By Michael Gunther
I have often heard that children of entrepreneurs are more likely to become entrepreneurs themselves. And until recently, I have always felt that I was an exception to that rule. You see, I didn’t grow up in your typical household. I have 16 siblings. Yes, my parents – the same two parents – had 17 children. And while there is no doubt I am an entrepreneur to the core, I never saw that side of my parents growing up – my dad worked hard at his job; my mom worked hard at hers (which happened to be raising the 17 of us).
The fact is, I have been driven by my entrepreneurial spirit and desire to do business as long as I can remember. Growing up, my best friend Sal Competelli and I were always creating new businesses – from lemonade stands and carnivals to neighborhood newspapers and even Mic-Sal’s donuts. We may not have made a lot of money in our ventures, but the entrepreneurial bug had bitten us both – we are both business owners today (only now on a little larger scale).
Knowing that parents are highly influential to a child’s entrepreneurial spirit, I began to re-evaluate my parents, their traditional roles, and how they may have inspired my love for business. Once I took the time to really think about my childhood, I recognized that my parents were, in fact, entrepreneurs and business owners in many ways. With 19 in the Gunther family, my parents operated our household just like a business – it’s how they maintained a happy, balanced, orderly home.
- They were organized – from getting us out the door for school each day, to giving us schedules for chores, to making sure we were all in the van on time when were going on road trips.
- They were managers – they defined clear roles for all of us, recognized our accomplishments, helped us recognize strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and in others, and helped us develop both speaking and communication skills. As all great managers do, they encouraged us to be passionate in everything we did.
- They were leaders – teamwork was not an option, it was crucial; so they were creative in finding fun ways for us to work together as a team. We performed annual talent shows together and were given team projects at our annual camping trips (which still continue to this day).
- They were community-oriented – our holidays were always festive and filled with lots of people, and our doors were always open for those who had nowhere to go. Holidays were always a time when we connected with others in our community.
- They were strategic with finances – we worked off a budget but always included team activities and community giving – if not through money, through time. My parents made a point to teach us, by example, about financials.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my parents gave me a head start in business. They provided me with fundamental attributes and systems that I learned to love at a very young age and have carried forward to my career. Looking back, I realize that my passion to help others succeed – to create processes, to be good managers, to build strong teams, to understand financials – are lessons I learned from my parents. Teaching lessons to other entrepreneurs brings me great happiness and fulfillment in the form of memories – both old and new.