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    Where I First Learned to Be a Leader

    By: Jeff Gau
    October 3, 2019

    I grew up in a small Central Minnesota town as the son of an auto parts salesman. We certainly weren’t wealthy, but I felt like I had everything. Growing up in rural Little Falls, I only have the fondest of memories of my childhood.

    My dad showed me what it looked like to be a good family patriarch – he treated my mom well, really well. He was fully engaged in the lives of me and my three brothers growing up. He is still proud of his community and always buys local. Spiritually, he set a good example and still goes to church every week. To this day, my dad is often my first call, whether I’ve had a great day or a not so good day.

    Dad is proud of the work we’ve done at Marco. The same picture of Marco’s corporate headquarters that is in my office hangs in the home that I grew up in. Two of my brothers, my son and my stepson work at Marco with me. So in many ways, to him, this has been a family business.

    I am a better leader because of my dad, and he still is teaching me as he approaches 89 years old. Here are some examples:
    • Honed my social skills.
      People often tell me that I have pretty good social skills. As a child, my dad hosted family BBQs, neighborhood volleyball tournaments and smelt fries. He enjoyed bringing people together and is the guy everyone wants to be around. He taught me the valuable skill of connecting with people. To this day, he continues to be actively engaged in the lives of many people.

    • Don’t let your limitations be an excuse.
      He’s never said those words to me. But I’ve seen it in his actions. He’s loved being active his whole life. For example, when walking got harder for him, he started riding a bike instead (he just got a new one this Spring). He’s never been held back by his limitations. He’s found a new way and I have learned to do the same.
    • Be loyal.
      My dad worked at the same company for his entire career – 56 years. The local newspaper published an article on this tremendous feat when he retired. I came to Marco as a young salesman myself and will spend the rest of my career here, too.

    • Take care of yourself.
      My dad was a marine and always grooms and dresses himself accordingly – clean, neat and professional. Since I was a child, his hair has been cut consistently every two weeks – short with his side burns at just the right length. To stay physically fit, he continues to do some activity most days.

    • Be a realist.
      My dad taught me to be logical and recognize the facts of the matter. He taught me that when “stuff” happens, you can’t change the fact, but you can control how you respond to it. Here’s a really simple example. Dad realizes that falling at an old age could be life altering. Therefore, to mitigate the risk, he removed all the rugs from his home. That’s being realistic and proactive.
    • Family comes first.
      Work-life balance, which I consider to be a cornerstone of the culture here at Marco, was something my dad practiced without even knowing it. He was always present. He did it so well in a time when it was not expected, or even defined. We ate dinner together every night, he frequently attended our sporting events and he made time for family outings on a regular basis.

    My dad has motivated me since I was a young boy. The interesting part is I don’t think he even knows what a positive influence he has been. I’ve always been proud of him and wanted him to be proud of me. So, I work hard and want the decisions that I make to reflect the values that he taught me. I would not be the leader that I am today without him. Thank you, Dad, for everything.


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