My father, Abe Nathanson, was a man of many talents. He was an artist, painter, sculptor, writer, photographer and natural comedian who was self-taught in just about everything.
When we started Bananagrams in 2005, he was in his mid-70s and had already founded a design studio and created art and novelty gifts.
Throughout his life, and during our time working together at our company, he taught me some very valuable lessons that can be applied in the business world today.
I never tired of watching my father make things, whether it was a piece of art or a bookshelf! He had incredible patience. While waiting for layers of stain and varnish to dry or painstakingly giving all his attention to the smallest detail of a drawing, his hands would hold paintbrushes for hours, never wavering. To get the job done correctly, one must be prepared to wait.
My father applied those rules to Bananagrams as well, never rushing into any decision, weighing all the options with great consideration. I try to do the same now. I recognize that I don’t have the innate patience my father had, but I aspire to everyday. When faced with a decision, I will always stop and ask myself “what would my Dad do…?,” which makes me stop and consider, with patience … and hopefully come up with the right answer.
Research and ask questions, of everything and everyone
When embarking on anything new, whether it was purchasing a camera or computer, or trying to figure out the best way to do something, my father would read, research and ask questions. Never be afraid to admit you don’t know something. It is always better to ask for help than to pretend you know and mess things up. I have found that when people are asked for help, they are generally more than happy to oblige. In whatever business you are in, there is always someone who knows more. Use their knowledge and appreciate what they can offer.
Talk … and listen
I was amazed at my father’s gift for conversation. Even if he had nothing in common with someone, he could always find something to talk about and was able to make a connection. He helped me see that everyone has a story, probably an interesting or funny one, always worthwhile to listen to. It costs nothing to listen and can be incredibly rewarding. This has been a great lesson when meeting clients or people at trade shows, and is how trust is built and relationships thrive, which is paramount in business.
Don’t be bullied
There are BIG companies and small companies. We are a FAMILY company that grew very organically, by instinct. My father used to say, “The trick is to not let the tail wag the dog.” In other words, stick to your guns, and don’t be intimidated or bullied into a decision if you feel it isn’t the right one for the company.
Regularly, we have had “Those are our company rules” and “This is the way we do things” thrown at us. We often responded differently to what other companies may have done, advised or expected … not to be contentious, but to remain true to our goals and vision. Fortunately, this individual thought and true belief has won us respect and success.
Look at everything in a positive way and do everything to the best of your ability
When I told my son that I was writing this piece, he reminded me of this lesson and said that it was the most important thing that he had learned from his grandfather. That, and the ability to laugh, A LOT, is, as my father always said, the key to everything. Even in business, being able to keep things positive and in perspective is vital.
At the end of the day, we are selling GAMES. It should be FUN! We appreciate that Bananagrams is not life saving and will not necessarily bring world peace (although we can always hope!), but if it brings a few families together and makes even a few more laugh, talk and enjoy life just a little bit more, then we have achieved great success.
A new episode of "How I Made My Millions" premieres Monday, May 14 at 9 p.m. ET.
Rena Nathanson developed Bananagrams with her father Abe, and her children Aaron and Ava during the summer of 2005. The whole Nathanson family has been involved in the growing business which now includes a veritable fruit bowl of other games.