I do what I do because of my father.
Spurgeon Young DeWitt was a big man, born in 1918, the first of six children. Like many who grew up during the Great Depression, he learned to work hard as a youngster and had a strong work ethic by the time he graduated from Orrville High School in 1938. He met his bride in the closing days of World War II in Stockton, California, where they were both Sergeants in the Army.
A few short years later, he was an entrepreneur struggling to feed a family of ten in Alabama’s Black Belt. Although he never became financially successful, he worked harder than anyone I’ve seen before or since, and between his pest control company, truck farm, plant nursery, and dabblings in other businesses, he scratched out a living. But his life was one of constant struggle, and he died from heart disease when I was only 14.
Dad’s greatest legacy to me was the gift of an education. Dad never got to go to college, but he wanted to make sure his children did, so at great personal sacrifice, he moved us from Demopolis to Tuscaloosa where we could be near a State university. He would have been proud to know that we all graduated from college and went on to lead successful, productive lives.
I had only a few years with him, but I’ve continued to learn from my father throughout the 40 years since I lost him. The memory of my father’s dedication and determination is what makes me get up at 4:30 on weekday mornings and go right to work.
I do what I do because I owe him for what he taught me with his life and what I gained through his sacrifice.
The only way I know to repay him is to help my clients; to be the advisor for them that he never had. To help them see a way to be more successful, and to live the lifestyle of financial and emotional freedom that eluded him.
This is what I want for all my clients:
- to do only the work they love to do,
- to do it only with people they love to be with,
- to make a significant and positive difference in the lives of others,
- to be very well paid for their efforts and risk, and
- most importantly, to have TIME to be with their families and do what’s important to them.
Thanks to my Dad and what he taught me, I have all these things and the ability to help others get them.
When I help someone build a business that serves his/her life rather than consumes it, I’ve done my best to honor my father and the legacy he left behind.
I have an audio recording of my father giving his life’s testimony to an AA group, and I listen to it from time to time. Near the end of the speech, he summarized his philosophy by quoting someone – I don’t know who – and I have a transcript of it posted on my office wall to remind me of why I do what I do. It goes like this:
“I got a new set of values all together. Got a little thing here I want to read to you…
“What are the real riches, remembering there will be no pockets in the last robe we wear? We can think of a few:
‘A loving home,
A chance to work,
A nation that is free,
A fearless mind,
A portion of life still left,
A sense of well-being because of faith,
A hope born of a glimpse of God,
Enough to eat and wear,
A place to sleep,
A time to play,
A time to worship,
A chance to serve,
An opportunity to give.’
“These are some of the riches all should possess on earth. These are the real riches which God calls upon us to help all to have and use daily, for these alone bring abiding happiness. Pray and work that all may possess them.”
About Ken DeWitt
Kenneth C. DeWitt is founder of DeWitt LLC, an Alabama-based business strategy execution and coaching firm. DeWitt is a life-long entrepreneur, having been a founding member of two accounting firms, as well as having partnership in other businesses in the retail, agriculture, consumer finance, overseas travel, and commercial real estate industries. DeWitt specializes in helping entrepreneurs and CEOs create highly profitable businesses that serve and enrich their lives rather than control them.
During his 30 year career, DeWitt has served over 150 companies with revenues from $1 million to $50+ million as a trusted advisor. His extensive experience has taught him what works — and what does not work — in building valuable businesses that are worth owning, and he brings this to bear in helping organizations implement strategic initiatives that reduce frustrations and improve profits, cash flows, banker relationships, and quality of life for the owners.
DeWitt is a published author of two books and over 300 articles on financial and business matters. He has a combined 14 years’ experience as a regular columnist for The Tuscaloosa News and the Commercial Carrier Journal, and frequently publishes op-ed pieces in the Birmingham Business Journal and other periodicals. His monthly newsletter, Alabama Entrepreneur, currently has over 1,500 subscribers and is aimed at helping business leaders get more of what they want out of their companies.
DeWitt holds a B.S. in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama.