My Dad is the last person who I thought would get Alzheimer’s. 83 years old. He runs 3 miles every other day, something he has done for over 40 years. Plays golf 3 times a week. And just gave up skiing last year. But he suffers from moderate to severe dementia.

Mom and Dad are 2,000 miles away in Indianapolis so I stay in touch by phone. Calls with Dad have changed. They’re longer. With memory being an issue, we talk about the same things. And I really miss being able to call him for counsel when I’m struggling with a decision.

But though Dad struggles with distinguishing a ten dollar bill from a fifty and how old he is, he nailed in a call yesterday, as well as any eloquent business speaker could, the huge role relationships play in a successful business.

In discussing how my business was doing I told him we’re still growing with the greatest challenge being to hire and retain A players who understand what it means to build and nurture relationships with clients.

Dad’s response?

  • Ah, relationships are what it’s all about.
  • Relationships are the key to any business’ success.
  • Getting to know your customers as friends is what you need to do.
  • Once your customers know you as a friend, and you and your team know your customers as friends, you and your customers are all working together and going in the same direction — that’s the name of the game.
  • Taking the time to get to know your customers, their interests, and their families and doing special things for them aside from business establishes those friendships.
  • You need to have on your team the people who know the value of relationships and know how to develop friends in business. You then need to retain as many of those people as possible.

Wow. Dad could no longer run a business, small or large, something he did both of for the same manufacturer for 50 years. But in his DNA, he still knows what it takes to succeed and could counsel anyone in this regard as well as anyone from Stanford or Harvard business school could.