Dean's Corner News

Business Lessons from My Mother

Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, January 3 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.

On Dec. 17, my mother, Rose Franza, passed away at age 94. While my family and I are sad for our loss, we are thankful that we had her in our lives for so long and that she remained very healthy and active for all but the last two years of her life. 

I grew up in a traditional 1950s to 1970s American home, in which my father was the sole breadwinner and my mother stayed at home and ran our household. Therefore, in my formative years, I spent much more time with my mother than my father, and while my mother had very limited business education and experience, I found that many of my business philosophies came from the time spent with her.

To honor her memory, I would like to share with you what I learned from her:

Budgeting and strategy

In my family, my mother and father were joint decision-makers; in other words, co-CEOs. Together, they determined what was important to our family. Since we were of somewhat limited means – lower-middle to middle-middle class – my father often worked multiple jobs to improve our standard of living. Since he was busy earning the money, my mom was our chief financial officer, responsible for effectively managing those hard-earned funds. 

Early on, I noticed that my mother took that responsibility incredibly seriously. Each month, my mother divvied up the funds earned into envelopes to make sure the family had money budgeted for our basic needs (i.e., mortgage, food, clothing, etc.). However, in addition to our needs, my parents made sure that money was budgeted for what was important to them: appropriate education for their children. 

When my sister and I were young, that meant putting aside money to pay for Catholic school for grades 1 through 8. While the public schools in our town were among the best in New York state, my parents wanted to make sure that we received an education that would provide us a strong moral and ethical foundation at a young age. Once we reached high school, my parents had us take advantage of our outstanding public high school. Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

In addition to allocating funds for our early education, my parents also saved what they could for our college education when we were very young. So, my mom (and dad) taught me the important business lessons of budgeting limited funds and making sure your budget is tied to your strategy.

Importance of delivering value and customer service

As I indicated above, I spent much time as a child with my mother. Since there was no internet during my childhood, I often accompanied my mother when she shopped for all of the things needed for our family, including groceries, clothing and household goods, among other things. 

My mother was an expert shopper, and from her I learned the perspective of the customer. Her emphasis was not necessarily always on the lowest price, although low price was important to our family budget. She was always focused on value: i.e., what did she get for her money. For instance, she focused on the quality, reliability and durability of the product given a particular price point. 

She also put significant emphasis on how well a company served her as a customer. She was very loyal to the companies who provided excellent service, and she often typed letters to companies either commending their good service or informing them of their poor service. 

My mom taught me to always think of the customer, understanding what the customer values and providing customers excellent service.

Treating all people with respect

An important thing that I learned from being around my mother was treating all people respectfully, and while this is important throughout all areas of your life, it is particularly important in business.