Life Advice from a Brain Ninja

Shari Kaser is a lot of things: she’s an accountant, a UNL grad, and a founding member of Kaser Painting, Inc. She’s also my mom, and, as the rest of my family will attest, a skilled brain ninja (more on that nickname in a moment).

I sat down recently to interview Shari for episode 2 of my brand-new podcast – we talked about the origins of Kaser Painting, Inc, the work that went into its growth, and the lessons learned along the way.

The whole podcast is worth listening to, but there are three main takeaways that I found particularly valuable for anyone with entrepreneurial, managerial, or family-business aspirations.

  • People who don’t know your skills may doubt your vision. Don’t let that stop you.

In 1987, Shari was 23 years old, working as an accountant, and engaged to Jay Kaser. Shortly before their wedding day, he told her that he wanted to quit his painting job and start a business. The announcement was met with immediate suspicion by Shari’s friends and family: was this Jay’s ploy to kick back, do nothing, and let Shari provide for the family?

It was not. Quite the opposite, in fact. Shari knew that Jay was a hard worker, but even she could never have anticipated the number of hours that Jay would pour into Kaser Painting, Inc. Only Jay knew what he was willing to do to grow Kaser Painting – had he let himself absorb the doubts of others, Kaser Painting would not be what it is today.

  • A light touch can have a big impact.

Shari came by her “brain ninja” nickname honestly. A non-confrontational person who’s been surrounded by men her whole life, she’s found that gentle, well-timed suggestion – followed by patiently letting it percolate – is often more effective in changing minds than jumping into an argument with guns blazing.

Thankfully, she uses her abilities for good. I realized during this interview that she’s the reason I went into Mechanical Engineering. She suggested it to me so casually, one day, that I don’t even remember it – but years later, here I am with a degree. 

  • If you’re going into business with anyone (but especially family), learn to be resilient in the face of disagreement.

I can speak to this point firsthand: no matter how many brain ninjas you have on your team, there will be disagreements. Confront them head-on. Things may get loud, and that’s ok – make sure everyone is given the chance to say their piece, and then be proactive about cooling yourself down. No matter what happens, find a way to show up at work the next day with your usual enthusiasm intact.

A fight is not a breakup. It’s not even necessarily a sign that things are going badly. It’s the result of passionate people having strong opinions about a business in which they’re emotionally invested. Put it in context, and find a way to move forward together.

For more from Shari, check out Episode 2 of KaserCast.

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