3 Entrepreneurs Share The Best Business Advice Dad Ever Gave Them

By Team Zeller

3.09.2021 Business tips

3 Entrepreneurs Share The Best Business Advice Dad Ever Gave Them

Sometimes, father knows best.

For many entrepreneurs, fatherly advice and support has a profound impact on their career path. Whether it's guidance in life or direction with business — from helping to come up with a name, to backing a fresh idea, or simply offering an ear — there are few people who make a more lasting impression.

In honour of Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, we’re shining a spotlight on the most valuable advice a handful of our merchants received from their dads. 

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James Duffell, Farmer & Son

The Duffell family is a farming family. James' father, Roy, co-founded Farmer & Son a few decades ago — but the real story starts back in 1920, when Roy's grandfather returned from service in World War I and established a fruit orchard at Yenda. 

Since then, farming practices and techniques have been handed down the generations. James now works beside his father, using his past experience as a chef and project manager to spot opportunities to modernise and expand the business. Here's what he had to say about Roy.

"Early on in life, Dad said: 'Don't be a farmer'. So naturally, I became a farmer — with my father. I didn't take that business advice.

Farming is very tough; there’s good days and there’s bad days. You’ve got to have a strong work ethic, and I’ve learned that from my Dad. You need the patience to know that whatever life throws at you, you’ll get by. You’ve just got to be malleable, like play-dough, and work out another way.

I’d say we’ve taught each other a few things, when it comes to business. Over the years, I’ve helped him to value his own time and skill. Getting Dad to bat for himself has been the hardest part. When we started Prickle Hill Preserves, he was selling Worcestershire sauce for less than the price of a coffee. Something you keep in your pantry for years! But we’re not a corporate business that benefits from economies of scale — we focus on growing and sustainably producing organic products, and we’re putting in the work to make them taste amazing. 

There’s no place I’d rather be than next to my father.

Working with your Dad is both rewarding and frustrating, in equal parts, but I’ve got the best job in the world. We are a family affair — everyone helps out, no matter what. I love it."

Nicola Bannerman, Nicola Bannerman Jewellery

Some business owners are lucky enough to discover their passion at a young age. Nicola Bannerman is one such merchant. She began making jewellery at the tender age of 16, and made her first sale at her high school fete at 17.

Now, a celebrated artist with a long list of international exhibitions and accolades under her belt, she credits her father with teaching her business decisions that were critical to her success.  

"Some of the best business advice my father gave me was to start small, move forward in comfortable steps, never risk what I can’t afford to lose and to keep something for a rainy day.

He strongly encouraged me to keep my day-to-day running costs low.

Keeping daily costs down has enabled me to continue operating during COVID while sales have dropped.

He encouraged me to make my business also my hobby and incorporate as much of my interests and passions into it as possible, so I would always enjoy my work. Having always loved nature, science and geometry, I incorporate their patterns and complex forms in my jewellery and sculpture.

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He is always there to help. When I needed a website and couldn’t afford a commercial developer, he took on the challenge. Since then my website has grown to a fully developed selling site — with no third party, and no monthly fees."

Dylan McMahon, Seville Estate

Seville Estate needs no introduction. As one of the Yarra Valley's top exponents, the name has become synonymous with fine wine.

Dylan's grandfather, Dr Peter McMahon, and his wife Margaret first planted the vineyard back in 1972. After countless harvests picking grapes and transporting fruit from the vineyard to the winery throughout his school years, Dylan decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. However, it wasn't long before he realised his true passion lay closer to home.

“It was my grandfather who taught me about the discipline and the focus of winemaking. He retired from Seville Estate in 1996, three years before I officially joined, but I helped out with vineyard and winery work as a kid — and that’s where my passion for winemaking began.

My grandfather was a great influence. He would pick me up on the smallest details, like how to roll a hose or clean the floor. At the time, I thought he was just really hard to work with, but now appreciate what he was trying to teach me.

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The most important piece of advice he gave me is that while concentration is important in wine, elegance and finesse is the key. This ensures the wines remain perfumed while still showing great structure and fruit concentration.

I’m extremely proud to be continuing his legacy, and contributing to our shared history and story.”