience of your life.

For a successful relationship, both parties need to put their egos aside and think about what’s best for the company.

For me, it was the best experience of my life.  It gave me knowledge, experience and the chance to spend quality time with my Dad.

Read About Me and learn how I became the 3rd generation to join the family shoe business.

My Dad taught me 13 Rules for success:

  1. Reputation is everything:  Be honest and ethical.  All you have is your reputation so build it and guard it
  2. Treat people right:  Make people feel special and important.
  3. Listen:  You may not like what you hear, but you will always learn something.
  4. Keep your Commitments:  Whether you shake someone’s hand or sign a contract:  Do what you say you are going to do.
  5. Go the extra miles:  Do what needs to be done and then do more.  Don’t’ just deliver, but over deliver.
  6. Teach by example:  Show the world that what you say is what you do.
  7. Learn by walking around:  This is the most important way to learn what is happening in your company.  It also gives you a chance to communicate with your employees.
  8. Give back to the community:  Donate time and money to the community that made you successful.
  9. Compromise is not a dirty word:  It shows employees, customers and vendors you are fair.
  10. Be open to new innovations:  Always evaluate any idea or technology that will make your product better or cheaper to produce.
  11. Pursue your passions:  Our time is short.  Do not do things you are not passionate about. 
  12. Don’t sweat the small stuff:  Decide what’s important and work on those items.  The small stuff will take care of it’s self.
  13. Your first Loss is your best loss:  If you have a problem, resolve it at the lowest cost and don’t look back.

Bonus:  Leave business problems at the office:  My dad and I resolved business problems at the office.  The success of our family business was based on separation of business and family life.

Which rule resonates with you?  Why?

Can you share other rules you learned from your Dad?

P.S. – Do you need an Outside Director, Advisory Board Member, Trusted Advisor,  or Interim CEO?  Someone who can help you see your business and your goals through “Fresh Eyes.”  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.  Sometimes all it takes is someone with a fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture to help find the right solution.

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About Larry Putterman

Technology and Industrial Executive specializing in next-stage growth and competitive advantage strategy. serial entrepreneur, CEO, and board director. Husband, father... and major golf and fishing enthusiast!


  1. Larry , these are excellent and very real and relevant rules of the Family Business world. From my experience, I believe your Bonus Rule is one of the most fundamental rules. When is the family mindset required and best in a particular situation and when is the business/managerial mindset required. This is both art and science, but overall it demands habits and behaviors that are well defined for each situation. Thanks Cheryl

    • Larry Putterman says:

      Cheryl, Thanks for your comments and thoughts concerning habits and behaviors in family business.

  2. Gary Bush says:

    Great piece Larry – thanks for sharing it. My father died before I graduated college, but I worked with him on weekends and vacations since about middle school. What amazed me was that he felt that every one of these rules needed to be applied. There wasn’t any one rule to emphasize that would let you ease up any of the others without risking your integrity. Over the years, it seems that when I remember such rules, success happens more easily and is more gratifying as well. And the failures? well, they are less likely to be something avoidable that I would regret, and just the normal forces of entropy and risk that make life interesting.

    • Larry Putterman says:

      Gary…Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences with your Dad. I especially liked that remembering makes success easier. Thank you.

  3. Well, your father’s advice are surely great for every body! But since they are “your father’s advice” YOU’ve been quite intelligent in understanding and following them.
    Sometimes younger generations are not so humble to listen and learn…
    Well done to both of you

  4. Along the lines of #2, treat both your clients AND employees fair. Make sure to take the time to listen to your employees and value the time and effort they have placed in your company. I cannot stress how important it is for employees to feel valued and noticed. This is the group you leave in charge at the office with your name, they are not just anybody.
    The bonus rule is one that can be quite difficult to keep – as kids, we grew up listening to work “drama” every day (having parents that worked together) and now that I have joined my parents’ team I find myself getting caught in the work drama too. Thankfully, I no longer live in my parents’ home- which makes it easier. There is a thin line of what is healthy and what is stress-inducing and it is different for everyone. What works for my parents may not work so well for me. Over time, I see what I am comfortable with discussing out of the office and what I am not, as well as, what I should vent to my husband about and what I should not.

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