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The Best Degree I Ever Got

Hint: It wasn't at an academic institution

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I received my undergraduate degree in Economics and Spanish from my beloved Haverford College. I’m a proud MBA alumnus of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve launched two companies, both incubated, advised and backed by Techstars. I’ve learned through failures and successes across my personal and professional life. And I’ve been schooled in how to balance academic, personal and professional pursuits as a serial entrepreneur, father, former collegiate baseball player and Ironman triathlete.

But the best degree I ever got?

That was my PhD in how to be a leader and philanthropist that I audited as a witness to my father’s business professionalism.

These lessons began at an early age while I dutifully scarfed down McDonald’s Egg McMuffin sandwiches in my Dad’s office before he would take me to my Saturday baseball double-headers. I saw how he treated each colleague like an extended member of our family and I witnessed firsthand how he bent over backwards to always do right by his customers.

You see, he figured out that it was all about an on-demand economy well before it became common nomenclature and he always worked around the clock to satisfy his customers. When a colleague or customer took advantage of his love and devotion, I became irate with frustration until he shared with me how no one loses with such an approach.

Why?

Sure, an ungrateful employee will occasionally depart and supposedly loyal customers will myopically flock to the cheapest alternative solution, but doing so simply allowed him to re-channel his energy into someone new, thus increasing the number of lives that he’s touched.

Outside of work, I marveled at his generosity. Even in his early days when he scrappily grew his business and took out loans when interest rates were near 20%, he was always thinking of others. Whether it was sending his less-fortunate colleagues turkeys during Thanksgiving, making financial donations or hosting a childbirth celebration at his office for a colleague, my Dad’s philanthropy has never ceased to amaze me.

And when he later sold his business so that he could focus his energies into other business and personal passions, not the least of which is spending time with his granddaughter, the outpouring of support and congratulatory sentiments he received embodied the degree to which he touched the lives of thousands of members of the community.

The PhD degree I earned as a witness to my father’s pursuits has taught me in my own role as Founder and CEO and This App Saves Lives, to take the long-view in order to build a business with powerful implications for our customers, our stakeholders and the community at large.

What was the best lesson or “degree” that you’ve received?

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