10 male executives share how their fathers inspired them

With candid advice and carefully-worded, yet meaningful wisdom, here, 10 male leaders share how their pops inspired their careers.

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Behind every successful person — no matter male or female — there is often a cheering squad and support team that has been there through every ebb and each flow. For some lucky children, their greatest fan has been there since day one as good ‘ole dad. For these entrepreneurs and executives, their father wasn’t only there to teach ‘em the ropes of life, but to guide their professional goals and aspirations.

With candid advice and carefully-worded, yet meaningful wisdom, here, 10 male leaders share how their pops inspired their careers. If your old man was a shining example of strength, humor, and encouragement, pass along this article to him on Father’s Day and thank him for the role he’s played in developing your growth, too:


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“My dad inspired my career most by what he didn’t do.”

Kash Shaikh, the founder and CEO of an international business intelligence firm, Besomebody, Inc. His father, Zee, worked as a mechanical engineer for 45 years after he immigrated from South Asia.

“My dad worked hard for more than four decades. For 40 years, he woke up at 5 a.m. every day and headed into the office. He helped build solutions for some of the biggest energy companies in the world. But my dad inspired my career most by what he didn’t do. While dad was good at his job, honestly, he didn’t love it. We spent a lot of time talking about what he would do if he ‘could do it all over again.’ We talked a lot about what he wished he would have done. We spoke about ideas he had that, for some reason or another, never got off the ground. He had dreams of being a pilot but his father told him it ‘wasn’t a stable enough career.’ He wished he could create for the movies and comics he watched as a kid. He enjoyed reading and writing. He didn’t get to spend much of his life doing those things. And that always weighed on him. So he always told me to do what I love. To follow my passion. To go for it. We didn’t talk about “stable” careers or ‘safe’ choices. We talked about spending my life pursuing things that made me come alive. And so I did.”

“He taught me how to be resourceful, respectful and diligent.”

Kyle LaFond, founder of American Provenance. His grandfather, Delmar Zentner, was a family farmer.

“My grandfather was my hero. He never had the opportunity to attend college but was easily the wisest man I’ve ever known. Most folks don’t often think of small-scale family farmers as businessmen, but everything that I’ve ever really needed to know about running a business was learned on 120 acres of paradise in the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin. He was very well-read and was a true lifetime learner. He was inquisitive and had a natural curiosity about the world that stayed with him his entire life. I’m pretty sure that he never created or reviewed any kind of financial statement, but found a way to raise a family on 40 cows. That’s an amazing accomplishment on it’s own. Importantly, he taught me how to be resourceful, respectful, and diligent. He taught me how to appreciate everything and everyone around me. That’s something I always think about when I remember who he was on Father’s Day and just about every other day.”

“He taught me how to be a leader.”

Glen Levine, senior partner at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine. His father, Lawrence, graduated from Fordham Law School but then ran a construction business that spanned four generations. Recently though, he joined son’s firm as a litigator.

“More important than the professional inspiration I get from my father is my inspiration on how to handle myself in my business relationships. From a small boy, I learned that everyone — from a day laborer to the building inspector to a tradesman deserves the same level of respect. My father always took the time to learn everyone’s name and their story. He never took for granted that the people he worked with had a family and had interests beyond getting the job done. My father always worked hard, but he inspired people to work just as hard by the way he treated others. I draw on his inspiration every day when I interact with other attorneys, judges, court reporters, and especially my clients. When a client comes to my firm, we don’t just look at them as another case. We feel that they are part of our extended family and treat them with the same respect that I learned all of these years from watching my father.”

“He taught me to stick to my guns.”

Ethan Hirshberg, founder of Ethan’s. His father, Gary is the founder and CEO of Stonyfield Farm.

“My dad was all about the mission. He built his company with a great product, yes, but more importantly, he had a contagious passion for the difference those products could make in the world. Thus, he inspired me not only to believe that I could start a successful company but to never lose sight of the real goal. In business, there are a million places to compromise: You set out with the wind in your sails and then slowly get beaten and battered by the storm. The easiest path is to make concessions and compromise your values, whether to cut costs or gain some other competitive advantage. But my dad taught me that sticking to your guns is what matters in the end.”

“He taught me the value of a family-run business.”

Adam Biderman, chef and owner of The Company Burger. His father, Joe, is the president of a family-run, 101-year-old jewelry story, Hiller Jewelers.

“Watching him work retail and manage our family store taught me the value of family-run businesses. His attention to detail, dedication and plan execution inspired me to one day have a place of my own. His example led me to open The Company Burger. People wanted to work for him and follow him. Being able to guide a business successfully the way in which he does motivates me every day to be a better owner. Also, his innate ability to be able to dive into the business analytically is his greatest asset and I get to learn and grow with his help.”

“He taught me how to give 110 percent.”

Douglas Eisner, the co-founder and managing director of The Calida Group. His father, Stephen, is a construction executive in NYC.

“My father always gave 110 percent at both home and work. As far back as I can remember, he would get to the office by 6 a.m., be home for family dinner at 7 p.m., and then work after dinner until 11 p.m. And with whatever free time he did have, he gave 110 percent to that too. Whether it was nights out on the town with my mother, sports with his buddies, or digging up adventures with us kids on the weekends, everything was 110 percent. To this day, I still try to give that same level of commitment to everything I do as well.”

“He taught me how to work hard.”

Nate Checketts, the CEO and co-founder of Rhone. His father, Dave, is the founder and chairman of SCP Worldwide.

“ Growing up, my brother and I used to rake leaves, haul trash and mow lawns on the weekends to earn our money, and my dad was always encouraging us to start our own business. At the time, I didn’t realize that was entrepreneurship. I just knew that I liked building things that allowed me to be self-sufficient. I’ve always looked up to my dad’s entrepreneurial spirit and am forever grateful for the morals he instilled in us at a young age, which led me to launching my company.”

“He taught me to go above and beyond.”

Lars Helgeson, CEO of The Green Rope. His dad, also named Lars, is a high school science teacher.

“My dad would take me to his science class and let me sit in and listen. I got to be comfortable taking care of all the animals in his lab. Snakes, lizards, rats, birds, and even ant lions – all were part of the experience. His students took part in caring and feeding them, and they found a connection stronger than anything a textbook could teach. It made me see the difference it makes to students when you go the extra mile to give them a rich experience. Whether you’re a student or a customer, people notice when you make the effort to make their time and money worth the investment.”

“He encouraged me to be better than successful — but remarkable.”

Adam Lowry, co-founder of Ripple Foods. His dad, Thomas was a sales representative in the automotive industry who started his own firm in the early 1980s.

“When I was about to start my first business, Method, after told my Dad that I was going to start a business, he just kept saying ‘Oh, son, I’m so proud of you; you’re going to be so successful!’. I said, ‘Dad, I haven’t even told you my idea yet!’ That was the type of guy he was. Amazingly supportive and encouraging. It didn’t matter to him what I was going to do, as long as I was going to throw my whole self into it. Another one of his sayings was ‘do something remarkable’. He often reminded me of that; that in business, if you want to be successful, you need to do something that people notice and appreciate, something that is remarkable in the eyes of your customer. That’s what really developed my sense of design, and my focus on product. Unfortunately, my Dad is no longer with us, but not a day passes that I don’t think of his many pieces of advice in business and in life.”

“He told me to keep the door open.”

Rordan Shane, the CEO and president of Shane Co. His father, Tom, is the executive chairman of the same company.

“ Dad never pushed me into this business, but always kept the door open. he love of this business for him was always about the people, and being there for our customers during some of the most important times of their lives. I learned from him early on in life that our business is global, and based on some universal truths across the world — honesty, transparency, integrity, and trust, to name a few. Our business is light on lawyers, light on contracts, and heavy on reputation. A handshake seals a deal, and your word is your bond. A broken deal or trust will sever your family from the industry for life. I was and continue to be exposed to these morals every day both personally and professionally by my father. This is what truly inspired me to join this industry, and continue the family business as generation number four.


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Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer