BOSTON — Wells Sampson's career started in fifth grade when the family's paperboy came collecting, and Wells's dad told him he should ask the boy for his route when he didn't want it.
The boy promised.
The next year, his dad went to bat for him. The paperboy gave up his route, but passed it on to someone else. Wells's dad, Dick, confronted the paperboy's parents and got Wells the route.
Now the vice president of sales and marketing for American Alarm, a home-security company, Mr. Sampson says that paper route is where he learned customer service and responsibility.
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail would prevent the papers from getting out. And in seven years, "my dad never once helped me," he says.
His dad wanted him to see the results, feel the ownership.
From there, Sampson's businesses grew. With loans from his father, he bought a snowblower, then a table saw. He cleared driveways and did carpentry for customers found on his paper route.
He learned the importance of "lifetime customers" and of making loan payments.
"My dad was always big on capital investment," he says.
One thing the elder Sampson wasn't big on was taking time off to "find yourself."
"You can find yourself through work," was his response,
Other good advice Sampson credits to his father: "Try, try again, then you'll succeed;" "Don't do it half baked;" and, in speaking, "Always end with something gracious."
His dad also gave Sampson a firsthand understanding of the importance of maintaining a network of contacts.
He helped jump-start his son's career after graduate school by setting up an interview for a job managing a factory outside Boston.
"That's a job most of my friends at school would have been looking at five years out," Sampson says.
In his biggest career coup - luring a $5 million-a-year client from a competitor - Wells was helped by his dad to gain access to a business school library to glean extra knowledge about the client, knowledge that gave Wells an edge over his competitor.
But the most important example Dad Sampson set for his five children went beyond the work ethic: Family comes first, business second.
That's why the senior Sampson opened his own business a few miles from home when the family was young. His mother also worked in town. It was always a team, Sampson says.
The constant message from Dad was, "I'm interested."