​Entrepreneurship and Family

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Entrepreneurship and Family

(This is part 1 of an ongoing series.)

My father has come a long way in his life. He grew up quite poor in Georgia. By the time that he reached adulthood, he had served for 4 years in the U.S. military and moved to New York City. In New York, he would go on to make a great life for himself and his family. He met and married my mother. He started a family (with me being the first child) and became a successful entrepreneur.

Time away from family

Growing up, we were in Church constantly. Both of my parents were very religious. For the most part, my mother took my siblings and I to Church without my Dad. He worked around the clock. When I was very young, he worked a full time job for the city and a part time job for a private company. I don’t believe that he had any days off. From the time that I was born until I was 9 years old, I only remember spending one day out with my father. He was working all of the time. The hard work paid off. We moved from an apartment in the Parkchester area of the Bronx to a house in Southeastern Queens. The neighborhood that we moved to was the easternmost neighborhood in Queens and bordered Long Island.

Beginnings as an Entrepreneur

When I was 8, my father started his own business. He wanted to sink his teeth into the challenges of running his own operation.  Again, he was constantly gone and trying to make his enterprise a success. It was normal for my father to be gone. I remember when he would come home late at night; I always knew it was him because I could hear his keys jingling. He had so many keys that they could not be kept in his pocket; he attached them to the belt loops in his pants. I transferred to a different elementary school when I was 9. My parents took me for a tour of the school and they were very impressed. Personal computers were being introduced to the public for consumption during this time. My new school boasted a computer room. Though it sounds unimpressive now, back then it was unheard of for a school to have a computer room. I clearly recall seeing the silhouette of a rainbow apple with a bite taken out of it on all of the computer screens. I was intrigued by the machines and I wanted to learn more. My parents thought that a school with a computer room would offer a great opportunity for me to get an ideal education. They were sold. I entered the school at the beginning of my 5 th grade year.

As it turned out, my school was very near my father’s office. I was now only a 7-minute bus ride away from him. I could actually walk to his office from my school, but my parents never allowed me to do anything like that. New York City had a very serious crime problem at that time. 

I didn’t even know what my father’s business was about. All that I knew was that he started the company with the help of 3 of his best friends. The 3 friends were all brothers. I was best friends with the oldest brother’s youngest son. Being that my Dad was with the oldest brother much of the time, I had many opportunities to play with my friend. I went to my father’s office at the end of every school day.

My father owned a delivery company. This was before the days that companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL had enhanced their market presence to the point that they totally dominated the delivery market. My father’s business was booming. Within one year, he went from making deliveries himself to hiring 3 office staff employees and 15 delivery drivers. He worked from the office, but he did not hesitate to get his hands dirty when it was needed. Business was great and our family reaped the benefits of my father’s labors. My mother had job as Educational Director for a school district in Queens. Both of my parents had good incomes. The downside was that they worked very, very hard. My mother’s work schedule was more forgiving. She would get off of work at a reasonable hour, so she would pick me up from my father’s office when she got off of work and bring me home. However, after she cooked dinner for us she would usually retire to her bedroom and work on paperwork for long hours into the night.

The pressures of Entrepreneurship mount

At least I got to see my mother on a regular basis. Although I saw my father much more after he started his company, he was still gone for the most part. A regular occurrence would be for him to get home from work at 12:00am and leave the house to go back to work at 6:00am. My father is a naturally hot-tempered person. The work load and stress of running his own business exaggerated this trait.

When he was at work, he would often lash out at employees that were underperforming or incompetent (sometimes it was deserved, sometimes not). Some employees would even try to rip him off. They would take the expensive electronic equipment that his company specialized in delivering and disappear for hours at a time instead of heading straight to the client’s home as they were supposed to. He had to look for his vehicles on several occasions. Once, some of his drivers took their deliveries for the day and went out and partied. They both got drunk and left expensive items in their delivery van. The van was broken into and the items were stolen. Incidents like this ratcheted up the stress on my father to a fever pitch.

When he was at home, he was highly irritable. He didn’t respond to being overworked by tiring out. His response was to be angry. It seemed like anger drove him in many respects. He was always incredibly serious. On the rare occasions where he was jovial, he would wonder why we were so guarded around him. He didn’t seem to be self-aware enough to understand the effect that his constant anger had on the rest of the family. For the most part, we tried to stay out of his way. Over time, his anger issues did not get better.  They got far worse.  Before his success we had a very happy household.  With financial success came some very dark times for our family.  

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