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A Letter to My Three Sons on Being Self-Employed Pt 3

Updated: May 12, 2022

Part 3 of 4, a continuation of ‘A Letter to my Three Sons on Being Self-Employed’

8. Ability to Change

Change is natural, and if you fight and continually resist it, you will eventually go bankrupt. It’s simple: change is a requirement for success. Adapting to change is a skill set forced to be used by business owners more and more. The strength to be able to adapt quickly to see new opportunities, or the end of the last opportunity, before your competitors, is a big positive.

At MDL, we have generated a large part of our business profit from land contract sales of our flip properties. It was working great selling for a premium as well as making an interest spread. The government rule change with the Dodd-Frank Act took that away. A core part of our business was taken away with the stroke of a Congressional pen. MDL needed to find new opportunities or suffer the consequences. Throughout your life, change will be forced on you when you’re humming along doing great in business; forced on you by no fault of your own. My advice is to not be bitter or dwell on the change; instead, look for the new opportunity it creates.

9. The Ability to Get It Done

“Get ‘er done”, as your grandfather would say. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this quality of self-employment. There is no margin in self-employment for saying, “I tried”, “they said no”, or “it is too hard”. You either find success or you have no money to pay your bills. You need to figure a way through your problems if you want to put food on your table. Employees have the luxury of saying, “I’m working on it”, “it was too hard to accomplish”, or “yeah, I forgot about that task”. Employees get paid either way. As the owner, you carry the ultimate weight to resolve all issues so that the company has enough income to first pay your employees, then pay your own bills. This reality leaves no room for failure.

I had the privilege of growing up on a dairy farm with 200 cows and 450 acres. My father is the hardest working person I know, hands down. Twice every day, the cows needed to be milked no matter the circumstances. We lived 2 miles from the barns. On snowy days, he started walking at 5:00 AM in the dark, through the snowdrifts to work, with no excuse good enough to not show up. When my brother and I were old enough to help we had fun at work. We took breaks, but it was quickly understood (the first day actually) that you can take as long of a break as needed, but the cows will all get milked and fed, and the cleaning will be done, even if it takes until midnight. Every day that lesson was taught, whether it be snow, frozen pipes, a broken silo unloader, sick, etc. No matter what, there are things that needed to get done every day, thus the phrase “get ‘er done” was etched in my mind.

10. Skilled Employees

I used to marvel at the power of the law of compounding money through the stock market and through real estate. As the years have gone on and we have hired several new employees, I have learned of an even more powerful compounding law: the amazing value of people. Committed employees (which we are blessed to have at MDL) can grow your success faster than anything else. Hiring people that have your vision, passion, and desire, with complementary skills, is a potent mix. Don’t hire people that share your talents. Look for people with the opposite skills and personalities. Hire someone smarter than you, with more experience and the highest morals and ethics. I have been blessed to do this and have marveled at the results. Boys, treat your employees well, and never forget the key roles they play in your future success.

Mike, Brandon, Jared, and Justin enjoying a day of golf at White Birch Hills Golf Course

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