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10 Things A 30 Minute Talk With an 81 Year Old Women Taught Me About Business

I reread this post several times a year.  I read it because it was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with a person and every once in a while I need to read it to remind me to practice what I preach.  Some of you may not have read it the first time I wrote it back in October 2010 so I’m going to repost it again tonight.

One of the greatest parts of my job is I get to talk with all kinds of people.  I don’t make house calls very often but every once in a while I’ll make an extra effort and personally visit a customer’s yard.  I would love to do it all the time but I have too many customers to see all of them myself.  It started with an older customer calling me and saying she wanted some trees. I replied with the usual, “come out to the nursery and we can pick some out together”  She responded with “I’m 81 years old, do you still want me to come out and walk around with you?”  I laughed a little bit and set up an appointment to meet her at her house.

Most people in my town know OF me but most don’t actually know me.  I do a lot of television and radio work and most people know my name and my voice.  My family is also a political family so as soon as I say my name they think immediately I’m a politician.  Usually when I go into a home they greet me by my first name and act as though we’ve known each other for years but we’ve never met.  This time was no different but the person on the other side was a very special lady.

The 81 year old woman was a shrewd business person.  Over the past 50 years she had owned and run 5 different businesses and had made quite a bit of money.  She told me she wasn’t afraid to spend it now because she had earned it, and she certainly had.  At 81, she still had some great business ideas.  She said several times, “this town needs a ”  or “You know what would make some money?”  All of which were great ideas and I guarantee if she was younger she would have acted on it.   In my short one hour conversation, here were 10 things that she said about business that would apply to ANY business, and relates very well to domaining as well.

1.  You have to believe in what you are doing whether any one else does or not. There’s only one person that if they don’t believe should make you think twice and that’s your spouse.  She said women back in the 50’s and 60’s, women were not usually business owners and she took a little heat.  Her husband told here to “do whatever the hell you want” and she did, opening a feed shop and a local grocery.

2. You have to have patience. Building a business takes time.  When I talked about a new business we opened last year she replied with something to the affect.  “You can tell if a business is going to bust within months but you don’t know if it’s a success for years”

3. When you sell, try and keep a piece.  She sold all her businesses but always kept the land and rented it to the businesses.

4. Have fun spending your money. Her accountant said she was spending too much money on her kids and grand kids.  She told him that’s why she made the money, to spend it.

5. It takes LONG hours to get your own business going. The only reason she closed her last busineses is she wanted to start spending more time with her grandvkids.  It came across that she loved making money and she enjoyed the long hours (she even misses it) but your body can only work 12 hour days so long.

6. Sometimes it’s a better idea to buy land and let the town come to you. “If you do a good job, they’ll find you”.  She bought lots of land right outside town and now that land is worth a fortune.  Meanwhile, she was still making money on much less valuable land for all those years.  I compare it to buying a dot net and setting up a great site.

7. Take time to get away and enjoy life and don’t worry about the business.  She said her and her husband never missed card night.  They even built a cabin with no phones just so they could play cards with their friends without anyone bothering them.  She said she figured that if the business couldn’t run itself for an evening without her it she didn’t have the right employees.

8. Land is the best investment you can make. It’s something my family has always told me and she emphasized it once again.  She says she sold when it was high and bought more when it was low but she said the exact words of my grandpa.  “God makes more people but he doesn’t make more land”  I still say the same thing about dot coms.

9. The older generation doesn’t “trust” the Internet. I asked her what she thought about the Internet and she told me that she uses it to find cheap plane tickets,email and that’s about it.  I do notice that her generation would much rather see a smile,  shake a hand and do business face to face and in many ways I agree.   The Internet can be a big scary place.  I stayed away from the story about me getting scammed out of $500 last week so I didn’t frighten her any more.

10. There is a lot to be learned from those that have walked the walk.  There is invaluable information in people that have been where you’re heading. It may be a different business, a different time but when it all comes down to it.   It’s all the same just a little different.

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7 Replies to “10 Things A 30 Minute Talk With an 81 Year Old Women Taught Me About Business”

  1. A truly great post Shane. Totally refreshing and relatable to domains. My only questions are, “DId she buy something from you?” and if so, “Did she extract a good price from you?”

    1. Spike,

      Great question. She ended up buying three trees from me. Of course I went to the field and picked out my three nicest rather that the leftovers on the lot. She deserved them. Her husband had planted thousands of trees in the 50’s and three had died and she wanted them replaced. He loved trees so much that she put a granite tree as a headstone. She told me that it was one of the most expensive things she had ever purchased but it was also one of the best things she had ever bought. Funny thing is, I plant a lot of trees in that cemetery and I knew exactly which headstone she’s talked about. It’s one of the nicest headstones I’ve ever seen and I had even told another guy planting with me that day that if I died just plant me next to it because I knew my wife would never shell out that kind of money for me.

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