News & Research Archive

Learn from Your Elders

Apr 04, 2007

During college I took a job with a family friend and ended up working for him for ten years. When I started, there were two employees; by the time I left, we had three offices and 35 employees. I began by doing accounting; I moved into sales and eventually became the general manager, running the operation.


The sales job was strictly hands-on training. There was no instruction manual, I had no experience to fall back on, and it was all trial by fire. My boss, the owner of the company, came from Denmark. He had always worked hard and was very disciplined. When I asked for a raise, he responded that in the old country, a young person such as myself apprenticed with an experienced worker to learn the trade and did not get paid at all.


Like in the “old country,” I learned my trade from people with experience. I learned from my boss, who lived by defined principles. I learned from my dad, a salesman, who taught me how to open doors, how to service clients, and how to close a deal. I learned from my clients—I sought older established owners and managers as well as average workers. These people often had been in the field for 20 years or more; they had stories, they had criticism, and they had advice. But the best education I received was from retirees. It is amazing how much knowledge and guidance are available from retired people in all fields.


Society has not been good at using people—a valuable asset— to train workers. Today’s training involves staged events with little one-on-one training. Mentor programs are fine in principle, but in practice it is difficult to find people who have worked in their field for 20 years who can mentor.


To get the most out of your “apprenticeship,” take the time to learn about the successful people in your field who are retired, seek them out, and learn from them.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 22 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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