When does "old school" get old?

June 26, 2015

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

A young man in his 30's, whom I met at a conference, told me that he had begun working in his family's business where the owner/CEO was his grandfather - the family had skipped a generation. Unfortunately, the gap between the generations made succession pretty much impossible. While their relationship was a good one, the young man realized that his grandfather was never going to give up control (due to his age--my interpretation). The young man consequently decided to leave rather than suffer the consequences of a stalled and frustrating career/work experience. He went back to school and became an attorney.

I commented on his work experience while he was at the family business and the lessons that he may have learned there. We talked about the unique qualities of family owned businesses. For example, when your name is on the door, your emotional investment and your connection to how you conduct business become paramount. Your word, your reputation, your integrity are all critical. I shared with him that my clients have the highest of ethical standards, and that in order for me to be successful, my ethical standards of how to conduct business have to match theirs.

He told me that he did internalize those values from his experience in working with his grandfather, and that he believed that they were critical to his success as an attorney. We called those values "old school" and concluded that “old school" never really gets old.