Isaac Ash, president and CEO of United Legwear & Apparel Company, on the fruits of working hard and giving just as much back in return.
Dear 17-year-old-isaac, These days, it’s hard to keep your mind on socks. You’re just a senior in high school, and while your Brooklyn friends get to hang out at Spumoni Gardens pizzeria every day after school, you’ll be getting into your mom’s car to drive around the Tri-State area and sell socks, store-to-store, door-to-door. But don’t worry, very soon you’ll have enough money saved to buy that Mustang GT your heart is set on. Along the way, you’ll also learn a valuable life lesson: work hard, save and earn so that you can do what you want to do in life. Money isn’t everything, but it will give you choices, and having choices is one of the keys to happiness.
So don’t get upset when Grandpa is hard on you at the office. I know you’re tired of hearing that he “sees something special in you.” You think it’s just a line. But he believes great things lie ahead for you and—spoiler alert—he’s right! For starters, you have his name. You also have his passion for life. And deep down you have his relentless work ethic that will allow you to succeed beyond anything that he could have dreamed. It’s like he can see your future, but you have to see it too, and work very hard for it.
As you approach adulthood, you must put into action all the life lessons your family has taught you. How many times have Mom and Dad told you nothing’s impossible if you put your mind to it? Well, it’s true. I know, because I’m standing on the other side of that impossible task of launching a business with just a few dollars and one employee, and growing it into a global entity that today employs nearly 250 people.
Your world is about to get much bigger, young Isaac. Right now, though, Brooklyn seems like a small place where you know everyone in your neighborhood. But it won’t be long until you’re traveling the world and doing business with all sorts of talented people. Here’s another life lesson: Recognize the people who are positive influences on your life and who should walk your road with you. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and are happy when you succeed, but equally willing to share the hard times. People who show up only for the party aren’t the ones who will change your life in the most significant ways.
Speaking of significant people in life, you’ll meet a beautiful woman named Deborah in your apartment building when you’re in your early thirties. Life lesson number three: Make sure you sweep her off her feet and treat her right! She’ll become your wife, life partner and best friend, and make you a better person every day. And I’m glad you like kids, because you’ll have four beautiful ones within a six-year span!
Now for some valuable business lessons. First, you don’t have to know everything, all the time. For all the things you don’t know, find the people who do. Surround yourself with people who have skills in areas where you’re not strong and who will bring new perspectives to your business. Second, make sure those people are going to tell you what you need to know to succeed, which isn’t the same as telling you what you want to hear. Three, remember the name Chris Volpe. When you meet him, offer him a job!!! He’ll go on to become your invaluable CFO/COO.
Nobody builds a thriving business alone. Even though you’ll be founder, president and CEO of a company one day, it won’t run solely on your talents and hard work. Think of your company as a bicycle and the employees as links in the chain. Unless everyone is linked together and doing the jobs they are meant to do, nothing moves forward. Every link is equal and connected.
Up to now, I’ve given you advice on family, business and friendships. Now for the most important aspect in your life: God. That’s where everything starts and ends. When you wake up each morning, give thanks for another day to do good in the world and enjoy life. When you begin to have a little bit of success, show gratitude by giving back to people in need. The more successful your company becomes, the more you should give. Goodness is also like a bicycle in that it works best in perpetual motion.
This may seem like a lot for a high school senior to take in, so I’ll leave you with four key words to imprint on your young mind: Unity (family, friends, employees); Loyalty (to people in your life who love and support you); Advancement (always keep moving forward in life and work); and Charity (give back as much and as often as you can). These words form an important acronym, ULAC, which happens to be the name of your future company, United Legwear & Apparel Company. Good luck, kid! Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll change the world. Amen!