There comes a point in life where there is no tomorrow, only yesterdays. A time where we remember the past knowing our future is limited. It can be a time of deep reflection, and that is the case with my friend, Bill Shearon.
I met Bill about 15 years ago during my work with the City of Bradenton Beach. I was the Chair of Planning and Zoning and Bill was to become the mayor. I knew Bill was different from the beginning. Not only did Bill not come across as a politician, he had also been blind for more than 20 years.
I wanted to introduce you to Bill because I believe there is a lot we can all learn from those who have walked before us. Despite losing his sight, Bill has seen and experienced much in life. Like many franchisees, Bill had a strong desire to control his own destiny and grow wealth for him and his family. To be clear, Bill was never a franchisee, he was a boot strap entrepreneur. He preferred to figure everything out on his own and has scars to prove it. Bill has lived an interesting, successful life and has some very powerful experiences to pass along that are valuable for all readers in this space.
Bill was born in a Chicago suburb 73 years ago. The son of a strong father, Bill learned the value of hard work early in life. His father strongly believed in the importance of getting an education. Unfortunately, Bill did not like school and he only spent one year in college before moving back home to Illinois.
Bill began to work on the family farm and at the grain elevator in which his father was a part owner. He worked hard shoveling corn and moving grain. Eventually, Bill realized that he liked the grain business and supplemented his experience by studying accounting in the evening. He learned about the business side and began to actively trade commodities. He bought his father out and grew the grain business for several years before eventually selling at a profit.
Bill then transitioned into the oil business, beginning as a ‘jobber’ driving trucks and delivering oil. Over time, he grew to become the eighth largest distributor for lubricants in the USA. His company had more than 150 employees and controlled a significant portion of the lubricant distribution business in the Midwest.
Nearing his 50th birthday and in the process of losing his sight, Bill sold his business and retired. After living on his yacht for six years, Bill and his life partner, Tjet, settled in Bradenton Beach where we met and eventually became friends.
During my time with Bill I asked him what he has learned. What type of advice would he wish to pass forward to those who hope to build a successful life? Would he do anything differently?
Whether you are in the oil or grain business, thinking of becoming a politician or pursuing the dream of owning a business, I think we can all benefit by reflecting on some of the lessons Bill has learned throughout his life. Here is some of the valuable advice he passed along:
- Get an Education. Few things are more important than education. Go to school, learn and be a sponge. Ask questions of those around you and learn from others’ mistakes. Decision making is improved when you are knowledgeable and informed.
- Keep your mouth shut. In today’s world everyone wants to tell you what they know, share their opinion and be the center of attention. You learn much more by listening than by talking. One important key to success is to listen more than you talk.
- Network. What you know is important, but equally important is who you know. Learn how to network and proactively build relationships. Access to the right people makes life so much simpler and will benefit to you, your business and your family.
- Risk and Failure. It is critically important to take risks and never be afraid to fail. Failure will happen and is part of the journey. You must fail in order to succeed. When an opportunity presents itself, grab it. Run with it and make the best of it.
- Work Hard. You must have a strong work ethic. If you are the kind of person who wants to sit on the sofa and have things handed to them, you will never achieve anything in life. You must work harder than the other person. Success is granted to those who earn it.
- Family. Working hard is important but try to maintain some level of balance. Work can sometimes be overwhelming, but make sure you spend enough time with your family. Don’t work so hard that you lose the important relationships in life.
- Parents. Listen to your parents. They are not as dumb as you think. You would be amazed how smart our fathers become between our 18th and 25th They suddenly went from being barely tolerable to the source of all knowledge. Listen to what they have to say.
- Be the best. It does not matter what you do in life, be the best at it. If you dig ditches, be the best ditch digger. By never being content with being average, opportunities will come your way.
- Smart People. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Hire people who know more than you and let them shine. Smart people will make you better. This is the only way to grow both personally and professionally.
- Luck. Luck is what you make of it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. When opportunity knocks you need to be ready to make the most of it.
- Control. You cannot control everything. You can only control your actions. Understand that we live in a chaotic world and random things will happen. Do the best with the cards that you are dealt and don’t worry too much about everything else.
- Say ‘Thank You’. Many people learn the importance of gratitude later in life. Saying ‘thank you’ is so important. It not only makes the other person smile; it can make you smile.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Bill one last question – ‘Regrets. What are your regrets?’ Bill thought for a while and said, “Well, I always wanted to own a helicopter, but I never did. Other than that, my bucket list is complete, and I am ready for what is next.”
How wonderful! Isn’t that what we all want to be able to say as we look back on our lives?
As you know, I normally write about franchising. If you are considering franchise ownership, hopefully, you will be able to apply some of Bill’s suggestions, action items, personal philosophies and thoughts on life and relationships to your own situation. The perfect tribute to Bill would be to remember his words of advice to further your own dreams of entrepreneurship. He would like that.