Career Advice: A Conversation with Mr. Woodhouse


As you know, Emma Approved’s business is growing and changing. In order to ensure that I keep my business on track with all the recent restructuring, there is one person I knew I had to talk to. He has over forty years of experience running a profitable business, and can offer insight on every aspect of being an entrepreneur. In addition, there’s another role he handles successfully as well.  He is none other than my dear old dad, Mr. Henry Woodhouse! I invited him out to lunch a few days ago so I could pick his brain about his business expertise. I recorded the conversation and asked Harriet to transcribe the key pieces of the interview below. Enjoy!

Emma: Dad! So good to see you!

Mr. Woodhouse: Emma! Have you been in the sun too long? You’re looking flushed.

Emma: No, Daddy, I’m fine.

Mr. Woodhouse: Come, sit. I asked for the corner table because I thought it would be the quietest, but they have this music turned all the way up. What is this awful sound?

Emma: I think it’s jazz. I don’t mind it.

Mr. Woodhouse: Waiter! Can you come over here a minute? Yes, could you please turn down this terrible music? My daughter is interviewing me, and it–

Waiter: Yes, of course, Mr. Woodhouse. Let me take care of that for you.

Mr. Woodhouse: Thank you, Adam, is it? Oh, and can I get a black linen napkin? I’m wearing dark slacks today and–

Waiter: Right away, sir.

Emma: So, Dad, as you know, I wanted to interview you for an article I’m writing on my blog. I was hoping you could share some advice with me and my readers about motivating new employees.

Mr. Woodhouse: Yes, I remember you told me that you and Alex are expanding. How is the youngest Knightley brother?

Emma: He’s great, as long as he’s got an expense report to work on.

Mr. Woodhouse: Good to hear. I wish he’d tell his brother to move the family back down to LA. It’s ridiculous keeping the children so far away from their grandfather.

Emma: Dad, don’t start.

Mr. Woodhouse: I know, I know. I just hate having them so far away. But, that’s not what we’re talking about. What are we talking about again?

Emma: How to motivate new employees.

Mr. Woodhouse: (laughing) Emma, there is nothing I can tell you about getting people to do things for you. You were born with that talent.

Emma: What do you mean?

Mr. Woodhouse: Just ask Isabella. When you were a kid, you got her to switch rooms with you just so you could have her pink carpeting. I never thought she would budge, and next thing I know, she’s dragging her bed across the hall.

Emma: Dad, that’s different. Izzy is my big sister.

Mr. Woodhouse: Oh, but it doesn’t stop there! How many times have you gotten Miss Taylor to cater events for you? For free?

Emma: It’s Mrs. Weston now, remember? And that’s also different, because Annie is my best friend.

Mr. Woodhouse: Oh, that’s right. The poor thing had to go and get married.

Emma: Dad, don’t start.

Mr. Woodhouse: Do you see the waiter anywhere? My blood sugar is getting low. You know I need to eat-

Emma: Every three hours. Yes, I’ll flag him down.

Mr. Woodhouse: You know, I think I put some almonds in my pocket, let me check… Oh yes, here they are. I read an article the other day that said that people who eat nuts 6 times a week live longer than people who don’t. And they’re a very good source of protein…

Emma: Daddy, you had your own business for forty years, with all different kinds of people working for you. What did you find was the best way to motivate them?

Mr. Woodhouse: Well, when it comes to incentivizing new employees, the key is empowering them to make their own decisions. I remember when I hired Madeleine to be my office manager. She had never worked in an office before, but I knew that she had what it takes.

Emma: So what did you do to empower her?

Mr. Woodhouse: Oh, here’s the waiter.

Waiter: A black napkin for you, sir. Are you two ready to order?

Mr. Woodhouse: Yes, I’ll have the kale salad, dressing on the side. And does it come with croutons?

Waiter: Yes, it does.

Mr. Woodhouse: Are they whole wheat?

Waiter: I’ll have to check on that.

Mr. Woodhouse: You know what? Just halve the number of croutons and put those on the side as well. That way I won’t be tempted to have too many. And no cheese. I love it, but it doesn’t agree with me.

Waiter: Of course. And for you, miss?

Emma: I’ll have the tortilla soup.

Waiter: Excellent choice.

Mr. Woodhouse: Oh and there’s a spot on this fork. Will you bring another set of silverware?

Waiter: Right away.

Emma: So, what did you do with Maddy?

Mr. Woodhouse: When?

Emma: When you hired her, to inspire her to be her best.

Mr. Woodhouse: Well, you know Madeleine. Give her a task and she’ll run circles around it until it’s so dizzy, it completes itself. Come to think of it, I never had to do anything to motivate her. She motivated herself because that’s the kind of person she is. She alphabetized my bookshelf one morning just because she felt like it.

Emma: So, maybe that’s the key? Hiring people that are go-getters in their own right?

Mr. Woodhouse: Yes! That is spot on, my dear. See, you don’t need business advice from me. You know exactly what you’re doing.

Emma: Thanks, Dad. I learned from the best.

Mr. Woodhouse: You know, I’m feeling a draft. Perhaps we should move tables. See if you can get the waiter, will you?