As we get ready for a newsletter focused on the Art of War, let’s revisit a wonderful article by Jeanmarie from a few years ago. In it, she shares the valuable lessons learned from her grandmother, which have shaped not just her own outlook but also the culture at Advize. Let’s enjoy this inspiring piece together and reflect on how family influences our professional lives. Happy Friday, everyone 💙
February 4, 2016

Most of us have read Good to Great, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and The Art of War; they are, after all, some of the very best business books available. Though I myself am a fan of these insightful publications, experience has taught me that we can learn even more from our families – for me, my grandmother in particular has provided much more wisdom than anything I’ve ever read.

I’ve often considered the meaning of the phrase “coming full circle,” and I find it interesting that the same concepts my great-grandparents instilled in my grandmother back in the 30s and 40s apply to business today. I’ve also come to realize that this phrase has never been truer than when I think about what my grandmother taught me as a child, and how I practice business at Advize Health. My grandmother, Jean (I’m honored to share the same name with her and my mother, my two greatest inspirations), was born in 1929 and was a stay-at-home mother who raised five children. Spending many years in my youth in the same house and very close to my grandmother, I learned important lessons that are still part of my daily life and continue help me every day to lead my team. In honor of my grandmother, I want to share eight of these lessons with you:

1) Do the right thing, even when nobody is watching, My grandma always said, “don’t say anything; it will come out in the end.”

More than 80 percent of our business at Advize Health is driven by referrals, as our clients do most of our selling for us. We focus on giving our clients what they want, and they tell others about us.

2)  These phrases should be taken to heart: “Let me give you something to cry about,” and “you don’t know how good you have it.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard each one of these from my grandma!

When people on my team have time to create a toxic environment involving nonproductive complaining about their peers, I typically assign them more work. To me, constant complaining that is unfounded or unmerited is an indication that the individual does not have enough work and will need opportunities to push him or herself to work harder.

3) Do the best job possible and be proud of it.  When I was younger and worked on my homework after school, my grandmother always held a very high standard for my work ethic and would notify me if she felt that the process lacked quality. Even if the final product came out “good enough,” she taught me to take pride in the process, too.

At our firm, we are driven to deliver the best possible product to our clients. Even if they are not aware of our QA process, or how much work was put into the final product, we ensure that both the deliverables and the process are top-notch.

4) Do more with less. My grandma knew how to stretch a nonexistent budget with five children, using a small weekly allowance to run the house while sacrificing items she may have wanted for herself or the luxuries she yearned for her family. 

At Advize Health, we also focus on making smart decisions to make our dollars stretch. Education and growth are important, and in order to maximize available opportunities, minimize costs and pave the way for team and process improvements, we have one person attend a conference, synthesize the material and then share a synopsis of the most relevant topics with our group. While this means that not everyone can attend every conference and event every time, they are always given an opportunity to learn and grow.

5) Clean everything every day. My grandma loved doing the laundry and dusting all the furniture daily.

In business, we “clean” in a different way. We revisit each client and project on a daily basis and processes on a frequent basis to see if anything needs to be cleaned or tightened up.

6)  Make do. My grandma often did not make a big production over dinner and would say “we’ll make do.” 

As we grew the firm last year, we “made do” on the minimum. Tools and software were marginal compared to the resources used by our competitors and most firms in the industry, but we made it work for us, and more importantly, for our clients. The tools we used were able to get the job done and done well, and despite it being challenging, we are happier in the end because it proved to us that we could do it.

7)  Take the time to meet for coffee. “How’s about a nice cup of coffee?” was a question I heard constantly from my grandma since I was about 10 years old. Sure, she started drinking coffee when she was a toddler, so me drinking coffee earlier than most of my peers was not a big deal in my family. Yet, the more important lesson extends beyond my favorite drink, as coffee time was really about the experience; it was the time we would always spend to just sit down and talk about anything and everything.             

We often take our clients out for a cup of coffee to solicit their feedback. Even if our clients are not requesting to meet or to offer feedback, we like to proactively ask for it to help us know if we can do anything better for them. At the very least, they get to enjoy a cup of nice coffee, and it’s our time to talk about anything and everything.

8) Never underestimate the power of food. My grandma’s pizza and crescent cookies are legendary – they are very Italian, and very delicious. Beyond only that, they were also a way to bring people in our family together.

The Advize Health team delivers cookies – my grandmother’s recipe – to our clients not only during the holidays as a gift, but we also bring them crescents all year long. We look at the regular cookie delivery as a way to express gratitude to our clients for partnering with us, and conveniently, it is a fun and tasty excuse to regularly visit and maintain our relationship.

Likewise, I have often baked my grandma’s pizza for my staff. It may take a long time to make the dough and the sauce, but it is a chance for me to make an effort to do something for them, and for them to take a walk down memory lane alongside me as I tell them stories about my grandmother. It helps us to build a rapport, and I get to hear their stories, too. These moments make our team stronger. The human side of business is never an easy balance, yet when working so hard with a team and missing out on a lot of personal time, it brings us closer share pieces of ourselves with each other and keeps us more positive.

These life-changing lessons that I cherished in my youth and relish in business today have helped Advize Health to set itself apart from the competition. And while I apply the tips and teachings from the many books I’ve read to business, too, none can quite compare to what grandma taught me.

What about you – have any family members inspired your business practices?

By Jeanmarie Loria, MBA, PMP, CPC | CEO, Advize Health