I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m around 5 years old and I’m playing on the front lawn of our house in rural Idaho. I’m wearing nothing but tighty-whities, probably imagining I’m Tarzan or some other muscle-bound hero. Suddenly, my mom bursts out of the front door in a state of high excitement and tells me to get in the car.
I assume we’re going to town, so I beg her to let me put some clothes on first. She refuses. I’m traumatized at this point, bawling, with visions of skulking down Main Street half naked dancing before my eyes.
Thankfully, we pass the turnoff to town. We head for the farm instead, where my dad is chugging along on our tractor. My mom skids to a halt on a dirt road, then jumps out of the car all wild, waving her arms to grab his attention. She succeeds. He kills the engine, dismounts and walks toward us.
“You got the job! You got the job!” my mom yells. They both seem very happy about it. By now I’ve stopped crying, because a) I’m pretty sure my fears about town were unfounded, and b) I’m preoccupied with a single burning question: What in the hell is a job?
Why My Dad’s My Small Business Hero
Our farm wasn’t one of those two-acre pleasure gardens where you stroll to and fro in gloves and a sun hat pretending to rough it. It was the real deal, with fields to be irrigated and cows to be milked and corn and hay to be harvested. It involved a ton of labor, as small businesses tend to do.
In spite of that, my dad took on additional gigs to support us. He manned a swing shift at a dairy—4 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday—from the day my mom took me on that trip in my underwear until the day I left for college fully clothed. He obtained a car dealer’s license, and through a combination of cunning and creativity complied with every regulation necessary to start another small business selling vehicles on a makeshift lot near our barn.
But it didn’t stop there. His scrappiness knew no bounds. Besides working the farm, the dairy and the dealership, he studied for and passed a series of excruciating tests qualifying him to use chemicals on invasive weeds clogging local ditches too gnarly for machines to clear out.
He taught me, in other words, the definition of a job. He showed me what it means to hustle and sweat, burn the midnight oil, and rise before dawn to run the whole race over again. When I abandoned college to establish a sign company, he was one of just two people to encourage me to do it. When I couldn’t find financing, he and my incredible mom lent me $15,000 of their hard-earned cash to buy a boom truck. Their generosity laid the groundwork for my success and set me on a path of entrepreneurship that led to the foundation of Nav.
To all you business-owning dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. We need you to keep fighting the good fight. We understand and appreciate your sacrifice, and we’ll always have your backs.
This article was originally written on June 17, 2018.