“Investing in your Success”

Humility and Experience As It Relates to Leadership – Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder at Spring-Green National Training Conference

Guest Writer: Marty Grunder, Founder and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Company and a leading Green-Industry Consultant.


That’s a word we hear all the time, use all the time, but do we really understand what it means with regards to running a Green Industry Company?

I am constantly teaching, and one of the topics I focus on is Leadership. Leadership is the difference maker; it’s what ultimately determines whether our endeavors will be successful. There are so many lessons I could share here on Leadership; I could write for years. Since I only have a short amount of space to teach each month in this great publication, I’m going to focus on two things. Humility and Experience.

Humility in Leadership

Humility. When I started Grunder Landscaping, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no money, no sense, and no customers. That’s not a good recipe for success. But, I did have a desire to get better, and I was raised by two humble parents who pushed me to finish school and do so. My dad encouraged me to read books, seek out other experts, and do as many things myself as I could to save money and to learn.

My Mom constantly reminded me I had to finish school, and made sure I was polite and nice to everyone. In our house, we were not allowed to look down on anyone. My parents had friends from all walks of life; their only requirement for friendship was that the friend was honest, humble, and hard working. Watching Mom and Dad, I realized “you don’t know everything,” and if you are willing to listen, a lot can be learned. What I’ve just described is humility. How humble are you?

At times I am not very humble. Yep, I’m admitting that. We small business owners all have a touch of arrogance to us. It’s our “edge,” and if managed correctly, it can be a benefit if you know when to keep it in check. More on that later. I don’t always listen well, I make selfish decisions, and there are times when I don’t realize there is anyone else in the room. I have had to work hard on my weaknesses and develop coping skills to deal with this. Dale Carnegie’s wonderful book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” talks about the importance of being interested rather than interesting. So true; no one likes to meet someone for the first time and hear about all their achievements and not be able to get in a word.

Regarding humility, as it relates to the Leadership of a company, here are 3 suggestions:

1. Never say anyone works for you. Tell them instead that they work with you. I try to be a member of a team when I’m at work, not an owner, who “owns” people. I don’t want my people to treat me like an owner; I want them to treat me like a co-worker and be open and honest with me. We’re in this together; that’s what you and your people should feel.

2. Never bad mouth the competition. Sure it’s hard to do, but I try very hard never to say anything bad. In fact, in my marketplace, there are several good contractors, and I often tell prospects that. Sure, I truly believe I run the best landscaping company in Dayton, Ohio, but there are other good contractors. I focus on what I can do, not what others can’t do.

3. Share the Credit. If you think you have created your company all by yourself: you are not seeing things correctly. Now wait, don’t think for one minute I am saying that you didn’t build it. I’m not going there. But your team helped you, your parents may have helped you, and other important people probably helped you. Be grateful for that. Be appreciative. Be humble. And if something goes sideways, stand up and take the blame for it. It’s your company or your department and the buck needs to stop someplace. Share the credit and take the blame.

Another piece to Leadership is Experience

Experience is a great teacher. Pay attention to that and the experiences that other leaders share with you. Advice is what your uncle Joe “thinks” might work and why wouldn’t he tell you what to do; it’s not his money, right? As a Leader, we need to be cautious of sharing and listening to advice. What we need to hand out and what we need to listen to is experience. Experience is what we have done and have found will or will not work. Good Leaders resist the urge to tell people to do things they have not done themselves.

Good Leaders are constantly trying to experience new things that help them not only gain credibility but knowledge. Knowledge is confidence. As the Leader of your organization or department, you need to be the best read, most prepared, and respected person there. Remember, you can’t expect your team to do and try things you won’t do and try yourself. I often tell entrepreneurs that the external customer service will never exceed the internal customer service. What I mean by this is you can’t expect your team to treat your clients like kings and queens, if you don’t treat them like kings and queens. You need to study and “experience” how great companies operate and take those lessons and make your business better.

Leadership is an area we should all study. Our ability to lead can and will help us have more fun, encounter less stress, and make more money. Be humble and share your experience with your team and you will see a difference.