My father is an entrepreneur who’s had several successful businesses. He’s had to overcome a lot of obstacles in his time, but one of the most difficult he’s ever overcome, in my opinion, was being faced with a daughter who was on the path of making an unrealistic career choice.
Since my freshman year of high school, I have been certain I wanted a career in the field of psychology. Let it be known that I am an incredibly strong-willed young woman (I get it from my mother), and my decision absolutely would not be swayed!
My parents, both accomplished professionals, wanted me to look into the business field. My mother, Pamela DeWitt, was literally born into business. She grew up working in her family’s clothing store and took it over as she entered adulthood. When she was 32, she closed the business and threw herself into community work, her true passion. She has served on endless boards and committees, and is known throughout our hometown of Tuscaloosa as one of the most proactive visionaries around and the busiest “unemployed” person on the planet!
Still, I wanted to go into psychology.
When I thought about what it meant to be a businessperson, the first thing that came to mind was the dashing and strategy-minded young man in the finely-pressed suit, smoking a cigar while intensely negotiating an investment deal, or perhaps sitting before a laptop with his brow furrowed, deep in thought about the current status of the economy. I was not interested.
After my father showed me the job outlook in the field of psychology, I decided I would consider a career in business, but I wanted the truth behind that field. With Dad’s help, I set out into the exciting and incredibly intimidating world of business in Birmingham, Alabama to unearth the facts. I spent a few days “job shadowing” and interviewing successful businesspeople my father introduced me to.
I met a lot of extraordinary people and learned much more than I anticipated.
James Leitner, the President and CEO of Southland Benefit Solutions, told me of his experience working his way up in business. His advice to me was, “Do the job ahead of you.” If you are a salesperson and you’re doing the job of the store manager, there’s a good chance you could be promoted to manager because you’re already working as hard as one.
Tina Savas is co-author of Women of True Grit, a book about women who were the first in their field. As the creator of the Birmingham Business Journal, she invented “The Fifty Richest” and “Top 40 Under 40” lists, concepts now being copied by magazines such as Time and Forbes. Ms. Savas is equal parts professional and spunky — she exudes confidence and modern-day girl power — and she taught me never to be afraid to integrate my personality into my business persona.
Susan Bruchis, Executive Director of the Laps for CF Foundation, told me that one issue with the new generation of business people is that they refuse many incredible opportunities because they are searching for the “perfect” job right out of school, which may not exist for them yet. She stressed that working is not just about the money, but also about learning. Her advice echoed something that Faith Herbert of Health Partners America told me: that I should take advantage of and learn from every job opportunity because I am more likely to find my ideal job through experience.
I’ve always been a believer in the idea that sometimes the most amazing things come in packages you might not expect to find them in.
So I was pleasantly surprised when the most important individual I was able to observe during my journey turned out to be none other than my own father. I always thought I knew everything there was to know about Dad’s business side, but shadowing him in Birmingham showed me that there is so much more to him.
My father is incredible.
I had heard his “EOS spiel,” as I called it, many times. I knew it was a very effective program that he was incredibly passionate about, but I didn’t quite know why he was so in love with his work. I got all the answers I needed when I heard him give a talk to promote his work for the first time.
He started out by giving a brief background of himself, which one would expect to be slightly boring, but it turned out to be the most effective part of his presentation. He explained how he was brought up as one of eight children with a father who was determined to be successful. Having ten mouths to feed, Spurgeon Young DeWitt became an entrepreneur and started various businesses to finance his family. Ultimately, all of his attempts at business failed, and he died at age 55 after suffering his fifth heart attack. My dad was only 14.
Seeing his father’s failure allowed my dad to discover his own passion: to help entrepreneurs succeed by being the advisor and coach his father never had. He admits to all his audiences that his way of repaying his father is through implementing EOS to help businesses become successful.
When I first heard the story, I was overwhelmed with admiration for the man standing before the audience.
His vulnerability established a personal connection with everyone in the room. His persuasion tactics are not weak promises, but sensitive, honest experiences that have left him itching to help as many people as possible. It’s not even fair to call them “persuasion tactics” because it’s obvious that this man would be happy to do this job even if he didn’t get paid for it.
As he dives into the details of EOS, he begins to speak with such passion and excitement that he almost comes across as frantic to help everybody succeed. His eloquence reveals his intelligence and his experience, while his body language highlights his approachability and relatable side. He has an unmatched sense of professionalism, and yet an incredible lightness which makes him very easy to talk to and become friends with. It’s so exciting for me to see the undeniable spark left in the eyes of everyone he talks to.
I have acquired experience that not many seventeen year olds can say they have.
Not only have I been able to get an unbiased perspective of what it truly means to be a modern-day businessperson, but I have seen my father in a new light. He has helped me understand the difference between an interest and a passion.
As Dad and his friends introduced me to the field of business, I realized that I was making the wrong career choice with psychology. I am forever grateful to everyone who took the time to speak with me and endlessly appreciative for the insight I’ve been given. I hope to share it with others and put it to good use someday as CEO of my own business.