Earlier this year, my father passed away. He was a big man, with a big personality, and one of my biggest fans. As a building contractor, he was as entrepreneurial as they come. From his experience, he taught me about what it takes to make it as a business owner (and what can totally tear you down). He also was a man of a LOT of words, and a lot of homespun wisdom. His words have stuck with me and honestly are a huge part of what has helped me continue on when work gets tough, and actually succeed.

Ellen Graf-Martin on Adding ValueIn my early career, Dad often told me, “if you make your company money, you will always have a job.” It’s true, and this has helped keep me focused. This declaration of intentionality helped me understand that if I could identify how to best bring value, I’d be an invaluable part of any organization I served. At their core, Dad’s simple words tapped into my human desire to be a bit of an every-day hero. I wanted to understand what mattered to those I served in order to find how to add value to them so that we could all succeed.

As a business owner, I have translated his words to mean, “how am I bringing and building value today?” This question matters. Actually, it matters a great deal no matter where you are in your career. It’s a way to start a day with focus and purpose, instead of a never-ending to-do list. Sometimes it helps us understand what to cut out because the value just isn’t there. This question may show us that something just isn’t working the way it used to or that something has an unnecessary cost. Or, maybe adding value is developing a slight twist in the process that helps make an activity profitable (we had a bunch of these in our office in the last weeks – so fun to re-imagine stale ideas)! Adding value is energizing to the whole team!

Dad’s wisdom stuck, and, 20 years into my career, it turns out he was right. I’ve always had a job. My employees and I have always had a paycheque and solid work since the first day of our incorporation.

It also means that our company has Building and Adding Value“always had a job.” In our 8 years as an agency, we’ve had to do very little marketing for ourselves. Our clients seem to know that with every interaction and conversation, our team wants to add value. It’s the core of who we are. Sometimes it’s been to our detriment (when you want to add value and are philanthropically-minded, yet still need to feed your family, you learn how to not give everything away). I’ve had to learn about what is an appropriate value, and what is fair. Like every business owner, I’m learning by trial and error, and I think Dad’s words have served us all well.

It’s a great check-in point: As an employee, how are you building and adding value to your company today so that you have a stronger company and better opportunities tomorrow?

As a consultant, how are you intentionally adding value to your clients so that you become invaluable?

As a business owner, how are you assessing your activities to identify which pieces add value, and which ones drain your team, yourself and your company?

As a leader, are you tapped out? It’s hard to add value when you’re worn out. Maybe it’s time for a break. Sometimes even an extra-long weekend or a short personal vacation can provide an opportunity to gain perspective. Next thing you know, you will have all sorts of new ways to encourage your team to identify areas of “low-hanging fruit.”