My Father’s Business: What I Learned But Wasn’t Taught


In all the serious textbooks you’ll find that “pedagogy” means child learning and “andragogy” means adult learning. You’ll also find that in general terms, the experts believe that children learn best by “being told” and adults learn by “doing”.

Maybe, maybe not: but I know that I learned a vast amount about business by simply observing my father in his business. And by having his business all around me until I married and left home at the age of 26.

Here are the major things I learned.


Are you familiar with the book “Positioning, The Battle for the Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout? It was first published in 1981. I believe that it’s one of the finest marketing books ever written. It’s still in print.

My father practiced “positioning” for all his business life. His target market was small “lolly shops” and “milk bars”. They catered particularly for children with small amounts of many to spend. Officially, he was known as a “wholesale confectionery distributor”. But the only products he sold were what he called “kids lines”. Lollies and sweets made especially for kids.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember going into such a shop with a quarter or a dime or a penny or the equivalent. You’ll also remember the open boxes of lollies or “sweets” at say, a cent or a penny each or three or five a cent or a penny. You’d choose from a large number of open boxes and try to get maximum value for your sixpence or five or ten cents. The shopkeeper would take your selection from the boxes and place them in a small bag. You’d take the bag and pay.

Today you buy such lollies in supermarkets prepacked in bags of ten or twenty lollies.

Dad specialized completely in selling “kids lines” to small shops. The shops were usually family businesses. He didn’t sell chocolate bars or candy bars or boxes of chocolates. He concentrated on selling “kids lines” to specialist shops that were frequented by children.

That’s how I learned the importance of a clear business focus, a narrow well defined target market and a very specific product. He never mentioned either to me or my brothers or sister. But we knew. Al and Jack merely confirmed, decades later, what Dad had practiced.

Business Purpose

I decided to start my own business in 1978. I discussed my plans with my accountant. His was a very successful business that he’d built over a decade. He’d started with only a handful of clients. He himself was quite wealthy.

“What are you doing it for, Leon?” he asked. “To make money, of course,” I replied. “Don’t be silly,” he answered. “anyone can make money. What would you like to be able to do in 10-15 years time that you can’t do now?” I thought for a moment: “I’d like to know a lot about Australian food and wine,” I replied. “OK,” he said. “Do it for that. You see, you must have a purpose for being in business independent of the business itself.”

I can’t claim to be an authority on Australian food and wine. But over the last few decades, I’ve eaten some wonderful meals and tasted some outstanding wines.

My father understood this idea well. He ran his business so that he could afford to take us on two weeks holiday at the seaside each Christmas and a week each Easter. My mother also enjoyed musical theatre. Dad ensured that they saw all the big musicals when they were produced in Melbourne.

He worked to ensure that his business made enough money to provide holidays and theatre visits for the family. This also meant that my sister and I had swimming lessons from an early age. And I saw a stage production of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun” when I was only 9 years old. These sorts of things pleased my father greatly.

Creating Desire

Almost every time Dad stopped his vanload of sweets and lollies outside a shop, he’d attract an audience of kids. Many knew who he was and what he sold. They’d mill around the open back door of the van anxious to see what to them must have seemed shelves stacked with boxes of gold.

Dad never told the kids to go away. He realized that they were the eventual consumers of his “kid’s lines”. He’d say, “Look but don’t touch” or “Leave some room for me”. But he never gave a lolly away for free. Had he done so he would have been competing with the shopkeepers, his direct clients.

The kids who hung around the back of the van were mostly boys. Dad called everyone “Jack”. “Keep away from the door, Jack,” he’d say or “You can buy these right now in the shop Jack”.

He was most surprised one day when a boy opened his eyes very wide and said to him, “How did you know my name was Jack?”

Knowing What You Don’t Know

Small, family run businesses were Dad’s focus. “Kid’s lines” were his specialty. He knew relatively little about chocolate, candy bars and boxes of expensive lollies aimed at the top end of the market. He didn’t care that he didn’t. He was never distracted from his core business and his target market.

People often said to him, “Clem, with customers all over Melbourne you could expand your business by selling all sorts of confectionery. But he stuck to what he knew. He was frequently approached by confectionery makers who wanted him to carry their “latest big thing in confectionery”. He resisted their approaches and their blandishments. He knew what he didn’t know. He trusted his customers. They trusted him.

Buy Everything Else Around The Corner

One of my favourite business sayings runs like this: “Do only those things to which you bring a unique perspective. Buy everything else around the corner”.

Dad put his personal stamp on his business. As kids growing up we learned this very quickly. He would tell us stories about how other “jobbers” – that’s what wholesale confectionery distributors were called then – had branched out into other confectionery associated areas, expanded their product ranges and expanded their business.

But Dad knew something else that Al and Jack pointed out decades later. Line extension is often the first step along business failure road. Do what you do best; better than anyone else can do it. “Stick to your knitting” as the old-timers used to say. I’m not sure how Dad learned that himself. But he followed the principles religiously.

Pushbike To…

I wasn’t born until 1939. Dad graduated from selling lollies from a pushbike. First, he bought a horse and cart. He had no affinity for animals. There are many family anecdotes about his trouble with his horse. Before I came along in 1939 he bought his first van. It was a Chevy, about the size of what we’d call a “combivan” today. In 1956 he replaced it with a large van. He also built a large storeroom behind our home.

The bank he’d dealt with since he started business was reluctant to support the construction of the storeroom and the purchase of the large van. Dad was disappointed. He wasn’t stopped. He changed banks.

Customers First

Dad worked long hours. His work was physically demanding. He carried stacks of boxes full of lollies from van to storeroom to van to shop. But he tried not to interfere with shopkeeper’s busy periods. He’d start calling on customers around 8 am. He’d stop around 7.30 pm. As he worked many years before seven day trading became commonplace in Australia, he worked only Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings.

He’d visit manufacturers to purchase stock during the middle of the day. That suited them. It also meant that he avoided interfering with shopkeepers’ daytime trading.

His long hours didn’t always please my mother. But they pleased his customers.

At festive times such as Christmas and Easter, Dad always tried to have special stocks readily available for customers. At these times, he’d put aside special chocolate gifts for my sister and I. But customers come first.

I still remember customers phoning at say, Easter, begging for chocolate Easter eggs because they had no stock left. He’d always do what he could to help. This included asking my sister and I if he could “buy” our eggs from us and resell them. He’d pay us for the purchase. We always agreed. We had access to all the lollies we could eat. As kids we welcomed the cash!

A Few Other Things

Dad started and ran his business from 1930 – 1971, when he retired at the age of 72. The pocket calculator, Mac, PC and cell phone to say nothing of the iPad and iPhone were barely glints in Steve Jobs and others’ eyes.

But he needed to do complex calculations every day. He was an absolute “whizz” at what was then called “mental arithmetic”. He used imperial measures such as pounds and ounces, dozens – 12 – and the gross – 144. Decimal currency wasn’t adopted in Australia until 1966.

But none of this bothered my father. He could mentally calculate say, one gross of acid balls at 2/6 a dozen – two shillings and sixpence – less a volume discount of 2.5% and a discount for cash of 1.5%. He didn’t need a calculator or any other device in his pocket. They didn’t come into general use here until the 1970s.

He didn’t make calculation errors. He could always explain his calculations to customers in their terms. That was another reason that they trusted him. His handwritten invoices, completed at the point of sale, were legendary.

Dad was never bothered by “hard times”. He believed, as he put it, “mums, dads and grandparents will always find a few pennies so that their kids could buy lollies, even if they themselves have to go without”.

The Real Lesson

I learnt a lot about business from my father. But I can’t ever remember him saying, “You need a crystal clear business focus and a clearly defined target market” or “Make sure that your customers trust you” or “Don’t compete with your customers” or “Have a purpose for your business other than the business itself”.

I can’t recall any specific advice from him about running a business. But I learnt all those lessons by watching and listening.

It might pay to ask yourself

  • What lessons do my employees learn when they watch me?
  • Is what I say entirely consistent with what I do?
  • What do I say and do to show them that I trust them?
  • Do I bring a unique perspective to the business?

“Lead by example” may sound old fashioned. But it’s still a worthy guide.

Forex Education Tips – 5 Steps to Successful Forex Trading

Close to 95% of all Forex traders will lose money. We’re not just talking about novices, either. Whether you trade Forex for a living, as a hobby or just for fun, odds are against your success. That’s a simply astonishing fact. However, the remaining 5% of Forex traders somehow manage to break even and there are those lucky few that actually make money in the currency market – consistently!Like the TV show says … “How’d they do that, anyway?”That’s the million dollar questions, isn’t it? Countless books, seminars and expos have been hosted to answer this very question. That sad fact is that thousands of books have been written and countless seminars and interviews have been conducted in an attempt to answer the magic questions. The reality of the situation is that there is no magic formula; no one single Holy Grail of Forex trading.So what do the successful traders do that the rest of us have simple not comprehended. They have mastered a process of winning where they combine and customize several factor to produce consistent results. They have mastered the Process of Trading.The Process of Trading is:Strategy > Money Management > Self-MasteryHere are some simple Forex Education tips to help you master the process of forex trading:Success Tip #1 – You’ve Got To Have a PlanYou must have a written business plan that will detail all aspects of your trading. When are you going to trade, how much to risk, strategies for entries and exits are just o name a few. To become a consistent (profitable) Forex trader you have to plan your trade sand trade your plan.

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Simplicity rules! Don’t make this plan too complicated. One sheet of paper for you mission statement and another for your trading plan should suffice. Anything more is probably too complicated.Success Tip #2 – Focus on Your Personal PsychologyKnowing yourself will allow you to master the discipline necessary to execute high quality trades with solid money management techniques. Lack of discipline is fatal in Forex trading. Go on a personal journey to identify you attitudes towards risk and money. Get intimate with your strengths and weaknesses as a trader and build in to your trading plan strategies to minimize those weaknesses and maximize your strengths.Different personalities lend to different trading styles. Get familiar with all the different styles and over time you will begin to gravitate towards one particular style. Don’t fight the urge like I did. I insisted I was a day trader, but had only limited results. I found my winning percentages were much higher when I entered swing trades. Guess what’s my bread and butter strategy now!Success Tip #3 – Be Realistic About Your ExpectationsThis is a hard one, I know! I am on the internet every day and the amount of advertising is staggering. Brokers are offering free education (fox in the hen house if you ask me), forums of all different trading styles and points of view. Gurus pushing their system as “the one” that will make you the big bucks. How do you get through all that noise?Let me tell you loud and clear right now – everyone is right and everyone is wrong. You have to make a personal commitment to become a successful trader, find a trading style that works for you and expect a slow and steady approach to wealth building through Forex.What works for me may not work for you. Expect to go through an exploratory period where you are learning and at the same time exploring yourself as a trader. Keep an open mind and don’t pay attention to all the noise out there.Success Tip #4 – Exercise PatienceRome was not built in a day and neither will your trading account. In fact, I tell all of my students that while they are studying to become successful Forex traders they should not look solely at their account balance as an indication of success or failure.By tracking and increasing your percentage of high quality trades you execute is a far better barometer of your progress than your account balance. Cause and effect rule here. Over time when you increase your probabilities through the execution of high quality trades your account balance will respond accordingly.Keep the focus on the process and with time your results will blow your mind.Success Tip #5 – Money Management Is Top PriorityI would rather have a shaky strategy and excellent money management techniques than the other way around. This topic warrants its own blog post to do it justice. Limited your exposure (read “risk”) allows for you to stay in the game and allow the laws of probability to work.

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Let’s take a casino for example. They need gamblers to frequent their slot machines to make money. Why? They have a game that has a greater than 50% chance of making money for the house. The more people that play the slots, the greater the casino’s profits.The casino controls risk by payout tables (always favoring the house!) and increases their probabilities by keeping gamblers at the slot machines (read “free drinks”). As a trader you must limit your risk by committing only 1% – 3% of available capital to a single trade. When you execute enough trades with a high probability strategy you too can clean up like the casinos – but only by staying in the game long term.In conclusion, Forex trading is not easy. It’s hard work and will test the limits of your patience and perseverance. If anyone tells you otherwise .., buyers beware! It can be a very rewarding and profitable venture if done correctly. In the end it is a profession that requires a learning curve and practical experience, no different than an airline pilot or engineer. Understanding how to approach and learn this game will allow you to reap all the benefits advertised. It is your Forex Education that you will master the Process of Forex Trading.

The Energy Healing Power of Natural Medicine

Natural medicine is a system that uses a variety of therapeutic or preventive health care practices such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. Alternative medicine is also known as traditional, naturopathic, natural or holistic medicine. Proponents of alternative medicine are not refuting the validity of discoveries in and the practical uses of conventional medicine, but are merely trying to put some things into perspective. Due to the widespread interest in natural medicine along with the disappointment and disenchantment with Western medicine, many people, especially in the United States and Europe, where conventional medicine has taken a dominant foothold, are seeking the advice and treatment from naturopathic physicians. These practitioners include herbalists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and others, who advocate preventative health measures as well as recommend wholesome foods and nutritional supplements for their patients and clients. Considering the growing popularity and effectiveness of alternative health treatments and products, certified and licensed professional practitioners of such medical practices should be given their rightful and respectful place in medical society. Natural medicine has been proven not only to be safe, but more effective than Western medicine in treating many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and many other diseases as well

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The history of Natural Medicine and its roots can be traced back thousands of years to ancient cultures such as India and China. Ayurvedic (E. Indian) and Chinese medicine, along with their diagnostic and herbal systems, are still used in these countries extensively, as well as in the United States, especially in Europe, where alternative medicine is well respected. Chinese herbal medicine has a documented history of over 2500 years in China, and is now widely used by practitioners all over the world. It has been legally practiced in the United States. since the mid seventies by licensed acupuncturists. Homeopathy is also a well-known form of alternative medicine discovered in the 18th century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, but was practically stamped out in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century by the American Medical Association. In 1938, though, the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act finally recognized homeopathic pharmacopoeia as the legal equivalent of allopathic medicine.Another more contemporary and popular form of herbal medicine, called Western herbalism, can be traced back about two hundred years in America. Samuel Thomson, born in 1769, is considered the father of Western herbalism. He discovered over sixty different medically effective native plants by clinical testing, and on the basis of these findings, devised a theory of disease and botanical drug action. Randy Kidu, D.V.M., Ph.D., writes in his articled entitled A Brief History of Alternative Medicine: “The history of herbal medicine is interesting because herbs have been a part of our diet and pharmacy since man began roaming the earth. Coprophytic evidence (seeds and other plant part(found in preserved fecal pellets) points to herbal use by cavemen. Early herbalists practiced their trade since before recorded history in all parts of the world including China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, England, the Americas, and Europe. Many herbs are also mentioned in the Bible. Today, based on sheer numbers of folks who use one form of herbal medicine or another, it remains the most-used medicine worldwide.”Twenty-five hundred years after the advent of allopathic medicine, modern medicine is still grappling with the idea that herbal medicine could be an effective treatment, and not just quackery, although thousands of years of recorded history has proved its efficacy. A new model of understanding in medicine needs to be incorporated into the existing allopathic model. Because of the growing popularity and effectiveness of natural medicine, practitioners may eventually be given their deserved place in medical society. The incorporation of natural medical practices into the existing model of conventional Western medicine, including the training of new medical doctors, is now called Complimentary Medicine. In order to solve our health problems, this modern paradigm for treatment in medicine must be promoted. This can only truly emerge when bias, self-interest, greed and discrimination is discarded and diverse medical knowledge is promoted and shared, not only between university trained scientists and medical doctors, but among Alternative Medicine practitioners, philosophers, metaphysicians, and other intelligentsia of society as well.

Skip The Lines – Bring The Amusement Park Right To Your Own Back Yard

There’s no shortage of things to do in Atlanta. From professional sports to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. In fact, Atlanta is proud to house some of the nations largest amusement attractions, including the ever popular Six Flags Over Georgia. Children (and adults) love the thrill and adrenaline rush of the large roller coasters. However, one thing most people don’t like about amusement parks is the long lines. By the time it’s all said and done, you can spend several hundred dollars for your family to have an afternoon of fun, and only get a few rides in. This year, instead of spending the day waiting in long lines for short rides, why not bring the fun right to your back yard? With today’s technology, you can literally do just that! One of the advantages of living in a large city like Atlanta is that we have large rental companies that can make your special event feel just like a trip to Six Flags… complete with a train and an ice cream cart!

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If you’re trying to replicate the amusement park feel, there are definitely specific items that you’ll want to be on the lookout for. As mentioned previously, ice cream carts and trackless trains help make the special event feel more like a day at Six Flags.In order to make your next special event more special, try some of the following tips:

Head online to do some research on the party rental company that has the selection your looking for. If you want an ice cream cart to complete your theme park adventure, look around until you find what you’re looking for.

Don’t settle for the first website you see. There are literally hundreds of inflatable party rental companies in Atlanta. Keep looking for a website that offers a wide variety of rental items that you’re looking for.

It’s better to rent everything from one company. Renting in bulk can help you save money. Larger companies will offer discounts for larger purchases of multiple units and rental items.

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Having a day of amusement park fun is cheaper and easier than ever before. By bringing the amusement park to your front door by using a party rental industry, you can include more people at a lower price. So next time you’re planning a special day, instead of spending tons of money for just a few people and braving the long lines of amusement parks, invite the whole neighborhood and bring the amusement park right to your own back yard!