Although I had several jobs as a kid, one of my earliest jobs was a paperboy for the Cedar Falls-Waterloo Courier in my Iowa hometown. You might not think this required a lot, but it really did – especially for a 12-year old kid!

I vividly remember waking up early on cold, dark, winter Iowa mornings, bundling up against the subzero temperatures, carrying the heavy Sunday edition of the newspaper through the snow to each of my customers. Six days a week I faithfully delivered newspapers, on foot, and hand-delivered the newspapers to each home. Some customers wanted their paper in their mailbox, some wanted it under their doormat, and others wanted it dropped in between their screen door and front door. My customers had high expectations! In an era well before automatic payments, I also had to collect from my customers. If I did not collect from my customers, not only did I not get paid, I had to cover the cost of their newspapers! There were some customers I had to “stalk” to get them to pay, as some people would pretend to not be home when I came knocking. I took the deposits to the bank, reconciled my account with the banker, and paid myself the profits after covering the cost of the newspapers. I also was solely responsible for sales and I regularly knocked on doors asking prospective subscribers for their business. Looking back, that was a lot of responsibility, and I am so grateful that my mom and dad stoked my entrepreneurial spirit so early in life.

Three takeaways from Josh, the 12-year old paperboy entrepreneur:

  1. Whatever you do, do with excellence. The late John Wooden said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Although I worked alone and unsupervised, I knew I was working my tail off, and that built pride and character in me.
  2. It’s all about the relationship. I knew what I had to do to succeed: build a relationship with my customers, focus on what was important to them, and deliver what they expected, even when I didn’t feel like it.
  3. Success leaves clues. In my office hangs a large print of an iceberg. The word “Success” is printed on the part of the iceberg that is above the water. On the underwater part of the iceberg, which is four times as large, the words “Hard Work, Persistence, Late Nights, Rejections, Sacrifices, Discipline, Criticism, Doubts, Failure, and Risks”. I experienced all of these as a paperboy, and I’m thankful for that! Working through each of these is what made me who I am today.